With the NBA season just a few days away from officially returning, all eyes are on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the eastern conference.
While the east looks to be on the rise with young teams like the Wizards, Raptors and Bucks, recent history will tell you to pencil in whatever team LeBron is on into the NBA Finals. After all, LeBron has reached the finals for the past five seasons.
However, the 4-time MVP will be turning 31 this winter. Yes, you read that right, 31.
In retrospect, 31 doesn’t sound old on the surface, but in this case, you have to dig deeper than just the number.
This is going to be LeBron’s 13th NBA season, which is a longtime within itself, but when you consider all of the energy he’s exerted in countless minutes, playoff battles and time spent with Team USA, you’ll realize that he’ll be an old 31.
James has played more than 43,000 minutes in the regular season and playoffs combined in his career. Considering that heavy workload over the years, Cavs head coach David Blatt and his superstar must consider bringing his minutes down, even though 36.1 minutes per game from last year was James’ lowest average of his career.
“I think that’s a coach Blatt, myself conversation,” James said when asked about his minutes. “We haven’t quite gotten there yet. I’m very hard headed, I am, because I love to play so much. But I think (with) what we have, I don’t need to be as hard headed. I think I’ll be very smart with how many minutes I play per game and what I’m doing on the floor.”
Despite all of the flack James receives for teaming up with other stars, it makes perfect sense for times like this.
“I think we have enough pieces to (reduce James’ minutes),” James continued. “And I think Kevin Love will allow me to sit a lot this year just because of his ability, what he’s able to do. Kyrie as well. So I won’t have to worry about playing big minutes this year.”
Cleveland is set to open up their season against rival Chicago on Tuesday. While this should be an exciting time, the Cavs are busy worrying about LeBron’s aching back.
On the bright side, reports are saying he’s been able to increase his workload, however, he still hasn’t been cleared to play.
“Is it by choice?” James asked of being held out. “No, it’s not. But it’s the schedule I’m on, and I’m trying to listen to the training staff and not be hard-headed, and I’m going with them. When they tell me I’m cleared to practice, I’ll practice.”
Obviously, it would be great for LeBron to play on opening night, having said that, Cleveland isn’t going to mortgage their future for an 1-0 start, which begs the question, how much longer will LeBron be LeBron?
As you know, Father Time is still undefeated and not even “King James” can conquer it. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say LeBron will be playing at a very high level for at least the next 3-4 years and that’s not to say he can’t be productive beyond that, he just won’t be “LeBron”.
Whenever a player of LeBron’s stature has to receive an anti-inflammatory shot in his lower back, it’s cause for concern, but when you have two other all-stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, it allows you to breathe a little easier at night.