Lakers monitor LeBron James’ minutes to prevent ‘Cleveland all over again’

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson reiterated Los Angeles wants to continue limiting LeBron James’ minutes, but he explained the reason behind that is because the organization doesn’t want to make some of the same mistakes Cleveland made with the usage of the 33-year-old. 

“We are trying to make sure that we watch his minutes but also that we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again and we don’t want that,” Johnson said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio (via Yahoo Sports). “We want to get up and down.”

Entering Thursday, James was averaging 34.8 minutes, which is a career-low in his 16 seasons. In comparison, James averaged 36.9 minutes last season while playing in all 82 games for the first time in his career. But the Lakers want to make sure James stays fresh this season.

“Basically minutes, trying to make sure we don’t overplay him and then also usage of the ball in his hands,” Johnson said. “We got a lot of ball handlers so we feel we won’t overuse him in terms of his ballhandling and also every play has to run through him. I think we got proven scorers — Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram … and then when you have two point guards like Ball and Rondo, we don’t have to have LeBron having the ball in his hands all the time.”

Even though James’ minutes have gone down, he’s still averaging 28.1 points per game, which is the most he’s averaged since the 2009-10 season.

James acknowledged in October the Lakers want to reduce his minutes, but the four-time MVP said he still feels strong enough to play most minutes.

“I’m always fresh,” James said at the start of the season, per ESPN. “All my coaches want to figure out a way of how to lessen my minutes. I keep telling them I’m strong enough to play most minutes, but they won’t listen to me, so, it’s OK. I like it.”

The Lakers (12-9) take on the Mavericks (10-9) on Friday with tipoff set for 10:30 p.m. ET.