While the Western Conference is looking like it’s going to be a dog fit for playoff positioning, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has to find a way to manage his stars’ workloads while also winning game. That is especially the case with LeBron James, who is entering his 21st season and turning 39-years-old at the end of December.
Opening Night showed that Ham and his staff have a plan in place to manage James through the regular season as he only played 29 minutes in L.A.’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. The four-time championship has averaged 38 minutes throughout his illustrious career, so this was certainly a change and will truly test the depth of the roster to produce when he is not on the floor.
Throughout a demanding season, it is certainly ideal to make sure James is 100% and ready for the postseason, but Dave McMenamin of ESPN is reporting Ham’s range of playing his star 28-30 minutes is a guideline and not a hard cap:
“There was all that speculation about, ‘well is this going to be us finally seeing LeBron James look his age?’ Only playing in the 28-30 minute range per game and speaking to people around the team, the feeling is that, that’s a guideline, not a hard cap. So, if LeBron James is around 30 minutes and it’s a close game with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, he’s going to stay on the court. But, at the same time, the rest of the Lakers, the role players are figuring out ways they can step up when he is on the bench.”
On Tuesday, that proved to be the difference in the game as when James was not on the court, the Lakers struggled. He was na plus-seven in a game the Lakers lost by double digits. Granted it is only one game, but the role players do have to provide more consistent performances if this team wants to compete for a championship.
D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Anthony Davis and Gabe Vincent all shared their struggles from the field. As time passes, Ham is going to have to figure out non-LeBron lineups that are able to hold their own on both sides of the ball.
James’ minutes will be something to monitor and see how often Ham decides to loosen the leash. While fans are accustomed to high minutes from him, this team should have enough to be able to be productive while he is on the bench.
James not surprised or upset by Ham’s plan of playing 29 minutes in season opener vs. Nuggets
Ham mentioned how James’ workload would be monitored on a day-to-day basis and fans saw what that looked like on Tuesday. However, James was not surprised or upset by this plan from his head coach even if the competitor in him wants to play more.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!