LeBron James has apparently looked like “a freight train” during Lakers training camp so far, but fans will have to wait a while longer before getting to see him leave the station. Both he and Austin Reaves will sit out of the team’s preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors.
James said after practice on Thursday that the plan is for him to only play in half of the team’s six preseason games, and that Saturday’s won’t be one of them:
LeBron James says he won’t play in the opener this preseason “for sure” in San Francisco. Says he plans on playing ideally in half of the preseason schedule.— Dan Woike (Click the pic ⬇️ to read) (@DanWoikeSports) October 5, 2023
Head coach Darvin Ham added that there is no specific issue for James, who said on media day that he’s as healthy as he’s been in a while. The team is just managing how much time he spends on the court:
LeBron won’t play in the preseason opener, continuing a pattern from the last several training camps of having a plan re: how many minutes he’s on the court.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 5, 2023
Ham: “He’s in phenomenal shape … and he’s probably played more than the rest of our roster combined (excluding AD).”
Ahead of a 21st professional season during which James will turn 39 years old, all of that seems entirely reasonable. How many minutes the team can and will play James overall this year remains an open question, but not sending him out for a road game to open the exhibition slate isn’t exactly a shock.
As for Reaves, on Friday he was added to the list of players sitting out vs. Golden State as the team continues to slowly ramp him up after his first long playoff run and Team USA experience over the summer:
Austin Reaves was being held back by the Lakers at practice this week after his lengthy run with Team USA. That ended today.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 6, 2023
“We kicked the training wheels off today and he responded unbelievably,” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham said.
Said Anthony Davis: “Austin had a hell of a day. I…
But as with James, Reaves is getting rave reviews during camp, and this is just a matter of load management:
Anthony Davis on Reaves' performance in Friday's scrimmage: "Austin had a hell of a day today. I don’t think he missed a shot – besides the one that I contested" https://t.co/IrTBciF06a— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 6, 2023
With James and Reaves out of the lineup, it will remain a mystery what the team’s opening starting five will be, as any of the three players inserted alongside Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell could end up being the final two members of the intact unit alongside James and Reaves.
So we’ll have to wait until at least the team’s second preseason games (Monday, Oct. 9 in Las Vegas against the Brooklyn Nets) to see what Ham’s first crack at that opening group will be, as at least James suiting up for that one seems likely given that he will almost assuredly want to play in the city he hopes to own an NBA franchise in one day, and it seems like a safe bet that if Reaves is actually healthy then he’ll join him.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off without James and Reaves in the Bay Area on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet and nationally on NBA TV.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.