Surprised by short offseason, Lakers’ LeBron James contemplates managing his minutes
LeBron James cringed when he learned the NBA was going to start the regular season Dec. 22, swearing at learning he and the Lakers would have such a short offseason coming off an NBA championship they just won in October.
James has always detested the “load management” way of skipping games during the season, but he had to think about how he’ll deal with that issue in 2020-2021 because he didn’t get the normal time to rest and recover.
The Lakers won the championship Oct. 11, and that gives them 71 days off before they open the season in defense of their title against the Clippers at Staples Center.
James described his first reaction when the league announced the start date to the 2020-21 season.
“I was like, ‘Wow!’ And I said, ‘Oh, (bleep),’” James said during a videoconference with reporters Monday after the Lakers’ second day of practice. “Being completely honest, I wasn’t expecting that because the early conversations that were going on, I was hearing it would kind of be a mid-January start and training camp would kind of start after Christmas.
As the Lakers shift their focus to the upcoming season, the team tries to adjust to some of the realities associated with playing amid COVID-19.
“We would have an opportunity to spend Christmas with our families. So, I had already planned a vacation with my family, which I haven’t been able to do obviously since I’ve been in the league. So, I had to switch up a lot of things when I heard the Dec. 22 start and with training camp starting obviously this week.”
James will turn 36 on Dec. 30 and he’s entering his 18th season. So, James was asked, does it make sense for him to take some time off during this season to preserve his body for a championship run?
“We’re going to be as smart as we can be . . . we’re making sure I’m ready to [play],” James said. “Obviously every game matters, but we’re competing for something that’s hard. We don’t ever want to short-change our stuff. As for me personally, it’s often a kind of fine line. But understanding with the shortened season . . . the offseason is going to be the shortest offseason for any professional sport ever. We’re very conscientious about what we do going forward as far as me personally.”
The fact that James and Anthony Davis re-upped with the Lakers was significant for the organization. James signed a two-year extension for $85 million and Davis signed a five-year extension for $190 million.
“What it means is that we’re here and we’re committed to this franchise and we’re going to give everything that we got to this franchise,” James said. “That’s what it’s all about. The Lakers believe in us and they rewarded us with those contracts. We just go out there every day, both on the floor and off the floor, try to make an impact not only what we do on the floor but also make an impact off the floor in how we carry ourselves as men. So, it’s a great partnership.”
James talked about the Lakers’ addition of Montrezl Harrell, who won the NBA sixth man of the year award last season while playing for the Clippers; Marc Gasol, who won an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019; Dennis Schröder, who was the runner-up to the sixth man of the year award last season; and Wesley Matthews.
“Having Wes, Dennis, obviously Trezz and big Marc, we’re extremely excited to have those guys here,” James said. “Just working on habits (in practice). We’re working on what we want to do as a team, both defensively and offensively. Everyone is excited. It’s a process. We’re going to get better every single day, every single practice and that’s what it is all about. But we love what we’ve brought to this ballclub, along with the guys that’s returning.”
James won back-to-back titles playing for the Miami Heat, and his goal is for this Lakers team to win the franchise its 18th NBA championship this season.
“Understanding that everyone is going to come at us, everyone is trying to take away from us defending our title,” James said. “But for me personally, last year we won the ring, we won the title and this year is a new challenge. It’s everybody’s opportunity to go out there and do it, as long as we go in with that mind-set and be humble about our process and not worry about what we did last year. We need to worry about what we’re going to do this year. We’ll give ourselves a possible chance to be able to go out and try to win another one.”
James talked about More than a Vote, a website he launched to stop Black voter suppression. He was happy with the way his organization helped people get out to vote in the November election.
Rob Pelinka has won the game of offseason roster management by helping the NBA title-defending Lakers become younger and grittier via free agency.
“I think it worked out great,” James said. “We were able to put out a plan and then execute that. It was about basically executing and empowering people to get out there and exercise their right to vote and exercise and understanding their right to vote. How important it is not only to change what’s going on in America, but also change what’s going on in some of their own communities.
“It was a lot of people, a lot of athletes, a lot of entertainers, a lot of local people that go around in their own communities that’s making change. We was able to have some success.
“You look at the numbers through the election, it was the most turnout ever in election history of people who got out there and voted. One thing about it, we didn’t tell you who to vote for. We didn’t pick one side versus the other side. We just want to educate you and enlighten you and empower you and let you know how important your right is, this is your right, because so many people laid their lives on the line to have this right.”
James said More Than a Vote is still at work, organizing in the state of Georgia because of that state’s Senate runoffs in January between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff and between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
“We’re looking at the race that is going on in Georgia coming up in January,” James said. “So, we’re trying to see how well we can continue to help down there, cause it’s a big moment.”
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