At times, LaBron James has appeared fatigued as he labors through his 18th NBA season.
Over the last 10 games, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar has played 40-plus minutes on four different occasions in overtime games.
However, James does not believe he’s being overused.
While a season-long narrative gains steam around the league that he needs more rest to make it through an arduous NBA regular season and postseason, James remains steadfast on being out on the floor if healthy.
“I’m going out and playing the game,” James said. “I’m doing my job. I’m trying to do it at a high level. But that’s been the narrative around the league. I’ve never asked for time off, or time throughout the season. And it’s growing to the point where it’s not even coming from me anymore. It’s just like, ‘LeBron should take time off,’ or ‘Why is his workload this …’
“I’ve been hearing it for five, six or seven years now, and I’m still going strong. I don’t need a handout. I’m not looking for a handout. My job is to go out when I’m available, when I’m healthy to go out and play. And that’s what it’s all about.”
With starters in Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and Dennis Schröder (NBA healthy and safety protocols) unavailable, the Lakers have leaned on the 36-year-old All-Star to carry the scoring load and run the team at the same time, with mixed results.
The Lakers are in the middle of a season-high, three-game losing streak and have lost four of their last five games.
The defending champs also are coming off an offseason in which they received just 71 days to recover from a grueling NBA title run in the Orlando bubble. Still, James says he does not feel fatigued.
“This whole narrative of LeBron needs more rest or I should take more rest or more time here has become a lot bigger than what it actually is,” James said. “I’ve never talked about it. I don’t talk about it. I don’t believe in it.
“We all need more rest. S---, this is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest. But I’m here to work. I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates. And if I’m hurt if I’m not feeling well then we can look at it then.”
James leads the Lakers in minutes played, averaging 35 minutes a contest. However, that’s about the same amount of minutes James has averaged over the last three seasons. James dealt with and played through a mild left ankle sprain earlier this season, but for the most part has been healthy. James hasn’t missed a game this year.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said the team works closely with James and his trainers to makes sure they are not overplaying him.
Vogel said the Lakers have both James and the team’s long-term goals in mind with how much James is out on the court each game.
“We consider that all season long with him,” Vogel said. “And we make those decisions on a game-by-game basis.”
Although he’s slated to play in the All-Star game, James said he’ll try to get a few days of rest before the lead-up to the game on Sunday, March 7.
At the end of the day, the decision how much James plays each night is his: James knows his body better than anyone else.
“I have nothing but honest people around me, but I’m also honest with myself as well,” James said. “Me having a love for the game and being able to be available for my teammates is more important than anything.”