The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have an exact blueprint for resting LeBron James during the season he turns 30 years-old, but coach David Blatt confirmed long-held speculation yesterday that the four-time MVP will indeed log less court-time in 2014-2015 than the past. The first-year NBA coach called James’ career average of 39.5 minutes per game “a lot” and stressed long-term benefits of early season downtime for Northeast Ohio’s native son.
“I don’t have a number but I am cognizant of the fact and we are conscious of the fact that, certainly early on 39 minutes a game is a lot,” Blatt said following practice Sunday. “We gotta keep our wits about us in terms of thinking long term with LeBron.”
This isn’t surprising news. It’s been assumed for weeks that Cleveland would monitor LeBron’s minutes this season as long as doing so doesn’t prevent them from winning. The presence of young stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving ensures that James’ all-around work load for the Cavs will be lower than what it was with the Miami Heat, especially considering the “maintenance program” of Dwyane Wade that kept him to 54 games last season.
When James began complaining of back pain during training camp, only more credence was lent to the strategy of affording him more rest than he’s previously enjoyed throughout his career. No basketball player on earth has played in more games or high-leverage contests than LeBron since 2010-2011. The two-time champion is working on four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and played in the 2012 Olympic Games, too.
All of that competition plus his unique, all-encompassing role for the Heat meant that nagging pain would catch up with James eventually. Is back discomfort the sign that time has come? Not necessarily, but Cleveland is making the prudent bet by accounting for that possibility.
As Blatt says, the Cavs need to see the forest through the trees when it comes to resting LeBron. A couple more regular season wins won’t matter if it means The King isn’t himself for the playoffs, and Cleveland plans to be playing into early summer. There may come a time in March when Blatt has to make a decision whether or not to push for the Eastern Conference’s top seed or secure the health of his stars for postseason play. That’s the decision that will be hardest; this one is simply logical.
What do you think?
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