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LeBron James has played about three lifetimes worth of NBA minutes. Not really, but it sure can seem that way.
And after being among the league leaders in minutes during his past four seasons, there have been those who wonder how much James will have left as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The superstar forward turns 34-years old at the end of December.
That is a big reason Lakers coach Luke Walton has kept the same party line that used to be held by coaches of the Cleveland Cavaliers — he will closely monitor LeBron’s minutes.
That’s always a good plan, but in Cleveland, it rarely worked out that way. And according to veteran NBA reporter Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the Cavs are having some fun with the idea that James will be willing to stay off the court.
“Cavs officials have privately joked that ‘the tread is off his tires’ as James transitions to L.A. after playing so much last season,” McMenamin reported.
Of course, it hardly looked that way in the season-opener Thursday at Portland. James threw down two thunderous dunks to start his Lakers career, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Yes, the Lakers dropped a 128-119 decision, and yes, the Lakers resembled the Cavs in one sense — the very minute LeBron took a rest, they went down the tubes. But LeBron looked like LeBron.
Anyway, the idea that Walton and the Lakers intend to try to keep LeBron fresh undoubtedly calls for further evidence. As we saw in Cleveland, when James’ team is struggling, he knows he can quickly change their fortunes simply by pulling off his warmup and re-entering the game. It’s hard to stay off the court when you almost always lead to success.
With a younger team like the Lakers, James will want to play — a lot.
How will he hold up? That is indeed a fair question at this stage of his career. And while it’s never a good idea to doubt LeBron, clearly, some have started to do just that anyway.