The Los Angeles Lakers began their 2023–2024 NBA season with a game that left fans puzzled. In their first game of the 82-game season, the Lakers suffered a clear defeat. The reigning champions, the Denver Nuggets, handed them a significant loss. The loss in the game wasn’t the strange part. The unusual aspect was the limited time that superstar LeBron James spent on the court. He played just 29 minutes in a game where the Lakers were losing, leaving fans with more questions than answers.
Is This An Unusual Development From Lakers’ End?
What raised concerns even further was the fact that LeBron James played for less than three-quarters of the game. Many consider him one of the greatest basketball players of all time. In a surprising turn of events, Taurean Prince managed to spend more time on the court than LeBron. This apparent sidelining of their top player understandably upset Lakers fans. However, after the game, fans received an explanation for this unusual move. Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham revealed that LeBron James was under a time limit for the game. LeBron confirmed this, stating that they had made this pre-game plan.
According to a report from Michael Corvo, Darvin Ham disclosed that, “in all likelihood,” LeBron would be limited to around 30 minutes per game this season. This is significantly lower than LeBron’s usual playing time and marks a career low for the four-time MVP. Ham explained that this decision would be a day-by-day assessment. It would take into account LeBron’s physical condition and feedback from the Lakers’ training and medical staff. LeBron himself appeared unaffected by the restriction, stating, “No, I’m not surprised. I already talked to Coach. We had a game plan going into game one. Not surprised or upset.”
Is LeBron James okay with such a move?
In the second game against the Suns, LeBron James played 35 minutes, which is closer to his usual playing time. He had a big impact on the game, scoring 21 points, getting eight rebounds, and giving nine assists. While the Lakers’ decision to limit LeBron’s playing time is to keep him from getting injured, it has some issues. Every team’s goal during the regular season is to win games and make it to the playoffs. “Load managing” for the playoffs might not be a good idea because it means benching your best player for longer, which could hurt your chances of winning games.
The Lakers had hoped that players like Austin Reaves and Anthony Davis would assume greater responsibilities. However, the reality remains that a healthy LeBron James is still their best chance at winning. In the game against the Nuggets, when LeBron was on the court, the Lakers were seven points better than when he was off the court. The same trend continued in their win against the Suns, showing how much of an impact he has on the team’s performance. In short, the Lakers might want to save LeBron for the playoffs, but if he doesn’t play, the team won’t win many games. They need to find other ways to make sure LeBron is ready for the playoffs.