The minutes are piling up for LeBron James and so are the losses for the Los Angeles Lakers.
James played 37 minutes on Wednesday night in a 116-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings, logging 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He’s averaged 38 minutes in the month of January, which includes two overtime games where he played 40-plus.
James is a physical wonder at 38 years old but the Lakers are starting to grow concerned with his workload. After all, even if they manage to squeak into the postseason, it’ll mean nothing if James is not at 100%.
“I feel bad about that. He’s playing at an amazing level. But we can’t run him into the ground. That was one of my main goals coming into this season,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We just have to manage him and have clarity in terms of scaling back his minutes some.”
Ham mentions that James has been smart with his non-game days but it’s likely not enough to balance out the wear and tear he’s putting on this season — which doesn’t get easier with the Lakers sitting at 20-25.
James is not only playing a lot of minutes but he’s having to carry a huge load when he’s on the court to keep the Lakers in games.
“It’s just tough man because he’s such a competitor. We’re in these games and he wants to win and we want to win. You kind of lose sight of the minutes until you come back and see the stat sheet after the game. You’re like, ‘Oh hell.’ We’re going to figure it out.”
Injuries Haven’t Left the Lakers Many Options
The Lakers weren’t a deep team to being with but injuries to key players have left them in a tough spot as they try to make up ground in the standings after a miserable start to the year.
With Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves out of the lineup, LA is missing three of their top seven scorers and around 50 points per game.
James is averaging 35.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the month of January.
“No matter what is going on with me personally with bumps, bruises and fatigue, my job is to go out there and still perform at a high level and put ourselves in a position to win a ball game,” James said after the loss to the Kings.
LeBron on Lakers: ‘Zero Room for Error’
After a five-game winning streak, the Lakers have dropped four of their last five, failing to capitalize on the momentum. Luckily for LA, the Western Conference as a whole is a logjam, so another winning streak could change the trajectory of the Lakers’ season. However, James knows the sense of urgency has to be there every night, especially late in games with the result hanging in the balance.
“We’re definitely a ballclub that has zero room for error. We have to continue to play how we played the last couple of games and trying to play mistake-free basketball,” James said.
The Lakers’ next four games are against Western Conference foes, with three of those contests coming against teams ahead of them in the standings: Portland, Memphis and the Clippers.