In his last five games played, LeBron James is averaging 39.2 minutes a contest. On the season that is 37.1 minutes a night, which is a minute more than a year ago — and he he needed time off to get his body right during that campaign.
Last week, David Blatt gave LeBron the night off against the Heat, and with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert expected to return to the rotation in the coming days, there has been talk of keeping LeBron’s minutes in check so he is fresh come the playoffs.
None of that talk is coming from LeBron. Here is what he said about a minutes reduction to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“I’m not a 31-, 32-minute guy. That’s just not, that ain’t me,” James said after practice on Thursday…
“I’m playing at a high level,” James said. “I’m shooting the ball extremely well and I’m not hurting my team when I’m on the floor. If I’m hurting my team, then I should be sitting down. But I feel good.
The problem isn’t just the minutes LeBron is logging, it’s the load he carries while on the court. LeBron’s usage rate of 32.8 percent of his team’s possessions when he is on the floor is fifth highest in the NBA among regular rotation players. Everything on offense runs through LeBron, plus he often has tough defensive assignments. He plays hard minutes.
Those minutes should come down with the return of Irving. LeBron, as much as anyone, knows they are just seven miles into the marathon and there is a long, long way to go — then the season that matters starts. Rest is going to matter.