It may have been the Miami Heat‘s plan to have LeBron James sit out a few games this year to keep him healthy for the playoffs. The way things have been going he may be able to get that rest without missing a single game.
So far this season, LeBron has only played 40 or more minutes in one of the Heat’s 14 games. That came in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets early on when he played 42 minutes. He has been under 40 minutes in 11 consecutive games and only over 37 minutes in one of them.
After his season last year it was almost impossible for the four-time MVP to improve on anything. One thing he has improved on is getting more done in less time. LeBron historically likes to get his teammates involved early to see if any of them catch fire and can be the focal point on offense. He is a pass-first player and would much rather average 10 assists than average 30 points per game. This has caused Miami to fall behind early in some games and forced him to play big minutes.
However, this season LeBron has been more aggressive on offense, allowing the Heat to get separation early and let him rest late in games. His minutes are down almost three per game, but so are his assist and rebounding totals. He is below his career average in points, rebound and assists this season, but Miami is off to an 11-3 start.
Against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night, LeBron scored 35 points in only 33 minutes. He shot 11-for-14 from the Field, 2-for-4 from three point land and went 11-for-11 from the free throw line. If you take out the three pointers, he went 20-for-21 from inside the arc and played only four minutes in the fourth quarter.
By getting off to quick starts and putting Miami up big early, not only have the Heat been able to rest LeBron, but they have been able to rest Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well. There have been a couple games where these guys didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. This has allowed guys like Michael Beasley, Rashard Lewis and James Jones to play significant minutes in games and allow them to find a rhythm in the Heat offense.
While LeBron may not put up the numbers he did last season, he will shoot a career high in field goal percentage and a career low in minutes. When it comes down to the postseason he will be well rested and lead the Heat to a third straight NBA title.