LeBron James started his historic 21st season in the NBA, and his sixth representing the purple and gold franchise. Unfortunately for the superstar, losing 119-107 to the Denver Nuggets this Tuesday meant he’s never won an opening-night game with the Lakers.
Another curious note was how the 38-year-old was limited to 29 minutes last night, but the decision was later explained by his coach. Darvin Ham said that this will be the expected workload for the power forward this season, as it’s part of the team’s plan moving ahead.
“It’s easy with him to get caught up in the emotion of the game and you tend to forget you want to play these long stretches, but in order for him to be as effective as possible, we have to be mindful of the minute output and how long his stretches are,” the LA trainer said.
Despite playing less than 30 minutes, LeBron still led his team in points. Check out the veteran’s performance against the reigning champions in the video below:
The Nuggets were riding the energy throughout the night and led the scoreboard for as many as 18 points in the first quarter. By the time the crowd started to chant “Who’s your daddy?”, the Lakers superstar was fed up with the mockery and was sent to rest.
James dropped 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and even tied for his team-high rebounds with 8. He also committed no turnovers and added five assists to his stat line. The 38-year-old felt satisfied with his performance.
“Listen, I mean, I always want to be on the floor. Especially when you got an opportunity to win a game or you feel like you can make an impact,” he stated after the match. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it. Besides the fact that we didn’t win. I think for me, my performance and what I did individually in the time that I was out there, I think I was productive.”
LeBron played 35.5 minutes per contest last season, which adds up to the second most he’s participated after five seasons in Los Angeles. However, he ended up missing 27 games due to his recurrent right foot injury.
James’ new role will hand over more responsibilities to teammate Anthony Davis, who underperformed on opening night
With the new Lakers’ plan in action, which sees LeBron having an adjusted role on court, will make it even more imperative for the purple and gold to seek more production in co-star Anthony Davis. The 30-year-old started out the game well, with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting, but then went scoreless in the second half.
“They started double-teaming,” the LA center explained. “They were trying to crowd the paint. I missed some easy layups around the rim and little jumpers. Just trying to make the right play, give it up to our guys. If I’m doubled, kick it out. Rui [Hachimura] had an open 3, Gabe [Vincent] had open 3s. They just didn’t fall. But I got to shoot it more.”
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Both general manager Rob Pelinka and James’ athletic trainer Mike Mancias were consulted in the decision of giving the 38-year-old a smaller role with the Lakers, which the player reportedly said he was “not surprised or upset”.
“It’s going to be a day-by-day process, gauging how he’s feeling, get communication from him, our training staff, our medical staff,” Ham shared.