In his 17th year in the league, Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James has continued to play a significant part in the Lakers’ early-season success. It has also brought into question whether the team will begin to manage his time on the floor to a greater degree to best utilize him throughout the course of the regular season. With that in mind, head coach Frank Vogel has brought some clarity to that game plan.
LeBron James’ comeback season
In the months leading into the season, there were questions around James’ ability and durability on the court. He had just finished up an injury-plagued campaign that saw him miss 27 games while missing the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade.
James has responded in a significant way on the court, putting forth a stellar start as he’s averaging 26.1 points along with a career-high and league-best 10.7 assists while shooting 50.2 percent from the floor. He has excelled in more of a point guard role and has tremendous success on the court playing with star forward Anthony Davis, guiding the Lakers to the best mark in the league.
That has foreseeably led to discussions circling the Lakers managing his minutes or time on the floor to get the most out of him in the regular season. There was a greater sense of direction provided on that front from Vogel this week.
Frank Vogel’s plan for LeBron James
Over the last few weeks, talk around the league has hovered on the subject of load management, primarily concerning Kawhi Leonard’s plans with the L.A. Clippers this season.
James has already come out to state that he doesn’t plan on sitting out games if he’s healthy enough to play. Vogel has added to that dialogue as he recently stated that he wants to put the star forward on the floor for as little time as possible to get the team wins, according to Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group.
“My line of demarcation is to play him as little as possible to get the win. And just try to keep a smart number in mind,” Vogel said. “Obviously there’s times when we’re going to go over it but I think if I can get him averaging 34 minutes I think that would probably be the ideal situation.”
Vogel is clearly behind having James on the floor when he’s healthy, but at the same time wants to limit his minutes if possible. The 34-year-old is averaging is career-low 34.7 minutes per game, which may be a factor in helping him being able to put forth a strong start to the season.
Nonetheless, the Lakers have a plan to monitor James’ minutes as well as Davis’ to keep them relatively fresh throughout the year.
Lakers’ tough December ahead
The Lakers have raced out to a tremendously successful start to the season, but the team still has a rough stretch of games ahead in December.
Los Angeles was able to grab wins against the Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets, and Utah Jazz so far this month on the road. There are some formidable opponents ahead, such as the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Clippers, Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, and Portland Trail Blazers. These contests will provide a clearer picture of what type of team the Lakers possess with the hope of competing for an NBA title.
That will require James and Davis to lead the way to give them a chance to make a deep run through the playoffs. In the meantime, the Lakers are hedging in the right direction with their star power guiding them forward.