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Darvin Ham Says LeBron James’ 29 Minutes In Line With Los Angeles Lakers’ Plan

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LeBron James played just 29 minutes in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 119-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday to begin his 21st season. The 38-year-old superstar’s reduced workload is a part of the Lakers’ long-term strategy, according to head coach Darvin Ham.

“It’s easy with him to get caught up in the emotion of the game and you tend to forget you want to play these long stretches, but in order for him to be as effective as possible, we have to be mindful of the minute output and how long his stretches are,” Ham said.

With 19,842 fans in attendance at Ball Arena to celebrate the first ring night in team history, the Nuggets led by as much as 18 points early in the first quarter.

James was done for the night by the time the crowd began screaming, “Who’s your daddy?” in the last minute, mocking the Lakers with a 115-103 deficit.

James finished tied for the team lead with eight rebounds and led Los Angeles in scoring with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting. With five assists and no turnovers, he finished with the best plus-minus of any Lakers starter at plus-7.

“Listen, I mean, I always want to be on the floor. Especially when you got an opportunity to win a game or you feel like you can make an impact,” James said after the game. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it.”

Upon being questioned about whether he would need to modify his strategy due to his reduced playing time each night, James expressed his confidence in his ability to still have an impact on the game even with the extra rest.

“Besides the fact that we didn’t win,” James said, “I think for me, my performance and what I did individually in the time that I was out there, I think I was productive. I think so. I mean, I was a plus-7 for the game. No turnovers. I like the no turnovers more than anything.”

James finished the 2017–18 season with the second-highest amount of minutes played (35.5) in his five seasons with the Lakers. However, he missed 27 games due to a right foot ailment.

Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka stated during the team’s media day in Los Angeles earlier this month that the group “partnered” with James to devise a strategy to “get him all the way to the end” of this campaign.

Mike Mancias, James’s longtime athletic trainer, was advised in the decision, according to Ham. James expressed that he was “not surprised or upset” by the way the Nuggets used his minutes.

Although Ham stated that the amount may change over time, the squad is starting the season with the intention of keeping James in the 28–30-minute range.

“It’s going to be a day-by-day process, gauging how he’s feeling, get communication from him, our training staff, our medical staff,” Ham said.

Given James’ new role, it will be even more crucial for Los Angeles to receive effective play from big man Anthony Davis, 30.

In the first half against Denver, Davis scored 17 points for Los Angeles on 6-of-11 shooting, but he was scoreless in the second half (0 for 6 from the field).

“They started double-teaming,” Davis explained. “They were trying to crowd the paint. I missed some easy layups around the rim and little jumpers. Just trying to make the right play, give it up to our guys. If I’m doubled, kick it out. Rui [Hachimura] had an open 3, Gabe [Vincent] had open 3s. They just didn’t fall. But I got to shoot it more.”

In his Laker debut, Vincent finished with six points on 3-for-8 shooting. He noted that Davis must be involved, but added that in order to maximize the offense as a whole, Los Angeles also needs every player to be seeking for his shot.

“I think we’re going to continue to try to get him involved,” Vincent said. “But it’s important everyone stays aggressive. I think too many times we were caught standing still and watching. I think we all got to be aggressive and play the game. We’re going to continue to find him and continue to find ways to be aggressive and so forth, so, we’ll go from there.”

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