While stars across the league veered so far down the load management route that the league had to introduce new rules this season, LeBron James has been ardent in his approach to not resting. Even to his own detriment, directly and indirectly.
The Lakers and LeBron have not been afforded the luxury of resting. Poor roster construction, more than anything, has led to the Lakers not being able to rest LeBron with the need for wins greater than the need for LeBron to rest.
At the same time, LeBron has made his thoughts on load management known. Resting has not been something he has preferred, but it’s no one’s benefit for him to be injured and unavailable.
Which brings the Lakers to the crossroads of this season. Now, with a roster capable of allowing LeBron rest, decisions will have to be made. And according to Darvin Ham during his media availability prior to media day, the Lakers intend on managing those minutes more closely this season.
“Now that we have, top to bottom, what we feel like is a highly, highly balanced, skilled, athletic, younger team of guys that have logged a ton of NBA minutes,” Ham said, “we can surround both he and AD with these players who are coming in eager to contribute, eager to show that they can impact winning. That’s going to allow us to be able to be more efficient with his game-to-game minutes, the big picture, month-to-month, different sections of the calendar.
“He was grandfathered in by the rest rules, so I was happy to see that. LeBron, he does a great job of taking care of himself, and, again, the team that’s around him now, the pieces that we have in place, those guys are going to step up and do a lot of heavy lifting early.”
As Ham mentioned, LeBron is the exception in some ways to the league’s new resting rules which would allow the Lakers to sit him, if they so choose. And they should so choose.
While LeBron has looked strong in training camp, having him look good in the latter months of the season should be the focus. With the likes of Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt and Taurean Prince on the wing, LeBron can not only afford to rest entire games but also have a lighter workload during games.
Ideally, that would allow LeBron to take the opening months of the season slow, ramp up toward the playoffs and be at peak once the postseason rolls around. It’s similar to the schedule he was on in the 2019-20 season before COVID halted the season...and world.
The Lakers’ best, and really one of their only, chance of winning a title includes a version of LeBron at his best in April, May and June. Managing his minutes is of paramount importance this season.
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