Former NBA star DeMarcus Cousins thinks the Los Angeles Lakers and head coach Darvin Ham need to find a new way to manage LeBron James’ mileage this season.
In L.A.’s first game of the season, James logged just 29 minutes, and afterward, Ham said that would likely be a trend this season.
However, in six games since then, the future Hall of Famer has averaged 37.0 minutes per contest. The Lakers have had some overtime games mixed in there, but even so, James has certainly been on the floor more than anticipated.
Cousins agrees that the Lakers need to keep James fresh this season, but he doesn’t think the plan Ham mentioned after the opener is realistic.
“I think it is a huge factor,” he said of the importance of the Lakers managing James’ mileage each game so he can stay fresh all season. “And I’ma go off and say the whole plan of playing 28 to — that’s just, that’s complete bulls—. I don’t even think it’s possible with the way this team is constructed. I just don’t see that happening. It’s been seven games into the season — they’ve already scrapped that plan. So, can you imagine what happens 30 games in, 40 games in?
“We also have to keep into account that LeBron has been injured every season since he’s been a Laker, maybe outside of the championship year. So, obviously, the mileage is starting to have an effect on his body. Regardless of how physically gifted he is or how physically gifted he’s been in the past, Father Time is undefeated, and it happens to everybody. So, with that being said, they have to put a real plan — an actually realistic plan — in place to help this guy make it to the end of the season so he can be fresh for the playoffs and for a championship run. If not, you might as well scrap this team because it’s not gonna happen.”
Even with James playing heavy minutes this season, the Lakers have gotten off to a slow start, as they’re just 3-4 through seven games. But the squad has had to deal with some injuries to key players, so there’s certainly hope that more wins will start to find the Lakers as they get healthier.
James is averaging 25.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game to start the season while shooting 56.1 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. One look at his production would offer no indication that he’s set to turn 39 years old next month.
But the superstar’s age is an unavoidable truth, and so is the fact that his availability has been a bigger concern in recent years than it used to be. The last time he appeared in at least 60 regular season games was the 2019-20 campaign, when the Lakers won their most recent NBA title.
The Lakers do have some winnable games coming up, with two of their next three matchups set to come against the Houston Rockets (on Wednesday) and Portland Trail Blazers (on Sunday). A date with the Phoenix Suns on Friday will come in the middle. Perhaps L.A. will use the stretch to get James’ minutes back to a more sustainable realm.
Although the season is young, figuring out how to manage James’ workload is a problem that needs to be solved sooner than later.