As the Los Angeles Lakers look to gain momentum, LeBron James is emphatic that the solution does not involve him taking games off as part of the load management days that have become commonplace for NBA stars. With star players around the league opting out of games to rest, James made it clear he never bought into this as a necessary option.
“This whole narrative of LeBron needs more rest, so I should take more rest, so I should take time here has become a lot bigger than what it actually really is,” James explained in his postgame press conference after the Lakers’ loss to the Wizards. “I’ve never talked about it. I don’t talk about it. I don’t believe in it.”
James admitted the entire league technically needs more rest given the quick turnaround from last season in the Disney bubble. He played 43 minutes in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Wizards and went on to describe his mindset as being, “here to punch my clock in.”
“We all need more rest from the fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest,” James continued. “But I’m here to work and I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates. And if I’m hurt or if I’m not feeling well, then we can look at it then. I have nothing but honest people around me, but I’m also honest with myself as well. Me having the love for the game and me being able to be available for my teammates is more important than anything.”
LeBron on the NBA’s Load Management Narrative: ‘I Don’t Need a Handout’
James was direct with his stance on taking games off for himself but also hinted at his frustration that the idea is being embraced around the league. The NBA All-Star pointed to his ability to continue playing at a high level in his 18th season as evidence that he does not need more rest. James noted that he is “not looking for a handout,” a subtle jab at some of the stars taking games off throughout the regular season. He is averaging 25.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.1 assists and one steal while playing 35 minutes per game so far this season.
“That’s been a narrative around the league,” James added. “I’ve never asked for time off or time throughout the season. It’s grown to a point where it’s not even coming from me anymore. It’s just like, ‘Okay, LeBron should take time off, or why is his workload at this?’ I’ve been hearing it for five, six, seven years now, and I’m still going strong. I don’t need a handout. I’m not looking for a handout. My job is to go out when I’m available when I’m healthy to go out and play. That’s what it’s all about.”
James’ recent comments represent a stronger stance on the topic than what the NBA star stated prior to the season. During a December 2020 interview, James deferred to Lakers head coach Frank Vogel on whether he would sit out games.
“I’ve always listened to my coaches,” James noted at the time, per ESPN. “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.
The NBA Relaxed Its Rules on Resting Players During Non-Nationally Televised Games
The NBA has rules in place to prevent teams and players from abusing the system. James’ words are sure to please NBA commissioner Adam Silver as star players sitting out games puts pressure on the league’s business model.
The NBA put in place rules to prevent teams from resting star players during nationally televised games but relaxed the rules for a traditional gameday. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps detailed a memo sent out to teams in December 2020.
“In a memo sent to teams by the NBA Monday morning, the league laid out resting policies for the 2020-21 regular season — including granting significant flexibility to teams resting players in non-nationally televised games, particularly at the start of the season,” Bontemps explained. “The memo, which was obtained by ESPN, says that flexibility applies to teams playing back-to-back games and presents examples of possible scenarios, including, “to rest a key veteran player who played a substantial role on a team that advanced deep into the 2020 Playoffs, or to rest a player who is still returning to full strength after recovering from COVID-19.”