The Los Angeles Lakers’ success next season depends on their handling of LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers spent three long months inside the NBA Bubble.
Last month it paid off for them when they defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. They’ve barely had time to celebrate, if any, at all.
And now, in this already abbreviated offseason, the Lakers title defense will begin sooner than we expected.
On Thursday, we learned that the NBAPA and the league tentatively agreed on a Dec.22 start date for the 2020-2021 season.
Why is this significant?
The Lakers currently have the third oldest team in the league behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets. They won the title primarily because of dominant play from their two superstars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and savvy veterans like Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard.
A shorter offseason means less time for older, more experienced players on the team to recover mentally and physically. It also gives General Manager Rob Pelinka less time to address the needs of their roster.
The good thing is this upcoming season will be 72 games instead of the conventional 82 games, allowing the league to receive their annual revenue from national television deals. However, a Dec.22 start date means teams have to report to training camp on Dec.1.
If you think this seems like a quick turnaround, that’s because it is.
So, how should Frank Vogel and his staff manage LeBron this season?
If anybody has earned the benefit of the doubt in the NBA, it’s LeBron. Entering year 18 of his storied career, LeBron will turn 36 shortly after the season begins. While he’s proven to be the ultimate ironman — playing in eight consecutive Finals and nine of the last 10 — even he admits he won’t be going all out from the opening tip.
The Lakers were a top-heavy team last season and figure to be one moving forward. Resting Lebron for a substantial amount of time in a competitive Western Conference would be ill-advised under normal circumstances. But the bubble is anything but typical. There’s less emphasis on seeding, and there presumably will be no home-court advantage if teams aren’t allowed back in their arenas.
As long as the Lakers have two top-five players in LeBron and Davis leading the way, I like their chances of winning back-to-back championships.
One person I don’t bet against is LeBron.