LeBron shouldn’t wreck himself trying to drag this Lakers team to the playoffs
Nate Scott | USA TODAY SPORTS
LeBron James put together another incredible performance on Wednesday night, finishing with 33 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds in a 125-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers needed the 34-year-old James to play 37 (!) minutes in the contest to secure the result. And complain about his defensive effort all you want, James was the best player on the floor in the game.
And it was silly. It was all silly. This whole thing is silly. The Lakers should not need James to play 37 minutes to take care of a moribund Pelicans team that is in shambles, and the fact that they do need that from James tells me one thing: He needs to not kill his body dragging this Lakers team to the playoffs, because they’re not good enough to do anything if and when they get there.
This was always going to be the year James broke his streak of consecutive NBA Finals appearances. We knew that when he signed with Los Angeles. They were too young, too raw. The Western Conference was too loaded. The Golden State Warriors still exist.
When Magic Johnson and the Lakers brass padded the roster with vets on short deals, the game plan was obvious: Let LeBron get accustomed to L.A., see what young kids could handle playing with him, build for the future when they could go and get a second star for James to play with. They tried to hurry that along with their disastrous attempt to nab Anthony Davis at the trade deadline, but when that failed, the original plan was still in motion: This was never going to be the year.
That’s fine. LeBron can take one year off from playing for a title. He’s done it every year for the last decade plus.
James has played in over 1,100 professional basketball games since he joined the league in 2003. I know he seems invincible, but he is, I hope, a human being. He will one day age, and deteriorate.
James has learned how to manage the stress on his body over the course of the season (that free-safety style defense is part of that) but still – he’s 34. Far more of the players drafted in his draft class have retired than still are in the league.
Basically: Every run down the court for James is putting something on the odometer. This needs to be managed, massaged, if he’s going to keep this up for years and years, which, if you’re a basketball fan, you want to happen.
Which is why he needs to chill out and not break his body down dragging this Lakers team to the playoffs.
This Lakers team isn’t bad. This Lakers team is fine. I like Reggie Bullock. I think Kyle Kuzma can be a great pro.
This team isn’t winning an NBA title. They aren’t coming close to an NBA title. I know they are better than some of the LeBron teams in Cleveland that he dragged to a Finals (LeBron once brought a team to a Finals when Matthew Dellavedova was arguably the team’s second best player in the playoffs), but those teams were playing in a rough Eastern Conference.
I’m not saying James should shut it down. He should continue to play, work with the young guys, see who can hang with him. But he shouldn’t be playing nearly 40 minutes in a midweek game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Don’t put miles on the odometer if the car is going nowhere.