With the likelihood of making the playoffs rapidly fading, the Los Angeles Lakers made a decision to begin scaling back on the minutes LeBron James plays on a nightly basis. While a restriction was seemingly put in place, head coach Luke Walton said that isn’t the case.
Instead, Walton has maintained he is simply monitoring James more closely and has the leeway to play him more than the the targeted minutes if the Lakers are making a push to win a game.
As the team begins a five-game road trip, the status quo remains in place for James. “The same way we’ve been using him,” Walton said of the Lakers’ plan.
“We’re keeping an eye on the minutes as far as what we’re going to play him. But also, it’s not a full restriction. If it’s something we feel that we’re rolling with, we’ll play him more minutes.
“It can always be adjusted, it’s nothing set in stone. But that’s more a conversation with the training staff. LeBron wants to play, and he is playing, but the training staff is the group that a lot of times is making those decisions. Can that be changed? Absolutely. That’s not something set in stone, but for now it is.”
The Lakers’ plan came to light the day after they fell to the Denver Nuggets, though Walton confirmed it was enacted for that game. James played 31 minutes against the Nuggets, and just 28 in the loss to the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers also intend to sit James in at least one game in each of their three remaining back-to-back scenarios. The first comes this week against the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons. Walton said the Lakers had not yet made a decision on James for those contests.