(Joseph Sherman/Los Angeles Lakers)
The Impact of LeBron’s Uncharacteristically Long Offseason
LeBron James is set to enter the 2019-20 season more rested than he’s been at any point since 2005.
With that in mind, I asked Frank Vogel a question about his outlook for the 15-time All-Star, and Vogel couldn’t hide his excitement about LeBron having had three months fewer of wear and tear on his body.
“That’s good news for us and bad news for the rest of the NBA,” said his new coach.
There’s this thing about LeBron, though … he’s always in shape. As such, he answered the question I asked him on Media Day about how the longer offseason impacted his training like this:
“I don’t think it impacted my training at all because I train all year round,” he said. “Obviously I take a little bit of time after the season from basketball because we do so much pounding and bumping and grinding on the hardwood but as far as training, I train all year round.
“Obviously I ramped it a lot more over the last couple of months from late April to August and September, obviously the training sessions and regiment was a little bit different as far as ramping it up as far as intensity but as far as me just training, I did that all summer.”
Listening to LeBron’s response, I realized I didn’t ask the question properly, because this is what I was trying to get at:
Date of LeBron’s Final Game
2019: March 29
2018: June 8
2017: June 12
2016: June 19
2015: June 16
2014: June 15
2013: June 20
2012: June 21
2011: June 12
2010: May 13
2009: May 30
2008: May 18
2007: June 14
2006: May 21
2005: April 20
2004: April 14
So … LeBron had 71 fewer days in his season by finishing on March 29 in 2019, compared to June 8 in 2018.
In his first year in L.A., due mostly to the groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day (when the Lakers were the No. 4 seed and beat the Warriors handily), James played in 55 total games. His 1,937 minutes were way down from a career average of around 3,000 minutes per season.
In 2017-18, on the other hand, LeBron played in all 82 regular season games (3,026 minutes), plus 22 playoff games (922 minutes). The difference? My calculator says 3,948-1,937 = 2,011.
And 2017-18 is very much representative of most of LeBron’s NBA seasons. That’s what I was trying to get at when I asked him the question, and what I more properly stated to Vogel.
All players would prefer to be playing in the Finals than to be watching at home – and LeBron said he literally watched every playoff game – but having a break has its mental benefits as well.
”Just trying to refocus myself and my mind and my body and prepare myself throughout the summer on what I wanted to do and me individually how I am going to be a better player and better leader this year,” he said of how he spent the long summer. “And be as great as I can be to help this franchise do ultimately what it wants to do and that is to be a better franchise on the floor.”
As our Kevin Ding wrote last week, LeBron has a little extra motivation this season for a plethora of reasons, though he’s keeping them to himself.
“I’m very motivated,” James said. “But I’m right now not in talking-about-it mode. I’ve been very quiet this summer for a reason. My mother always told me: ‘Don’t talk about it. Be about it.’”
We got a hint this summer when James sent this tweet:
Alright alright. Enough is enough. The throne has been played with to much and I ain’t for horseplay. Ether coming soon! #JamesGang— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 1, 2019
And while the true greats don’t need outside or extra motivation, it doesn’t hurt!
On Friday, the Lakers will leave for their first preseason game in Golden State’s before flying across the globe to China for two games against Brooklyn. Vogel’s been thinking about how much of James we’ll see in the preseason before unleashing him in the Oct. 22 season opener.
“Not a ton," he said. “We want to be intelligent. We want to get him enough reps to get him familiar with his teammates and get everybody on the same page, some cohesiveness. But certainly going to be intelligent and not overdo it in the preseason.”
And for the regular season?
“Just be smart, common-sense approach,” Vogel continued. “Really in terms of whether he’s going to miss games or whatnot, follow the lead of the medical team. And his reporting of how he’s feeling, so we’ll just kind of use common sense.”
GM Rob Pelinka made several moves to help LeBron on the court this season, with the acquisition of Anthony Davis leading the way, and the addition of a bunch of shooting coming next.
But thanks in part to that dramatic decrease in mileage from last season, we were likely going to see a refreshed LeBron James no matter what he had around him in 2019-20.
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