If LeBron James actually didn’t want to start a new NBA season a few days before Christmas, it would be pretty easy to understand why. After all, the Lakers only just finished winning their championship in early October; why would a 35-year-old with tons of mileage want to start their next training camp less than two months after the longest title run in NBA history?
That reality is why it wasn’t surprising that Lakers guard Danny Green said he didn’t think James would want to play if the season was really starting in December, and why it’s even less shocking that it leaked out that James is one of “several star players” opposed to a season starting that soon.
The NBA and NBPA are still negotiating when the next season will start, but the latest update on James’ feelings on the season possibly returning soon came from a somewhat unexpected place: His televised conversation with Barack Obama on HBO’s “The Shop.”
James and his co-host Maverick Carter were joined by the former president to talk about the importance of voting, James and Obama’s conversation that helped spur NBA players to return after their wildcat strike in the bubble and more.
Then, as the credits were rolling, Carter, Obama and James had some jokes:
Carter: LeBron, the season is coming up, you got 10 more years? Five more years? You looked like you’ve got about five to 10 the last time we saw you on the court.”
Obama: You know what though? He’s definitely gonna have some minutes restrictions. I’m not sure he’s getting back on D the first half of the season.
LeBron: (laughing) The first half of the season, I’m cherry-picking the whole first half of the season (laughs).
Obama: Hey, you’ve got to save yourself for when it counts.
LeBron: Yes sir.
Look, James was clearly joking, but also... the best jokes come from a place of truth. And the truth is, as mentioned above, James is 35 years old. He’s coming off of an MVP-caliber season where — with very few exceptions — he played like every possession mattered on both ends while leading the Lakers to a title that took over a year to complete. He’s also played over 1,000 more playoff minutes than any other player in NBA and ABA history. He and the Lakers would be negligent if they didn’t load manage him a bit this season, and while it’s unlikely that actually takes the form of him never getting back on defense the entire first half of the season, he’s going to have to pick his spots. Whether that means sitting out games, conserving himself in them, or both, it is something we have to be prepared for and understand is the only logical option going into next year.
And to that point, Obama actually had a suggestion for how James could conserve some energy:
Obama: Let Anthony Davis do all of the work, man...
LeBron: Yup, that’s what we got him for (laughs).
Obama: ...He young, he young.
Look, all I’ll say is: Obama has a point. You can watch the full (hilarious) exchange below:
"I'm cherry picking the whole first half of the season." pic.twitter.com/dE2JbT2AYe— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) October 31, 2020
We’ll see when the NBA actually returns, but when they do, the Lakers will have to be careful with James, which is fine, because he’s already proven he can take it up a notch in the playoffs. Even if he doesn’t chase a regular season MVP again, we all know who the best player still is when games actually matter, so if he needs to save himself to make sure he can still access that level, I think we can all just thank him for the 17th banner he just raised instead of getting annoyed that he skipped a rotation or three on defense every so often.
If you want to watch the entire conversation between James, Obama and Carter — and you should, it’s great — HBO has made it available for free on their YouTube channel:
And if you are an American citizen and haven’t done so yet, make sure you go vote on Tuesday.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.