EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – LeBron James will not play in his team’s exhibition opener against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, but the Los Angeles Lakers star say he plans to see significant court time during the preseason.
“Six preseason games, so hopefully I can get to at least half of them,” James said after practice Thursday. “But we’ll see. I think every game will dictate it. I will not be playing in Saturday’s game, that’s for sure, in the Bay. But we’ll see after that.”
James, who will turn 39 in December, is the oldest active player in the NBA and is coming off a season in which he missed 27 games because of a right foot injury. James detailed the injury earlier this week, saying he, “pretty much tore the whole tendon,” but the early reviews of his training camp performance have been resoundingly positive.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said James “without question” has his burst back and has completely recovered from the injury. “He’s 100 percent healthy,” Ham said of James on Wednesday. “He looks fine. He looks like third- or fourth-year LeBron.”
The fact is, however, James is entering into his 21st season and as freakishly athletic he still may appear, the team and its medical staff have to take measures to protect him in coordination with James’ longtime athletic trainer, Mike Mancias.
“We collaborate and communicate on what those steps will be,” Ham said. “We make sure we come up with an effective plan. The beautiful thing about the way we move forward is one, he’s in phenomenal shape. Two, he’s probably got more years in experience outside of [Anthony Davis] than the entire team combined in terms of games played and minutes played. And he takes phenomenal care of himself.”
L.A. continues its preseason schedule with a game in Las Vegas on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets, followed by a game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday in Anaheim and home games against the Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks before finishing the ramp up in Palm Springs against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 19, five days ahead of the regular season tip-off on the road against the Denver Nuggets.
“Just kind of easing into it,” Ham said of the plan for James. “The fact that our roster is what it is, he doesn’t have to come start the season with his cape on, so to speak. … The help that he has around him will allow him to not have to be full throttle in every practice and every preseason game.”