With such a short time between the end of last season and the start of 2020-21 campaign, there were some concerns about how the Los Angeles Lakers would come out at the beginning of the year.
In particular, there were rumblings about whether or not head coach Frank Vogel would sit LeBron James in order to ensure he would be properly rested for the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
The idea made sense as James is entering his 18th NBA season and wasn’t able to get the rest in the offseason that he would normally be afforded. Add in the fact that the Lakers added a lot of depth, and LeBron sitting out some early season games almost seemed like an inevitability.
But it has been the opposite as James has yet to miss a game, though he is averaging a career low in minutes. But for LeBron it’s all about keeping a rhythm and staying sharp mentally.
“I continue to take care of my body and mind to be able to endure whatever the case may be,” James explained.
“Obviously the short layoff, the 71 days between us finishing and having to get back going, it definitely put a monkey wrench into my usual regiment of resting my body and then getting back and going hardcore on my training. I didn’t really have that opportunity to kind of shut down my body and then go and revamp my body and get ready for the season.
“There just wasn’t enough time. It’s a fine line now with how much we push, how much rest and also stay in good rhythm. Myself and my time, we have built so much great rhythm in the bubble that we want to try to continue that as much as we can.
“For me, it’s always about having my mind and my body fresh. If my mind is sharp, then I can go out and do whatever I need to on the floor. If it’s not, then it hurts not only myself but our team.”
James is one of the few players who is truly able to pick his spots. His versatility allows him to affect the game in different ways and adjust to whatever his team needs from him at that moment. The decrease in minutes also allows James to play hard at all times on the floor, which is something Vogel appreciates.
“We’ll manage his minutes and all that stuff in a responsible way, but when he’s out on the floor, that’s who he is. He’s as competitive as anybody in the league,” Vogel said.
That competitiveness is what Vogel believes was the difference in the Lakers’ recent win over the Grizzlies. “Thirteen defensive rebounds is hard to do when you’re not a center,” Vogel added.
“That’s just competitive spirit, wanting to win and being determined. Obviously he carried a big offensive scoring load, but what he did in those defensive stretches, he really did it on both ends of the floor.”
James finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in what was the Lakers’ third straight victory. So far it looks like both player and coach are on the same page in making sure LeBron remains as effective as ever despite all of the concerns coming into the year.
James to remain on injury report with sore ankle
If there were a reason for LeBron to miss a game this season so far it would likely be due to an ankle issue. James suffered a mild left ankle sprain on Opening Night and re-aggravated it on Christmas, but still has yet to sit out.
While he hasn’t missed a game he has remained on the team’s injury report and Vogel expects it to stay that way.
“LeBron has some mild soreness in his ankle but he’s plenty healthy to play,” Vogel explained. “We’ll continue to have him on the injury report as long as there’s some of that soreness.”
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