All-Star Weekend, LeBron James talked about the Lakers playoff push and said it was time, “playoff mode activated.”
Since then the Lakers have gone 2-6. After Monday’s loss to the Clipper in which LeBron played 42 minutes, he seemed open to the idea of a minutes reduction if the Lakers fell out of playoff contention.
“Well, I mean, that’s a conversation that would probably be had between me and Luke [Walton]…” LeBron said. “We didn’t take care of business, so you kind of look at the rest of the games, and the percentages of what’s going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense not only for me but the team itself as well.”
The percentages are minuscule (less than one percent according to fivethirtyeight.com), so the Lakers are going to put LeBron on a minutes limit and reduce his role, something reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (he is well-connected with LeBron’s camp).
LeBron will play 28-32 minutes a night and may sit out half of the three back-to-backs the Lakers have remaining, according to the report.
This shouldn’t be a surprise.
When LeBron came to the Lakers this was going to be a multi-year process, and they knew it. They did not have the roster to compete this year (not that anyone inside the club thought they would be five games below .500 and out of the playoffs) and they were targeting stars next summer, via trade and free agency. The goal this year was to see how the young players — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball — fit with LeBron. That’s all still the plan.
Which means thinking long term about LeBron and his health. He’s not 100 percent from the groin injury. He’s got a ridiculous amount of miles on him. Scaling back the load on him, since there is nothing on the line, is just the smart thing to do.
It’s just not what the Lakers expected to be doing this time of year.