NBA

LeBron James accepts adjusted workload as Lakers star plays 29 minutes in Denver loss

By Sports Desk October 25, 2023

LeBron James understands the Los Angeles Lakers' plan to manage his time on court in the coming weeks, with head coach Darvin Ham hoping it gets the best out of the four-time NBA MVP.

James played just 29 minutes as the Lakers opened their 2023-24 campaign with a 119-107 defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, with Nikola Jokic recording his 106th career triple-double for the reigning NBA champions.

Four-time NBA champion James added five assists to his team-high 21 points, but he saw his gametime limited despite the Lakers remaining competitive until late on, cutting Denver's lead to three points in the fourth quarter.

The 38-year-old averaged 35.5 minutes per game last season, his second-highest figure in five years with the Lakers, though that appeared to take its toll as he missed 27 games with a right foot injury.

James has missed a total of 111 games since joining the Lakers in 2018, most of them due to injury. While the NBA's all-time leading scorer always wants to be involved, he understands the benefits of managing his workload.

"Listen, I always want to be on the floor, especially when you've got an opportunity to win a game or you feel like you can make an impact," James said after Tuesday's defeat.

"But this is the system in place, and I'm going to follow it."

Asked whether he was surprised by his limited time on court, James clarified: "No, I'm not surprised. I talked to the coach and we had a game plan going into Game 1. I'm not surprised or upset."

With James approaching his 39th birthday and the likes of Anthony Davis, D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura providing the Lakers with depth, coach Ham says fans should expect more of the game.

"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," Ham said of James.

"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.

"It's going to be a day-by-day process, gauging how he's feeling, getting communication from him, our training staff, our medical staff."

Despite the defeat, James was satisfied with aspects of his own performance and does not believe he needs to adjust his game to the new role.

"Besides the fact that we didn't win, I think my performance and what I did individually in the time that I was out there… I think I was productive," James said.

"I mean, I was a plus-7 for the game. No turnovers. I like the no turnovers more than anything."

The Lakers are back in action on Thursday, with the Phoenix Suns visiting Crypto.com Arena.

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