With the Los Angeles Lakers likely missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season, LeBron James was reportedly put on a minutes restriction and facing a scenario in which he may not play in some back-to-back situations.
Although Lakers head coach Luke Walton has maintained there is flexibility with the plan, James has played 33.2 minutes in his last five games and did not play against the Detroit Pistons on the second night of a back-to-back.
For the 34-year-old, this is unfamiliar territory for him after making the playoffs since the 2006-07 NBA season and reaching the NBA Finals eight consecutive times.
James discussed the challenge of having his workload reduced being relatively healthy, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“It’s challenging for me mentally, because I’m so accustomed to being out on the floor. Especially when I’m healthy. But, it was a conversation between myself, my trainer, the coaching staff and front office, and this is the direction they wanted to go the remainder of the season given the lack of success we’ve had with our ballclub. Like I said, I trust the people in charge, and that’s what it is.”
In Year 1 with the Lakers, James and the young core were improving each and every month until his groin injury on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors. While he missed 17 consecutive games, the Lakers were somehow in the playoff race but other injuries completely derailed the season.
At this stage of James’ career, the Lakers are being cautious with him considering all of the minutes he has played. With the narrative changing around James and the Lakers, health and landing a second All-Star player are the priorities heading into the offseason.