Having endured five consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, the Los Angeles Lakers saw years of rebuilding pay off with the signing of superstar LeBron James this summer.
The 33-year-old, entering his 16th season, was a workhorse for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, starting in all 82 games while averaging nearly 37 minutes per contest. It was the first time in James’ career he played in 82 games.
James’ incredible durability was further tested in the playoffs, when he played in an additional 22 games — seeing the court for an average of roughly 42 minutes.
Because of his age and usage during the 2017-18 season, there has been speculation that James could potentially see a reduction in minutes and games played in his first year with the Lakers.
When speaking at the “Evening with the Lakers” event at UCLA Health Training Center, head coach Luke Walton acknowledged he will keep an open dialogue with James throughout the season to determine how much rest he’ll receive on any given night, via ESPN L.A. Radio:
“We’ve talked about the idea of it, and I’ll be in constant communication with him all year long. If it’s a night off, if it’s a back-to-back, whatever it is, if it’s practice. Preferably if he’s going to take something off, take a practice off to stay fresh. We got him here for four years and we want to be competing every single year that he’s here. If we do play him less minutes or he gets a night off, that’s a great opportunity for other players. It’ll be an ongoing thing, a feel-out thing as the season is going as far as minutes and whether or not he’s going to take this game off or that game off.”
Now entering the backend of his prime, it’s reasonable to expect that James’ minutes will slightly decrease with the Lakers this season. The motive being to keep him fresh, so he can sustain his current high level of play for the duration of his four-year contract.
Perhaps Walton will strategically give James the majority of his rest early on, or during favorable parts of the schedule, so he can take on a larger workload in the event Los Angeles returns to the playoffs.
Resting James likely hinges on the continued development of the Lakers’ young core, to which the three-time NBA champion recently restated his excitement to play with.