LeBron James has played a lot of basketball in the last 10 months: NBA regular season, long playoff run capped by his first NBA championship and then the London Olympic preparations and the Games.
That extended action, James said, is the reason he will “take it easy” in the preseason, starting with not playing when the Miami Heat play their first exhibition game next week against the Atlanta Hawks.
James said he’s not concerned about wearing down before the Heat open defense of their title. But after 10 months of relatively nonstop basketball, the league’s reigning regular season and Finals MVP doesn’t want to overwork himself leading into the Heat’s Oct. 30 opener against Boston.
After facing the Hawks next Sunday, the Heat immediately depart for a week-long trip to China for two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Although the Heat are alternating single practice sessions and twice-daily workouts this week, the team is monitoring how much time James spends on the court during drill work. The plan is for James to rest as much as possible in camp to remain in peak shape for the season.
James joked Sunday that he’s been in basketball shape “for about 18” consecutive months. That time frame would include the start of a lockout-shortened NBA season last December and a schedule that didn’t end for the Heat until they defeated Oklahoma City in the Finals in late June. Two weeks later, James was in Team USA training camp preparing for the London Olympics.
While the rest of his Heat teammates are working their way into regular-season shape, James has been there for months.
“It does feel different,” James said. “I’m in better shape right now than I’ve been, because I’ve played so much basketball. Usually, it takes me a week, a week-and-a-half of camp to kind of get back into it. But at the same time, I’ve still got to be cautious. I’ve played a lot of basketball and I’ve got to be cautious and not allow myself to be out there too much. We’ll monitor that.”
For James, the challenge in camp is to resist his urge to jump into every competitive scrimmage drill. “Even though sometimes I want to be out there, they’ll hold me back,” James said. “And I’ve got to try to hold myself back from being out there for a lot of our drills and games. But we’ll be fine.”