After a truly wild Game 7 between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder to wrap up the first round of the NBA playoffs on Wednesday night, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers finally know who their opponent is going to be for the Western Conference semifinals.
It was a bit of a wait for that to get decided though, as by the time the Lakers and Rockets play Game 1 of their series on Friday, it will have been almost a week since L.A. wrapped up its series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
During that time, the Lakers have practiced and studied film together, but they’ve also gotten to rest their veteran legs, something that James told Allie Clifton of Spectrum SportsNet has been invaluable for him as he gets ready for the second round at age 35:
“At this point in my career, the more the rest, the better for my body, the better for my mind. So I’m excited about that.”
Clifton was somewhat surprised by that comment, and it’s not hard to guess at the reason why: James had made waves earlier during the NBA’s coronavirus stoppage by telling her, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson on the “Road Trippin” podcast that the unplanned hiatus was bad for his body, causing it to essentially rebel against him because it was ready to go into playoff mode with no postseason in sight.
But while James said that he meant what he said about that earlier time off being detrimental, now that he’s back, he’s savoring any rest he can get for his aging legs in the postseason:
“During the playoffs, the rest is good. During the layoff for COVID, that was not good for me. That was too much time. But if I can get a few days during the playoffs, that helps. But the shutdown from the previous COVID situation was not good at all.”
To emphasize that point, the Lakers have listed James on nearly every injury report with a sore right groin since entering the bubble, an injury that has been nagging James since last season. The only thing that really helps that type of malady is rest, so it’s not surprising that James is enjoying a little bit of time to get off of his feet and get fresher legs to deal with the Rockets when round one begins.
And as long as the Lakers didn’t get too rusty without NBA-level games to play, the time off should probably help their veteran team as a whole. We’ll get our first look to see if it actually did when this series starts on Friday.