As the Western Conference gears up for a tough playoff race, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in a unique position. Coach Darvin Ham faces the challenge of managing the time his star players spend on the court while trying to win games. This situation is especially tricky when it comes to LeBron James, who is entering his 21st NBA season and will turn 39 at the end of December.
Lakers’ Game Plan Behind Reducing LeBron James Game Time
On opening night, it became clear that Coach Ham and his staff had a well-thought-out plan. They are handling LeBron James during the regular season. The game against the Denver Nuggets saw James playing for only 29 minutes. This marked a significant change from his usual 38 minutes on the court. This change in playing time adds pressure to the Lakers’ bench players. They need to demonstrate their ability to perform when their star player is taking a break.
It’s crucial to make sure LeBron stays healthy and ready for the playoffs. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Coach Ham’s strategy to limit LeBron’s playing time to 28-30 minutes per game is more of a suggestion. It’s not a strict rule or a hard limit. If a game is close with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, James may stay on the court. This means that the rest of the Lakers, including the role players, have to step up. They need to contribute when LeBron is not playing.
Is Lebron James Okay With Such Action?
LeBron’s playing time is a point of interest. We’ll need to see how often Coach Ham chooses to extend or restrict his time on the court. Fans have become accustomed to LeBron playing extensive minutes. The team should be ready to remain effective when he’s not on the court. Despite his competitive nature and desire to play more, LeBron seems to be accepting of Coach Ham’s plan. In the season opener against the Denver Nuggets, he played 29 minutes, the least among Lakers’ starters. He expressed some frustration towards the coaching staff regarding his reduced role but still managed to contribute with 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Teammate Austin Reaves emphasized that this change in LeBron’s playing time won’t change the team’s goals for the 2023-24 season. It’s clear that LeBron prioritizes winning, and the team as a whole shares this sentiment.
As Coach Ham suggests, keeping LeBron’s playing time around 29 minutes per game is likely to be a trend this season, with daily evaluations. This strategy is part of a broader plan to manage LeBron’s workload carefully, aiming to prevent late-season tiredness and keep him fresh for what could be another deep playoff run. When LeBron is not playing, players like Austin Reaves will be expected to step up and fill the void. Reaves, who earned his famous teammate’s trust last season, understands the responsibility that comes with this new approach. In the early part of the season, the Lakers are adjusting to this change in approach for their star player. However, if all goes according to plan, it could lead to another playoff appearance and a real chance at competing for an NBA championship.