After LeBron James played just 29 minutes in the season opener, Darvin Ham hinted that James being limited to 30 minutes or less would be more of a norm this year.
Against Phoenix trailing by double figures, not only did James play well past the 30-minute mark, logging 35 in total, but he played the entire final quarter.
"He asked me if I could go the (whole) quarter. I looked at the time and score and what was going on in the game and it was an easy answer for myself," James said postgame. "I know how much work I've put in to be able to play quarters or whatever the case may be and I understand that we definitely have a system put in place by tonight called for me to go outside the box.”
Don't take LeBron James for granted. pic.twitter.com/Zp5DY51g3m— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 27, 2023
It wasn't just that James played the entire fourth that was impressive. It was how he played. He was fighting through double teams to get to the basket, initiating contact and scoring on back-to-back drives to regain and extend the lead. Without James' fourth-quarter heroics, the Lakers would be winless.
“My hat’s off to him, man,” Darvin Ham said. ”He never ceases to amaze us. He cares. He cares. That’s why you see this type of stat line. He’s laying it all out.”
A pessimist might ask if it's concerning that the Lakers need a 38-year-old LeBron to play every minute of the fourth to barely beat a Suns team missing two of their three stars, but I'm a glass-half-full guy.
Winning is winning and while we contextualize good wins and bad ones, the standings do not. Everyone is figuring things out, establishing rotations and getting into a rhythm. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is win and work out the kinks later.
Ham and the Lakers will have to decide if having James playing under 30 minutes a game is a ridiculous idea that isn't worth exploring or opt to stagger his minutes and accept losing games early on to preserve his body for playoff basketball. It's a tough experiment and how they manage it could ultimately decide the season.
On Thursday, they gambled with instant satisfaction and won.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.