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LeBron James' long offseason and its impact on Los Angeles Lakers

Friday 4 October 2019 18:59, UK

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media during media day on September 27, 2019 at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, California

LeBron James is set to enter the 2019-20 season more rested than he has been at any point since 2005. What does that mean for the Lakers?

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Lakers reporter Mike Trudell asked Frank Vogel about his outlook for the 15-time All-Star and Lakers head coach couldn't hide his excitement about LeBron having had three months less mileage on his body.

"That's good news for us and bad news for the rest of the NBA," said Vogel.

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Three-time league MVP James offered Trudell a different take at Lakers' media day.

"I don't think it impacted my training at all because I train all year round," he said. "Obviously I take a little bit of time after the season [away] from basketball because we do so much pounding and bumping and grinding on the hardwood but as far as training, I train all year round.

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LeBron James backs new Lakers coach Frank Vogel to get the best out of his players by holding them accountable

"I ramped it a lot more over the last couple of months from late April to August and September. The training sessions were a little bit different as far as ramping it up as far as intensity but as far as me just training, I did that all summer."

James had 71 fewer days in his season by finishing on March 29, 2019, compared to the previous year when his last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers concluded on June 8, 2018 - with defeat in Game 5 of the Finals.

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In his first year in Los Angeles, due mostly to the groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day, James played in 55 total games. His 1,937 minutes were way down from a career average of around 3,000 minutes per season.

In 2017-18, he played in all 82 regular-season games (3,026 minutes), plus 22 playoff games (922 minutes). 2017-18 is very much representative of most of LeBron's NBA seasons.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis pose at Lakers media day 1:18
Speaking at media day, LeBron James said the Los Angeles Lakers are likely to run their offense through All-Star big man Anthony Davis this season

All players would prefer to be playing in the Finals than to be watching at home - and LeBron said he literally watched every playoff game - but having a break has its mental benefits as well.

Asked how he spent his long summer, James said: "Just trying to refocus myself and my mind and my body and prepare myself throughout the summer on what I wanted to do and how I am going to be a better player and better leader this year.

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"And be as great as I can be to help this franchise do ultimately what it wants to do - that is to be a better franchise on the floor."

As Trudell's fellow Lakers reporter Kevin Ding recently noted, LeBron has a little extra motivation this season for a plethora of reasons, though he is keeping them to himself.

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"I'm very motivated," James said. "But I'm right now 'not in talking-about-it' mode. I've been very quiet this summer for a reason. My mother always told me: 'Don't talk about it. Be about it'."

On Friday, the Lakers will leave for their first preseason game in Golden State's new Chase Center before flying across the globe to China for two games against Brooklyn.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James watch Game 4 of the WNBA semi-finals
Image: Davis and James watch Game 4 of the WNBA semi-finals

Vogel has been thinking about how much of James we will see in the preseason before unleashing him in the October 22 season opener.

"Not a ton," he said. "We want to be intelligent. We want to get him enough reps to get him familiar with his team-mates and get everybody on the same page, some cohesiveness. But [we are] certainly going to be intelligent and not overdo it in the preseason."

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And for the regular season?

"Just be smart, [use a] common-sense approach," Vogel said. "Really in terms of whether he's going to miss games or what not, [we will] follow the lead of the medical team. And his reporting of how he is feeling, so we'll just kind of use common sense."

GM Rob Pelinka made several moves to help LeBron on the court this season, with the acquisition of Anthony Davis leading the way.

But thanks in part to that dramatic decrease in mileage from last season, we were likely going to see a refreshed LeBron James no matter who the Lakers chose to support him in the 2019-20 season.

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