LeBron James and the Lakers Forced to Address Elephant in the Room

Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James has struggled to stay on the floor through the first quarter of the 2021-22 campaign. It’s pushed head coach Frank Vogel to finally address the obvious concerning the four-time league MVP’s minute workload.

LeBron James limping through his 19th campaign

James headed into his 19th season hoping to put last year’s injury struggles behind him.

However, it’s remained much the same as he’s played in 12 out of the first 24 regular-season games. James missed eight straight contests due to an abdominal strain, while a sore right leg injury forced him to miss two games.

The 36-year-old has performed at an elite level, averaging 25.6 points on 47.5% shooting from the floor with 6.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds. The lingering concern remains around James’ health, leading head coach Frank Vogel to finally address the big elephant in the room.

LeBron James and the Lakers forced to address elephant in the room

When James has been on the court, he’s still proving to be an ageless wonder.

However, he’s nearing two decades in the league, while the nagging injuries indicate his body is experiencing an essence of wear and tear it hadn’t in years past. Head coach Frank Vogel recently underlined the importance of monitoring James’ workload as he moves through his 19th season.

“We’re always monitoring his load and just being intelligent with it,” Vogel said via Lakers Nation. “Obviously, the overtime games are what they are. He’s going to be in there for those. Like you said, he has missed some time. The totality is less of a concern than if you played a triple-overtime game and you played the next night. You exercise caution in those instances. It’s just something that literally we monitor on a daily basis. We rely on the medical team and feedback from how he’s feeling and make smart decisions.”

In 12 games, he’s averaging a team-high 36.9 minutes per contest. He’s played north of 32 minutes per contest, with his ejection against the Detroit Pistons (21 minutes) being his lone appearance below that mark. He took the floor for more than 40 minutes in each of the two overtime games he played, topped by 50 minutes in the triple-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings.

The Lakers need James to perform at an elite level if they hope to vie for an NBA title. All that makes limiting his workload to a certain degree a must over the long haul of the regular season.

LeBron James’ presence critical for the Lakers to find their identity

Vogel’s remarks are encouraging to hear, but the Lakers haven’t had the luxury of cutting James’ workload due to various factors.

The 17-time All-Star has limped through the first quarter of the season, making the adjustment process for the restructured roster a more difficult task. James’ extended absences have allowed the Lakers’ roster to properly find its identity or on-court chemistry.

Russell Westbrook has turned a corner with his play, but he hasn’t played much in his role as the third option. Instead, James’ missed time has pushed him into the secondary scoring role behind Anthony Davis, which is a role he won’t play alongside the four-time league MVP.

The talent around James and Davis will also need to play a crucial part in lifting Los Angeles toward NBA title contention. The Lakers have seen bright spots emerge, such as the play of Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk. However, consistency throughout the roster is needed to elevate the franchise toward that desired end goal.

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