After averaging more than 35 minutes per game last season, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will likely see his playing time decrease for the second consecutive season. He played just 29 minutes in the season-opening loss to the Denver Nuggets. And head coach Darvin Ham suggested that could be the norm going forward.
“We’ll see,” Ham said, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic on October 24. “In all likelihood, yes.”
James is in his 21st NBA season and dealt with injuries throughout last season, including a foot injury that threatened to cut his 2022-23 campaign short.
Ham added that James’ minutes limit could increase depending on how he feels and the training staff’s determination. If James’ comments are any indication, the situation could truly go in either direction.
“You always want to be on the floor,” James said, per Buha. “I guess there’s a system in place and I’m going to follow it.”
James clarified that he was aware of how many minutes he would play in the contest.
He finished the 119-107 loss with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds, five assists, and one steal, though he did shoot just 1-for-4 from beyond the arc. Still, his plus-7 net rating led the Lakers on the evening.
Lakers Lose WCF Rematch vs. Nuggets
Los Angeles entered the contest shorthanded with Jarred Vanderbilt and rookie first-round pick Jalen Hood-Schifino sidelined with injuries. But Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Gabe Vincent, and Rui Hachimura combined to shoot 34.4% from the floor. Davis failed to make a basket in the second half, finishing 0-for-6.
He also had his hands full with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.
That was part of the trash talk Davis was referring to.
James took a higher road, simply saying that he would address the talk directly in due time. But they lost the first and fourth quarters by 19 points and shot just 34.9% from deep for the game as a team. They also allowed the Nuggets to shoot 52.7% from the floor and 41.2% on three-pointers.
Darvin Ham Noted Defensive Issues During Preseason
Missing Vanderbilt was a hit to the Lakers’ defensive plans. But he only played one game during the preseason, and Ham made a note of the Lakers needing to tighten up on that end before the season started.
The Lakers failed on both points too often against the Nuggets.
Their moves this offseason were highly regarded. They will need better production from the players they brought in and brought back if they want to fare better against the Nuggets in their next meeting on February 8 too.