LeBron James sat out his first game of the season just before the All-Star break and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed it was more than just a formality to get his superstar an extra few days off.
Despite his superhero-like physique and iron-man mentality, James appears to be feeling the wear and tear of the season.
James has said multiple times that he’s not worried about rest as the Lakers eye a championship repeat. However, he’s been logging big minutes with fellow star Anthony Davis out with a calf strain and Achilles issue.
“I think this whole narrative of ‘LeBron needs more rest’ or I should take more rest or I should take time here, it’s become a lot bigger than what it actually is,” James told reporters last month. “I’ve never talked about it, I don’t talk about it, I don’t believe in it. We all need more rest, s—. This is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest. But I’m here to work, I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates.”
Load management has been a reason for James to sit in the past, but he’s been nursing a nagging ankle injury for most of the year. Vogel said that was the catalyst in getting him a night off heading into the break.
“We’ve had a mindset to encourage him to take a game off if needed, but to support him if he wants to be in there,” Vogel told reporters. “He’s always said that if his body feels good, he wants to play. He’s pretty banged up right now and particularly soreness in the ankle and so we took this opportunity to keep him home this game.”
LeBron James No Longer MVP Frontrunner
James is having another MVP-caliber season, averaging 25.8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.8 assists. He’s been the frontrunner for the award the last few weeks but was recently jumped by 76ers center Joel Embiid.
James is +260 to with the award, per FanDuel, behind the Philly big man, who has leaped to +210. Denver’s Nikola Jokic (+420) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (+1200) hold the next closest in the odds.
James has said in the past that he does not lose sleep over MVP awards — a sentiment Davis confirmed.
“Put it to you like this,” Davis told The Athletic’s Bill Oram. “I know that that man does not care about MVP awards. He cares about championships.
“So if he loses the MVP and wins the championship like he did last year, he doesn’t care. So that’s what his mindset is, he’s not focused on MVPs. He’s focused on Finals MVPs.”
LeBron James Not Using All-Star Game to Recruit
James participated in the All-Star Draft on Thursday as an All-Star captain. He joked that he will not be using the game to recruit any future Lakers teammates — this year, at least.
“Listen, I’m looking at the roster man, and I don’t see many upcoming free agents,” James said on the TNT broadcast. “So I’ll be picking for the Team LeBron All-Stars, instead of the Lakers this year.”
A slight oversight by James was that Clippers star Kawhi Leonard — who ended up on Kevin Durant’s team — could be an unrestricted free agent next offseason if he declines his playoff option.
James is logging his 17th All-Star appearance — third-most in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Kobe Bryant (18). This is his fourth time being selected as an All-Star captain.
James is the leading scorer in All-Star Game history and will extend his record for consecutive All-Star starts to 17. Durant is the other All-Star Captain but will not play in the game. With James limping into the break, we’ll see how many minutes he logs.
Here are the full NBA All-Star rosters following the draft:
- 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
- 2. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
- 3. Luka Doncic, F, Dallas Mavericks
- 4. Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
- C. LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers
- 1. Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
- 2. Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
- 3. Chris Paul, G, Phoenix Suns
- 4. Jaylen Brown, F, Boston Celtics
- 5. Paul George, G, Los Angeles Clippers
- 6. Domantas Sabonis, F, Indiana Pacers
- 7. Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz
- 1. Kyrie Irving, G, Brooklyn Nets
- 2. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
- 3. Kawhi Leonard, F, Los Angeles Clippers
- 4. Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
- 5. Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics
- 1. James Harden, G, Brooklyn Nets
- 2. Devin Booker, G, Phoenix Suns
- 3. Zion Williamson, F, New Orleans Pelicans
- 4. Zach LaVine, G, Chicago Bulls
- 5. Julius Randle, F, New York Knicks
- 6. Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
- 7. Donovan Mitchell, G, Utah Jazz
Davis was selected as an All-Star, but will not play due to injury. It is his 8th selection.