It’s become a rite of autumn: looking at the long regular season ahead with an eye on keeping LeBron James in optimal condition for the “Zero Dark Thirty – 23” mode he enters in the playoffs.
For the third time in four years, a different head coach will undertake this task. Tyronn Lue is entering his first full season as bench boss of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“My thing is just making sure guys are healthy, continue to limit LeBron’s minutes,” Lue said Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “We know when we get to the playoffs it’s going to require a lot of minutes, so with those guys and with Kevin (Love), just have to watch guys getting to the ‘red zone.'”
LeBron sat out only six contests last season under Lue and former coach David Blatt, but saw his minutes per game drop to a career-low 35.6. Turning 32 in December, the four-time NBA MVP readily admits he’s stubborn about wanting to be out on the floor.
“I try to make myself available for my teammates every night, and I think I’ve had some pretty good coaches over the last few years, with Erik Spoelstra my last couple years (with the Miami Heat) and now Coach Lue has done a great job of just trying to help me take care of my body,” James said, neglecting to mention Blatt. “Because I’m very stubborn when it comes to wanting to play.”
In his first season back in Cleveland in 2014-15, James took a two-week break after the holidays to rest nagging injuries, mainly his back. Returning refreshed, he proceeded to single-handedly carry the Cavs to the NBA Finals with sidekicks Love and Kyrie Irving both out of action.
In the past two seasons combined, LeBron has averaged 41 minutes per game in the playoffs, and 35.9 in the regular season.
“I’ve put a lot of miles on my body over the last six years from going to the Finals every single year,” James said. “So, health and longevity for our team is very important.”