AP – The Los Angeles Lakers don’t resume their season until Friday, a day or two later than most clubs, and that was a very smart move by the NBA schedule-makers.
For the Lakers, and for the NBA, these few days are critical.
This is LeBron James’ time to recharge.
Since the NBA’s restart bubble that saved last season opened last July, no player has logged more minutes, scored more points, handed out more assists, made more shots, taken more shots or finished off more fast breaks than James.
He doesn’t mind the workload, even though he’s 36 and the fourth-oldest player to appear in a game so far this season behind only Miami’s Andre Iguodala, Portland’s Carmelo Anthony and New Orleans’ JJ Redick. And he’s still elite, still an MVP candidate, still in the eyes of many the best player in the world. But even the best need rest, and that time is now.
“Is it enough time? I’ll take any time, obviously,” James said. “So, I’ll take full advantage of the time that we have. Is it enough time? No, it’s never enough time, but we’re not on the side of time. I’m not on the side of time. I’ll take full advantage of what I have and be okay with it.”
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is the two-time reigning MVP and now the reigning All-Star MVP, Washington’s Bradley Beal is leading the league in scoring, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are back in the playoff mix, the Utah Jazz have the league’s best record to this point and the Brooklyn Nets have added Blake Griffin to their Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
They’re all creating buzz. And so are others.
But James is still unquestionably the one who carries the biggest part of the NBA flag. His jersey remains the most popular in terms of sales, the Lakers lead the league with 17 national television appearances to this point and they draw the best national ratings. People might watch because they love him. People might watch because they hate him. Either way, people watch.
Other players — even other elite players — do as well.
“It’s interesting to me how LeBron is still in one of the best shapes of his life and being the best player in the world and still be in Year 18,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s really interesting. I want to know how.”
He’s not kidding. Antetokounmpo said at All-Star Sunday in Atlanta that he wants to pick James’ brain and learn whatever the four-time MVP is willing to share.
“He’s been consistent for 18 years,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s always there. He’s always showing up. He’s unbelievable. He obviously gets credit but I think we’ve got to give him even more credit. Doing it for 18 years, guys, that’s hard.”
There were any number of players who weren’t thrilled with the notion that the NBA had an All-Star Game during a pandemic and during an already jam-packed season. But once again, it seemed all about James — as if he was the only one who voiced his displeasure.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver didn’t mind. He was just thrilled James was part of All-Star events.