In 17 NBA seasons—going on 18—Lakers star LeBron James has seen a lot. One thing he has not seen, though, is an NBA season that started a mere 72 days after the previous season’s champions were crowned. And, given that James was the centerpiece player during the league’s most recent Finals, it is little wonder that he offered up a strong reaction when he heard the league would, in fact, open 2020-21 just a little more than 10 weeks after 2019-20 closed.
“I was like, wow,” James said in a conference call with reporters, “and I said, ‘Oh s***.’”
That will be the reality for James and the Lakers entering their season as defending champs, with James and just about all of the league believing that the NBA would hold off on restarting the season until at least January 2021. James, in fact, said he had a family vacation planned over Christmas and had to cancel it.
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Instead, it is back to work this week as the Lakers open training camp ahead of the team’s season opener against the Clippers on December 22.
LeBron James Addresses Load Management
James could get a break this year, however. Given the cramped schedule that the NBA will have to lay out in order to squeeze in a 2020-21 season, with the goal of setting the 2021-22 season back to its usual timetable, the league has told teams it will relax its rules on resting players during the season, a practice that has come to be known as “load management.”
James, who turns 36 at the end of December, addressed the issue on Monday, telling reporters (according to ESPN):
I’ve always listened to my coaches. We had the same thing last year. We’re going to be as smart as we can be on … making sure that my body, on making sure that I’m ready to go.
Obviously, every game matters, but we’re competing for something that’s high. We don’t ever want to shortchange our stuff. For me personally, that’s a fine line with me, but understanding that it’s a shortened season. I think it’s 71 days that the offseason is going to be, the shortest [offseason] for any professional sport ever.
We’re very conscientious about what we’re going to do going forward, as far as me personally.
LeBron James Will Have More Offensive Help
James should have more help this season than he had last season, at least on the offensive end. While the team brought back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and has held onto sixth man Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers brought in talented offensive players who should take the scoring and shot-creation pressure off James.
Chief among them will be Dennis Schroder, who averaged 18.9 points last year in Oklahoma City and can handle the point guard role. Center Montrezl Harrell averaged 18.6 points for the Clippers. The pair, working together, could be dangerous offensively.
Dennis Schroder thinks his pick-and-roll with Montrezl Harrell will be a potent “one-two punch.”
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) December 7, 2020
The Lakers also added veterans who know how to score—Wesley Matthews (13.1 points per game career scoring average) and Marc Gasol (14.6 points).
After James and Anthony Davis, Kuzma (12.8 points) was the only Laker to average double-figure scoring. That should change this year and allow James to put less pressure on his body as the Lakers look to defend their crown.
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