The Los Angeles Lakers are actively considering strategies to manage LeBron James' playing time as he approaches his 21st NBA season, according to a report by ESPN's Dave McMenamin. With the four-time MVP currently averaging nearly 35 minutes per game, there is a collective effort among all parties involved to implement measures that would limit his minutes, especially when the team is at full strength.
The Lakers' 2022-2023 season kicked off with a 119-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on October 24th, during which LeBron James logged 29 minutes. Head coach Darvin Ham explained that this controlled approach was intentional, emphasizing the need to be cautious about James' playing time and the duration of his stretches on the court.
LeBron's Playing Time Dilemma
However, by the second game of the season, the initial plans seemed to have been abandoned. In a 100-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns on October 26th, LeBron played a substantial 35 minutes. Since the opening night, his playing time has fallen below the 30-minute mark only on two occasions, both of which were blowout games.
Coach Ham faces a dilemma; he can reduce James' time on the court, risking potential losses, or maintain his current workload to ensure the Lakers remain competitive. Notably, the Lakers have demonstrated a significant disparity in their performance with and without LeBron James.
When James is on the court, the team boasts an impressive plus-7.1 net rating, but without him, they struggle with a discouraging minus-16.7 net rating, as per NBA.com. This stark contrast underscores the challenges of implementing any form of minutes restriction on the 19-time All-Star.
Coach Ham may find it more viable to rest LeBron James when the team is operating at full strength, but history indicates that James' usage tends to increase around January as he and his team gear up for the postseason. Whether they are vying for playoff seeding or aiming to peak at the right time, LeBron's contributions become even more critical.
As the Lakers continue to hover around the sixth spot in the competitive Western Conference, a position that could lead to the play-in tournament, Coach Ham may find himself with limited options but to manage LeBron James' minutes judiciously to secure the team's postseason aspirations.
The delicate balance between preserving their star player and maintaining competitiveness remains a critical factor in the Lakers' 2022-2023 campaign.