In the Los Angeles Lakers' season-opening setback to the Denver Nuggets, with a final score of 119-107, LeBron James, the team's illustrious forward, found himself on the court for a mere 29 minutes – the least amount of playing time amongst the starters.
This intriguing development has caught the attention of many, as it could potentially set the tone for the rest of the season. In his postgame press conference, Lakers' head coach Darvin Ham shed light on this strategy, indicating that this limitation on James' playing time is a calculated move, likely to extend throughout the entire 2023-24 NBA season.
“In all likelihood, yes,” Ham responded when probed about the sustainability of this minutes restriction.
Flexible Minutes Strategy
However, Ham emphasized that this approach is not set in stone and will be subject to continual assessment.
“It’s gonna be a day-by-day process, gauged on how he’s feeling, getting communication from him, our training staff and medical staff. We communicate and collaborate … and again, it’s easy with him,” he elaborated.
Ham admitted that it’s a challenging balance to strike, especially in pivotal moments of the game where the impulse is to lean on a player of James' caliber. “You get caught up in the emotion of the game and you tend to forget, and you want him to play in these long stretches.
But in order for him to be as effective as possible, we have to be mindful of the minute output and how long his stretches are,” he stated. Despite the reduced playing time, James demonstrated his unparalleled prowess on the court.
He led the team with an impressive 21 points, complemented by eight rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a three-pointer, achieving a 62.5% shooting efficiency. While James undoubtedly held his own, the same couldn't be said for his co-star, Anthony Davis, who managed 17 points on a lackluster 35.3% shooting in 34 minutes.
This disparity in performance raises questions and underscores the need for a balanced team effort as the Lakers navigate the season ahead.