LeBron James responded to comments from Los Angeles Lakers legends Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson about his workload for the organization so far. The 33-year-old’s playing time has become a major topic in recent weeks, particularly given his age and the overreliance of the Lakers team on him to perform.
Former Phoenix Suns executive Amin Elhassan first brought up the issue last month, stating there was a problem with the Lakers if James was the leading scorer in the NBA this season. He added that although James was playing a career-low 34.7 minutes, his minutes were high-usage minutes given his statistics.
In an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio last week, Johnson, president of basketball operations with the Lakers, revealed they are monitoring the Akron, Ohio, native’s minutes and are looking to avoid having everything run through him as it was the case during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most recently, five-time champion Bryant spoke of the issue on Monday during a Lakers All-Access event.
“It’s a test of Bron’s patience and also doing what he needs to do to keep the team’s head above water,” Bryant said. “So, it’s a balancing act. They were struggling, Bron got the ball, took control, decided to start playing point, doing everything, doing everything.”
“That’s not the recipe for winning championships by no means, but it is a recipe to keep your head above water, to give yourself a little breathing room, and now it’s going back to teaching how to play the way that we want to play.”
James, meanwhile, understands why he is being critiqued, even though he doesn’t agree that he’s being asked to do too much.
“I don’t know what asking me to do too much is, to be honest,” James said following practice on Tuesday. “I just play my game. … I understand the logic behind it. I understand what Magic and Kobe are saying because we want to continue to grow the young guys. We want to see how much our young guys can grow and be the best they can be. I mean, Magic and Kobe know who I am. I know who I am. They know what they’re going to get out of me.”
The three-time champion’s minutes have been reduced this season as head coach Luke Walton would prefer James at his peak toward the end of the season when the playoffs approach.
But that doesn’t mean James, who hasn’t missed more than eight games in a season since 2003/04, believes the extra rest will help him much.
“It doesn’t matter,” James explained. “Like you guys asked me the other day, ‘Do you feel better after playing 30 minutes compared to playing 40 minutes?’ It’s like, ‘No.’ I work myself all year round to get in tip-top shape all year round. I don’t stop. So I can do whatever.”
“I mean, I played a Game 7 of the Finals and I damn near played every minute. Last year I played every single game. Every single game. So, you know, you can kind of slice it how you want it, but I understand what Magic and Kobe are saying, and we have to continue to develop these guys because if we don’t, then long-term, what does that do for our franchise?”
James currently averages 27.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game over 23 games this season. The Lakers have dramatically improved their form as well with a 14-9 record, having won seven of their last 10 games, after notably starting the season with a 2-5 record.