LeBron James: “If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing.”

Kurt Helin

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James is not playing like a guy who spent the summer filming “Space Jam 2.”

He’s playing like he spent the summer filming a new “Hot Tub Time Machine” movie — and his 2012 MVP self came back for this season.

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After the longest summer rest he has had since 2005, LeBron has come back with a vengeance and new energy, playing his best basketball in years — which considering his standards is incredible. It’s been a renaissance season for the 7-1 Lakers and for LeBron personally as he continues to win the battle against Father Time in a way we have not seen in a modern NBA player.

Does that mean he’s going to take some load management days to keep fresh and at this level?

“If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing,” LeBron said after the Lakers picked up a 95-80 win against the Miami Heat. He went on to talk about the battles he used to get into with Tyronn Lue in Cleveland about rest and nights off.

That’s the public image. However, eventually the Lakers will be looking to get LeBron some load management nights — even if they don’t call it that, much like the Clippers and NBA said Kawhi Leonard was not healthy enough to play. Lue and the Cavaliers did force some rest and they won a title.

When asked pregame what makes LeBron so durable one month before he turns 35, Heat coach (and former LeBron coach) Eric Spoelstra raved about his dedication to his craft and to conditioning his body. It’s the work ethic.

After the game, LeBron had a slightly different answer for his longevity.

“Wine… It ages well,” he said

He also gave a more serious answer.

“I shot Space Jam for three months all summer and my call times were at 6:30 in the morning,” LeBron said. “I was in the gym at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning before shooting 12, 13, 14 hours.

“I know how much I put into my craft.”

Or, just ask Meyers Leonard if LeBron put in the time in the gym this summer to get stronger.

LeBron did see some decline in his game last season with the injury to his groin that forced him to miss 17 games — the worst injury of his career — causing much of it. It’s all relative, LeBron still averaged 26.1 points, 11.1 assists, and 8.3 rebounds a game and made third-team All-NBA. However, the missed time and some defensive decline mean he did not make first-team All-NBA for the first time since 2007. How LeBron handled aging was going to be one of the big questions for the Lakers this season.

In our age of oversimplification and overreaction, that somehow got turned into “is LeBron washed?” So, LeBron, are you?


Well played.

Just like everything LeBron is doing this season.

 

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