Let’s get this out of the way: LeBron James missing the playoffs in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was never the plan, nor can it ever be spun in any way as a good thing.
That noted, James has played the 15th-most minutes in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference, and the second-most among active players (only trailing Dirk Nowitzki).
46,063 NBA minutes over the course of 16 years takes a huge toll on the body, and while James tried to make it clear to reporters following the Lakers’ 124-123 loss to the New York Knicks that he isn’t exactly excited to miss the postseason or chanting “1-2-3, Cancun!”, he’s still thought about the good the extra time off will do for his 34 year old body (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“Absolutely I’ve thought about how my summer is going to be. It’s unfortunate that we’re so far out of the postseason right now that it’s looking like we won’t be a part of it, (but) I would say the first thing that comes to mind is just taking care of my body.
“I’ve played a lot of basketball, played a lot of minutes over my 16-year career, so getting a couple more months to take care of my body and refresh my mind and my body is going to be very key going into my 17th year. So (I’m) looking forward to that.”
James is already getting a little more rest now, even if he doesn’t like it. James is already sitting back-to-backs, and while he’s not on an explicit minutes restriction where there is a maximum amount he can play, the Lakers have made efforts to reduce his minutes all season, and are increasing those efforts even further as of late.
The 35.3 minutes per game James is playing this season is the lowest average of his career, and over the last five games James has played even less, averaging exactly 32 minutes per game.
The Lakers’ 31-39 record will ensure James gets even more rest this summer. As noted above, that’s not a good thing, because the Lakers missing the playoffs in James’ first season in purple and gold — even when considering he missed a career-high 18 games with a groin injury — is an embarrassment for the franchise.
Still, it’s fair for James to note that this may keep him fresher for season No. 17 of his career, and if the Lakers can grab another star this summer and get a fresher, healthier and (evidently) more clear-minded version of James in addition, things may end up working out just fine in spite of this early misstep.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.