LeBron James has logged a ton of minutes in the postseason. As a matter of fact, James has played more playoff basketball (10,049 minutes) than anyone in NBA history. James will be back in the playoffs this season after coming short of his 13th consecutive playoff appearance last season, but this season’s playoffs will be much different than any of the other playoffs he’s played in.
The most obvious difference is that there won’t be fans when James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin their quest for the team’s 17th title. However, it’s the timing of this year’s playoffs that makes things so interesting, particularly for a player in his 17th season like James.
After nearly four months away from the court, James will be expected to build his body back up to where it was before the season was suspended and lead the Lakers in the playoffs in a short amount of time. While that’s a tall task for any player, let alone one that will turn 36 in December, Danny Green believes in his teammate’s ability to get it done.
“Just going off of his character, and his work ethic and habits, my confidence is very high in him. I know he’s non-stop been working since,” Green said of James after practice on Wednesday. “You can see him finding his rhythm each day in practice. It’s only getting better and better. I fully expect him to get back to where he was fairly soon from playing a couple of games. I think he’ll be just fine.
“Other guys are kind of more so a concern than him. He’s not the concern.”
With a day until the NBA season officially restarts, James said he feels great, but he acknowledge that it’s been a process for him to maintain the condition he’s in.
“It’s like I’m restarting the engine,” James said after practice on Tuesday. “My body was wondering what was going on because I was right there where my body was starting to get to fifth and sixth and seventh gear going into the playoffs, and then it was just complete shutdown. So I’m kind of just getting my body back up. The three preseason games helped ... and then these eight regular season games that we have here will also help in getting my body to where I need to get it to going into the playoffs.”
Hardly anyone was concerned with James coming back from the league’s stoppage of play in bad shape, though. The biggest concern with James going forward has always been the possibility of injury as a result of ramping things up too quickly. Luckily, James is mindful of that possibility, and doesn’t plan on pushing his limits like has in the past.
“I’ll be very smart listening to my body,” James said. “Our coaching staff and our training staff will always be smart in wanting to have an open dialogue with me as well, so I pay attention to that; understanding that it’s still a marathon over these next eight games and then we get to the sprint once the playoffs start. I have to be very real with myself, and be very real with the coaching staff and the training staff if I have anything that’s going on from a physical standpoint. But I’ve done a good job of trying to keep myself in the best possible shape during the quarantine at home just to prevent anything from happening while I’m down here in Orlando.”
Frank Vogel is also determined to keep his players at comfortable pace going into the playoffs with what he calls “case-by-case, day-by-day, smart minutes.”
“You just want to be careful,” Vogel said after practice on Wednesday. “Even though we’re through the scrimmage games, we’re a couple weeks into this thing, we’re still coming out of a four-month hiatus. So, we’ll be intelligent down the stretch, evaluating it on a daily basis and, again, the goal is to reach the playoffs as in rhythm and as sharp as we possibly can, while managing the minutes the right way and being healthy.”
The Lakers will get back to business on Thursday, when they’ll play the Clippers for the fourth time this season. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. PT on TNT nationally and Spectrum SportsNet locally.