LOS ANGELES -- As the Los Angeles Lakers set in motion its process to assemble a roster capable of repeating as NBA champs, vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said managing the work load of his top player, LeBron James, for the upcoming season will be a balancing act.
With James entering his 18th season in the league and set to turn 36 years old at the end of next month, Pelinka will let James lean on his extensive experience in preparation for the upcoming season, knowing how to get ready and push through the grind of an NBA marathon.
“There’s no player in the NBA that I think is more focused on taking care of his body, and it’s evident in the work,” Pelinka said during a conference call with reporters this week. “In year 17 in the NBA, for him to do what he did I think is something that maybe we haven’t seen in any sport. For a player to be in year 17, and to win the NBA finals and the finals MVP, and to be considered one of the MVP candidates of the league and play at the level he did in the bubble during the finals is just jaw-dropping.
“We’ll continue to work with him along that and partner with him, partner with the NBA and partner with the union. I think it will all work out great.”
James played in 69 regular-season games last season, averaging 25.3 points, 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds a contest. Per usual, James stepped up his game even more in the postseason, averaging 24.7 points, 14.6 rebounds and 11.9 assists a night in leading the Lakers to their 17th NBA title, earning finals MVP honors while spending over 100 days in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
James and the Lakers have less than two months to get ready for the start of the league’s upcoming regular season on Dec. 22, so there’s reason for concern that James will have enough recovery time and not wear down before the start of the playoffs next year.
James has traditionally resisted the notion of load management during the regular season. But he could be more open to the idea, considering the unique circumstances of a condensed offseason, with the start of training camp less than two weeks away on Dec. 1.
“The great thing about LeBron is he is so methodical and scientific in terms of how he prepares his body and the team of people he works with,” Pelinka said. “I think we’ve had a really powerful partnership with him to maximize his performance for the playoffs, and to win a championship, and I think that’s always a balancing at.
“The great thing about the NBA and the players union is I think they have the same partnership lens, doing what’s best for the players and making sure we don’t put them in position to suffer injuries. So I think that will just be a balancing act throughout the season of kind of recognizing that there was an extremely short layoff between the championship and the start of the season, and kind of figuring out what’s best for LeBron, what’s best for his health and the team’s health.”