The Lakers won the minutes they played LeBron James Tuesday, the 21-year veteran racing down the court with the ball past younger defenders and through weaker ones who were keeping up. He scored 21 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists, the Lakers outscoring Denver by seven in his court time.
But that court time, it was slightly less than 30 minutes — only the third time in 21 openers he failed to play more than that.
“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. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it.”
James said he wasn’t surprised or upset by the plan.
Asked if the 30-minute cap would be a regular thing, coach Darvin Ham said “in all likelihood, yes.”
That would be one of the first team-sanctioned acknowledgments of James’ age. He’s 38 and injuries have abbreviated each of his last three seasons, with an uptick in the kind of soft-tissue problems you’d associate with a lifetime of playing the best basketball in the world from October to June.
Like in previous years, the opportunity to build that number exists, so the ceiling might be temporary.
“It’s going to be a day-by-day process, gauging how he’s feeling, get communication from him, our training staff, our medical staff,” Ham said. “Yeah, again, we communicate, collaborate to land on a solid plan. And 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.”