The idea of limiting LeBron James’ workload over the course of this season got off to a rough start for the Los Angeles Lakers, with the superstar showing some displeasure with the way he was used in a season-opening loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
LeBron showing his frustration with the coaching staff last night pic.twitter.com/5uoFjKF28n
— Lakers Daily (@LakersDailyCom) October 26, 2023
“Y’all do know I can play point guard too, right?” James said. “Okay, we got a lot left. I can play the point with Rui [Hachimura] in there or Austin [Reaves] and T.P. (Taurean Prince) at the 2 and 3. I’m just out there just floatin’ around.”
The 38-year-old played 29 minutes, the least among Lakers starters, in the 119-107 loss to the defending NBA champions. He scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and added eight rebounds and five assists.
After the game, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said the 29-minute mark will likely be a trend for James this season, but that managing his workload will be a day-to-day thing. Ham, at least for this one game, seemed to support a report from preseason that the Lakers were planning to manage James’ minutes and workload more than they have in any of his previous five seasons with them.
The intention is to keep James fresh and healthy for later in the season and a possibly long playoff run. Last season, he averaged more than 35 minutes per game in 55 regular season appearances and dealt with a late-season foot injury.
Two months from turning 39 and in his 21st NBA season, the icon has played in more than 56 regular season games just once in his time with the Lakers. He also is coming off his longest playoff run since helping them win the 2020 NBA championship.
But it is fair to question whether he needed to be limited like he was in the very first game of the season, especially in a marquee matchup against the team that swept the Lakers out of the 2023 Western Conference Finals. He certainly didn’t seem to think so and tried to convince the coaching staff to use him at point guard, even suggesting a rotation that would allow him to do that.
James has seemed willing to pass the mantle of franchise player to teammate Anthony Davis, but he does not seem to be fully on board with the plan for his playing time this season. It is an interesting situation that will be worth keeping an eye on.