The Lakers have placed LeBron James on a game to game minutes restriction for the remainder of this season. According to multiple sources including ESPN, the Lakers are aiming to limit LeBron to 32 minutes of playing time a game. James will of course have the option to finish out closely contested games if he chooses to do so. Many have questioned whether this is the right decision for LeBron and the Lakers. As disappointing as this is to fans who pay their hard earned money to see a full night of work from LeBron, it is the right move for the Lakers.
Fans should fully embrace this decision and understand the reasoning behind it. The regular season is winding down along with the playoff hopes for the Lakers this season. With the amount of games Los Angeles has to make up, not overly exhausting LeBron is the correct move.
As impressive as LeBron has been in maintaining his effectiveness and health year after year, preserving his body should the first priority for the Lakers. LeBron suffered the first major injury of his career this season, straining his left groin muscle. Prior to the injury, the Lakers were well on their way to securing a playoff spot with a 20-14 record. But in LeBron's 17 game absence, the inexperienced, inconsistent, and overtly dysfunctional Lakers collapsed posting a 6-11 record, falling out of playoff contention.
But this collapse was bound to happen at some point this season. Whenever a team brings in as many unpredictable personalities as the Lakers did this off-season, an on-court slump and off-court drama is inevitable. Between having Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley, and Rajon Rondo as a supporting cast this season, it's no shock the Lakers are at this point.
This minute restriction on LeBron is also likely the final nail in Luke Walton's coffin when it comes to being head coach for the Lakers. Fans should embrace this restriction in that it will ultimately expose Luke Walton for the marginal coach he is at the NBA level. LeBron disguised the coaching blemishes of Mike Brown, David Blatt, and Ty Lue during his time in Cleveland. He has done the same thing for Walton in Los Angeles this season.
Walton's ability to coach was greatly exaggerated for the way he took over as head coach with the Warriors in Steve Kerr's absence. Anytime a coach is handed talent like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, it's expected that they should win. It's a safe bet that any coach at the college level or lower could have kept that team together for as long as Walton did with it's immense talent and chemistry.
Walton will likely get another opportunity after this season as a younger option to teams in need of a coach. But people forget that Walton was taken in the same 2003 NBA Draft as LeBron. There can't be much about basketball Walton knows that LeBron doesn't, given his vast basketball IQ. It's also hard to have any sympathy too for someone like Walton who will walk away with $25 million for doing his job at a poor level. So as frustrated as fans are to see LeBron's minutes limited, it will lead to Luke Walton's exit as head coach, which is a step in the right direction.
The most obvious reason for why the restriction makes sense is that it preserves LeBron's body, limiting unnecessary wear and tear with no hope for playoff contention this season. By making the NBA Finals every year for nearly the last decade, LeBron has played the longest season of any player. LeBron as a direct result of this also has had the shortest off-season of any NBA player each year to recover and improve his skill set.
For the first time since the 2009-2010 season, LeBron will have a full off-season to rest, recover, and evolve his game. As well as King James has taken care of himself through diet, and an intense workout regimen, it's fair to say he is entering the final stage of his career. He has been overused at every step of his career, carrying teams on both ends of the floor, playing excessive minutes for teams who needed his superhuman effort to win.
At 34 years old, both LeBron and the Lakers know with each passing season, their chance to win a championship decreases. If the Lakers can land Anthony Davis and another star this off-season to join LeBron next year, they become an immediate contender. It doesn't make sense for Los Angeles to utilize LeBron when he can instead use that valuable time to recharge and shift his focus toward the future.
As much of a disservice as this is to fans, LeBron will still see action in games, just not at an excessive level. LeBron has skipped back to back games in the past to let him sustain the longevity seen throughout his stellar career. This additional rest will allow him to maintain his immense basketball prowess, making the Lakers better in the long term. Lakers fans need to embrace this decision and understand there is a method to the madness when it comes to limiting LeBron for the rest of this year.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes no NBA player deserves a rest more than LeBron James, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org