When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James on the first day of 2018 NBA free agency, expectations ranged from Western Conference contenders to a team that would still need time to grow into a potential threat to the Golden State Warriors.
Regardless, most pegged the Lakers, at minimum, as a team that would reach the playoffs. Doing so would end the franchise’s five-year postseason drought. While the new-look roster began to develop chemistry, it was undone by injuries to James and Rajon Rondo.
Their Long-term absences sent the Lakers into a tailspin, and with 17 games remaining, they are looking at another season that will end without making the playoffs. Such a reality has led to questions over how much James would continue playing moving forward.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the plan is reduce James’ minutes and likely keep him from playing both nights of a back-to-back:
“I was told now that the Lakers are almost out of playoff contention, taht their was a conversation had between LeBron James’ trainer and the front office, and they came to a conclusion that moving forward, LeBron James will play somewhere of a minutes restriction of 28 to 32 minutes. And, possibly, on back-to-backs, depending on how LeBron James feels, that he might sit out one of those back-to-backs. … I was also told that the front office spoke with his agent, Rich Paul, and explained the scenario with him. Everybody understood, everybody is in agreement.”
James recently admitted that limiting his playing time was something he was amenable, but not so for being shut down entirely. Lakers head coach Luke Walton conceded after Wednesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets that the team’s focus could shift in the next few weeks.
James scaling back would come after surpassing Michael Jordan for fourth place on the NBA all-time scoring list, which was an emotional moment for the 16-year veteran. He’s nonetheless prioritized the team’s success and outlook, which would explain his willingness to play a reduced role.
Doing so will invariably impact the Lakers’ odds of securing a high draft pick and also help preserve James’ longevity.
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