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#pounditMonday, March 4, 2024

Lakers could drastically scale back LeBron James’ minutes this season?

LeBron James in a Lakers jersey

Apr 4, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) reacts to being called for a foul against the Utah Jazz in the last minute of the fourth quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The King’s Court may no longer be in session for as long as we have become accustomed to.

LeBron James’ minutes during the Los Angeles Lakers’ Opening Night loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday were a big topic of conversation. James only played 29 total minutes (though he still led the Lakers in scoring with 21 points on an efficient 10-for-16 from the floor).

After the game, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said that the 29 minutes for James would “in all likelihood” become a trend this year (while also noting that it could be a moving target based on how James feels and what the training staff says).

James himself seemed to acknowledge the plan to manage his minutes, saying that “you always want to be on the floor” but that “I guess there’s a system in place.”

While a cut of a few minutes per game might not seem like much at first glance, James averaged 35.5 minutes per game for the Lakers last season and is at 38.1 minutes per game for his entire career. Thus, a figure of 29 minutes per game would represent a nearly 20 percent decrease from last season and an almost 25 percent decrease from James’ career mark.

Of course, James is going on 39 years old and is in his 21st NBA season, so that is exactly how the Lakers should be managing him. But it might be bad news for the team’s overall success seeing as James is still clearly their best player. James finished as a team-high plus-seven in the team’s 119-107 loss to Denver, and the Lakers crumbled like a wet sheet of toilet paper when he was on the bench. Co-star Anthony Davis was incapable of carrying the team on Tuesday, going 6-for-17 from the floor, scoring zero points in the second half, and ending as a team-worst minus-17. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves shot a combined 8-for-23 themselves, leaving the team stuck up the creek without a paddle whenever James was off the floor.

At some point, James’ teammates will obviously have to step up and start carrying the load for him. But with the helter-skelter plan they seem to be approaching the season with, it doesn’t look very promising for the Lakers right now if James’ minutes have to be consistently managed.

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