NBA

Ham wary of LeBron James burnout danger as Lakers suffer another tight loss

By Sports Desk January 19, 2023

LeBron James could do with a break, and Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham admits he fears he might be "running him into the ground".

James had 32 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in a 116-111 defeat to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, a third tight loss for the Lakers in their last four games.

They stand at 20-25 for the season, despite the impressive efforts of their talisman.

James has scored 30 points or more in 13 of his last 17 games, but the Lakers have only won nine of those contests.

He is taking on a heavy share of the burden in the injury-forced absence of Anthony Davis, who is expected back in action in February.

Only once in his last eight games has James spent less than 35 minutes on court, and Ham might have to do something about that.

Ham said: "I feel bad about that. He's playing at an amazing level, but we can't run him into the ground. That was one of my main goals coming into this season. Here he is with 36 and a half [minutes] again tonight.

"We just have to manage him and have clarity in terms of scaling back his minutes some. And with the non-game days, being smart. His preparation is always on point, but we can still hold him out of some things that we may do on the court.

"He's a high-IQ basketball player, so he understands he can sit there and watch something and have it all figured out defensively and offensively.

"It is a concern. My staff and I, we talk about it all the time. It's just tough because he's such a competitor. We're in these games and he wants to win and we want to win, so you kind of lose sight of the minutes until you come back and see the stats sheet after the game.

"You're like, 'Oh hell'. We're going to figure it out. We have a team of very smart people – our medical and training staff and our coaching staff.

"We all put our heads together and see what the best course of action is to give him whatever rest can be gained, not just going forward in the short term, but the long term as well."

De'Aaron Fox led the Kings with 31 points against the Lakers, and Sacramento have now won five successive games to improve to 25-18 for the season.

The Lakers will be back in action against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, with Ham looking for more from his team.

Ham said: "It sucks to lose these close games, but I still feel wholeheartedly at some point we're going to break all the way through. We're competing in my opinion at a very high level."

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