Has The Time Come For LeBron James To Come Off The Bench? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
The admission must have been difficult. The words becoming the first concession that the end is closer than he would have imagined. The admission was from Lebron James, who spoke the words “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career.” For an athlete, accepting your body can no longer do everything it once did is almost admitting that you will not live forever; a painful prospect for anyone who has dominated for as long as James has. In my mind the words sparked these thoughts: Should LeBron James be pulled from the Lakers starting lineup; has the time come for LeBron to come off the bench?
The words “workload management” are not ones that LeBron James likes to hear. In fact, when his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis was hurt earlier in the season, James took it upon himself to play longer minutes per game in February. What didn’t seem to matter to him, or head coach Frank Vogel, was when he increased his minutes, his production went down. A sign the 36-year-old could no longer fully recharge his batteries between games, thus preventing him from being able to carry a team for long periods of time within a game or during the season. Those extra minutes, along with his age, probably prolonged the recovery time LeBron James had after injuring himself … and predictably, as James rehabbed, the Lakers dropped in the Western Conference standings.
The purpose of “workload management” is to keep players as strong as possible for as many games as possible. This mode of operation has two goals:
- To help players perform their best, which in the NBA means at peak efficiency and effectiveness.
- To keep players healthier by removing some of the wear and tear from their bodies during a long season, even one that’s 72-games.
One of the ways to help LeBron James become more effective on the court would be to have him coming off the bench, allowing him to play less minutes per game against opponents’ front-line defenders. The approach has worked for other aging stars like Carmelo Anthony with the Portland Trailblazers, and with the enhanced basketball IQ that LeBron James has, playing 25-30 minutes against bench players during games will only increase his output while putting less strain on his body. This approach will make it easier on nights when James is “in the zone” to play a few more minutes when needed, but not be called upon to answer all the questions the Lakers’ offense has.
I know this sounds like I am calling for “The King” to abdicate his throne, but all I am doing is trying to prolong LeBron James’ career by protecting him from himself. After all, James wants to play every minute of every game, he would be the first to tell you that.
I have been saying for LeBron’s entire tenure in Los Angeles that the Lakers need to guard against burning out James unless they don’t think he will play beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.
There is no shame to admit that you are getting old, and LeBron James, for the first time in his basketball life did just that over the weekend. Now, it is time for everyone to act upon that admission by scaling back his playing time and saving the body of LeBron James, allowing one of the smartest players in NBA history to use his mind to win games.
While I doubt this will be the route taken by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2021 NBA Playoffs, it is something that Vogel, and Lakers management needs to address with LeBron James this offseason since it would be in the best interest of their team, and their second best player to do so. There are some stats that are not worth leading your team or the NBA in, and when you are 36, minutes per game is one of those stats.
The time has almost arrived for the LeBron James to be one of the best sixth men in the NBA, and that time should begin during the 2021-22 season, and will if he and the Los Angeles are honest with each other and the situation at hand.
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Has The Time Come For LeBron James To Come Off The Bench? | TooAthletic.com
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