Coming off a season in which he played the least amount of minutes per game in his career and missed significant time due to injury, LeBron James insisted that he isn’t going to be tracking his minutes when the 2021-22 NBA season kicks off on Tuesday.
Doing so, the Los Angeles Lakers star said, would only make things worse.
“I don’t play the game thinking about injuries,” James said Monday. “And I also feel worse when I play low minutes.”
James will open his 19th NBA season on Tuesday night when the Lakers host the Golden State Warriors, where they’re currently listed as a -3.5 favorite on BetMGM.
The 36-year-old averaged only 33.4 minutes per game last season while playing in just 45 games, both career-lows. He missed 26 games with an ankle injury, too.
While James certainly isn’t solely to blame, the Lakers were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. James played in that series, but didn’t quite look like himself as their title defense went out the window.
“It took a while [for my ankle to heal after that series],” James said, via ESPN. "I didn't do much basketball stuff for probably the first two months of the summer, which is very rare for me, because my ankle wasn't responding how I would like it to respond.
"And the best thing about the summertime was I had time. I had time to just really get ready when my ankle was ready to go. I was always training, just wasn't on the basketball court much. Always doing other stuff, training, pushing, seeing if I could do other stuff with my ankle, and until I got to a point where I didn't feel any sharp pains anymore, and my flexibility was back to where it was before. That's when I knew I could get back on the floor."
Frank Vogel: Lakers don’t want ‘to have him play 82 games’
Though James said he won’t be tracking his minutes or his games, Lakers coach Frank Vogel definitely will be.
With a player as good as James on his team, he knows they can’t be pushing anything. That, however, doesn’t mean that Vogel has a plan in place already.
“Obviously, [we] probably don’t want to have him play 82 games,” Vogel said, via ESPN. “But we’re not going to pre-script X amount of nights off. We’re going to take it as it comes through the year.”
Whether that strategy works to lead James to another championship before his career ends remains to be seen.
If nothing else, James is just happy to be entering the season at a normal pace.
"It's definitely a completely clean slate," James said, via ESPN. "And honestly, last year was such a fast-twitch season for us coming off the bubble. And injuries derailed anything that we wanted to do. So it's a great opportunity for us to kind of just rinse our hands and have a clean slate, and get ready to start building."