The Lakers were +7 in the 29 minutes LeBron James played against the Nuggets in the season opener. They were -19 in the 19 minutes he sat and lost the game by a dozen.
Last season, LeBron averaged 35.5 minutes a game but missed 27 games due to a foot injury. The season before he averaged 37.2 minutes a game and missed 26 games due to injury.
For this season the Lakers added depth this season in part to be able to keep LeBron’s minutes down and hopefully have him in more games, plus rested and healthy for a playoff push (when his minutes would increase). In terms of minutes, both LeBron and coach Darvin Ham said what we saw in the opener is the plan. Here are their postgame quotes, hat tip to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“It’s easy with him to get caught up in the emotion of the game and you tend to forget you want to play these long stretches, but in order for him to be as effective as possible, we have to be mindful of the minute output and how long his stretches are,” Ham said.
“Listen, I mean, I always want to be on the floor. Especially when you got an opportunity to win a game or you feel like you can make an impact,” James said after the game. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it.”
LeBron was clear in a follow-up comment, this is what he expected in terms of minutes and he was not mad about it. It appears the Lakers are aiming for 30 minutes a night for LeBron (he would have hit that mark, but with the game decided Ham pulled his starters for the final 1:15).
That’s a good plan, but the Lakers have to do better in the non-LeBron minutes this season. Anthony Davis scored 17 points on the night with 6-of-17 shooting, D’Angelo Russell had 11 points on 12 shot attempts, and Austin Reaves was 4-of-11 from the floor. That can be chalked up as one off night going against the defending champs on the road, but if the Lakers are going to be a threat to Denver — or Phoenix, or Golden State, or any of the other teams that can be a threat in the deep Western Conference — the negative numbers when LeBron sits cannot become a trend. It’s something to watch with the Lakers taking on Phoenix on Thursday.
Here are some other stories from around the NBA on a season-opening Tuesday:
Source: Yahoo Sports