Much has already been made of LeBron James having his playing time limited in the season opener as part of a longer term plan by the Los Angeles Lakers, but teammate Austin Reaves is saying that it doesn’t have an effect on the team’s outlook or goals for the 2023-24 campaign.
“I don’t think it changes anything,” Reaves told Bleacher Report. “We still have to go out there and play basketball the right way. I’m sure there’s nights where Bron is feeling really well and plays a little more and others when he plays a little less. But at the end of the day, all he cares about is winning. And that’s all we care about as a team.”
The superstar played 29 minutes, the least among Lakers starters, in the 119-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. By comparison, D’Angelo Russell played 36 minutes and Reaves logged 31 minutes.
James was seen expressing some frustration toward the coaching staff about his limited role and pitched himself to take over at point guard while offering a rotation that would’ve allowed him to do so. He scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and added eight rebounds and five assists to start his 21st NBA season.
LeBron showing his frustration with the coaching staff last night pic.twitter.com/5uoFjKF28n
— Lakers Daily (@LakersDailyCom) October 26, 2023
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said afterward that James getting about 29 minutes per game is likely to be a trend this season, but that it is a day-to-day proposition. It is part of a reported plan to manage the icon’s workload more carefully than the Lakers have done in the past.
The intention is to avoid late-season fatigue that could carry over into what is hopefully another long playoff run. Last season, he averaged more than 35 minutes per game in 55 appearances and was sidelined by a foot injury late in the regular season. He also is coming off his longest postseason since helping the Lakers win the 2020 NBA championship.
When James is resting, Reaves will be one of the foremost players who will be looked at to pick up the slack. After emerging late last season and further establishing himself in the march to the 2023 Western Conference Finals, the 25-year-old knows he has earned his famous teammate’s trust.
After just one game this season, the Lakers are definitely a work in progress as they adjust to what seems like a new reality for arguably their best player. Yet if all goes according to plan, it should result in another playoff berth and a real chance to compete for the NBA championship.