The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be conducting an experiment with LeBron James this season.
With James turning 32 years old at the end of December, one of the favorite things for fans and media alike to debate is rest for The King.
LeBron is currently third in the NBA in average minutes per game, behind only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Minnesota’s Zach LeVine, playing slightly over 37 minutes per night, an increase of about a minute and a half more than a year ago.
On the other hand, James doesn’t rank in the top 20 in the league in minutes played for the season, as a result of sitting out three games already this season, and we are sure there are more to follow.
The experiment is this…what is better for the athlete, reducing minutes on a nightly basis, or having the player just not play on certain nights. That way, he doesn’t warm up, doesn’t get mentally prepared to play. It’s just a complete day off.
We understand that Tyronn Lue has said all along that a reduction in James’ minutes would occur in January and February when the schedule got a little contracted, but on this current trip, the least minutes in a game for #23 was the 35 he played in Brooklyn on the first game on the roadie.
Right now, James doesn’t show any signs of fatigue and the guy is obviously a physical freak. He doesn’t seem to get tired, even at the end of games.
While San Antonio is famous for starting the concept of giving players game days off, sitting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili when the schedule got heavy, Gregg Popovich also cut the players minutes per game.
At age 32, Duncan played 32.7 minutes per night, while at the same ages, Parker played 28.7 and Ginobili also spent 28.7 minutes on the floor per game.
Obviously, the goal is to have James fresh through the middle of June as the wine and gold defend their championship. The concern is with The King getting older, can he take on the heavier minutes per night, and still be his dominant self throughout the playoffs.
We are sure there are constant conversations with Lue, James, and the training staff about how the player feels, and the organization has done studies on what is the proper way to keep a high caliber NBA athlete fresh after they have reached the age of 30.
We also know that LeBron James doesn’t care about chasing a regular season win record. He understands the ultimate prize is winning another title, and he knows the most important thing is to be healthy and strong in April, May, and June.
We should have learned by now that comparing LeBron James to other athletes doesn’t make sense. He is a freak of nature. As someone once said about guarding him, “if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough”.
We also believe the Cavs will have the first overall seed in the East wrapped up sooner than they did this year, which should mean a lesser load for James toward the end of the year.
That should get James some fresher legs heading into the post-season.
If James appears tired in the playoffs, then the Cavaliers will have to adjust their plan going into next season. However, if he is dominant through the last game of the season, then it will be even more evidence that The King is incomparable.