LeBron James wants his playing time reduced.
But can the Cleveland Cavaliers and first-year Coach David Blatt afford to decrease the minutes played by their all-world small forward?
James actually wants the minutes of all of Cleveland’s Big Three, which also includes guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love, to come down.
James is averaging 39.1 minutes per game this season, the third-most in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson (40.6) and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler (40.3). Irving is fourth (38.4) and Love is fifth (37.0).
The reality is that the Cavaliers need James on the court, and that’s why he has played at least 40 minutes per game in seven of Cleveland’s first nine games, with a high of 43 in a loss to the New York Knicks.
James has said he has confidence in their bench to be productive when he’s resting.
But one issue for the Cavaliers is that Blatt now is starting Shawn Marion, who was projected to be one of the team’s top reserves and the backup behind James at small forward.
James still is getting it done, averaging 27.1 points a game, 6.6 assists and 6.7 rebounds.
When he played for the Miami Heat last season, James averaged 37.7 minutes per game, sixth highest in the league. He averaged 37.9 minutes with the Heat in 2012-13 (eighth) and 37.5 in 2011-12 (sixth).
Now in his 12th year in the NBA, the 29-year-old James has averaged 39.5 minutes per game over that span.
It’s hard to see that trend changing anytime soon.
James and the Cavaliers host the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night in a game on ESPN. Expect to see James to play heavy minutes again.