With 17 games remaining in the regular season and the Los Angeles Lakers 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, their playoff chances grow slimmer by the day. Now, so are LeBron James’ minutes, apparently.
According to multiple reports Thursday, the team will scale back James’ minutes for the remainder of the season. Yahoo Sports‘ Chris Haynes, the first to report the plan, said both the Lakers’ front office and people in James’ camp have agreed to limit the superstar’s minutes. What’s more, Haynes reported, James may sit out one side of back-to-backs, depending on how he feels.
According to Haynes’ report, which cites anonymous sources, James will play “in the range of 28-32 minutes per game.” He currently averages 35.6 minutes despite the fact he is 34 and in his 16th season.
But ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported later Thursday that “a source close to James” said that while the team is looking at a 32-minute limit, that number is more of “an advisement” and that “James will have the leeway to play longer to finish out a competitive game should he deem fit, rather than be controlled by a hard cap.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton spoke with ESPN on Thursday and confirmed, “I will be monitoring his workload from here on out.”
The Lakers have three sets of back-to-back games remaining on their schedule.
Los Angeles lost 115-99 at home to Denver on Wednesday night, despite James passing Michael Jordan for fourth all-time in NBA scoring during the game. It was the Lakers’ fourth straight loss and dropped their record to 30-35.
James is averaging 27.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists in 47 games this season, which began with high hopes after James joined the Lakers in the offseason. And the team had a good start, compiling a 20-14 record after a Christmas Day thumping of the Golden State Warriors.
But James suffered a groin injury during that 127-101 victory and missed 17 straight games and 18 of the next 19.