1) Does LeBron James need more rest? LeBron says no.
LeBron James has played 1,120 minutes this season, third-most in the league (trailing only Julius Randle and Fred VanVleet, players both 10 years his junior). LeBron’s being asked to do this at age 36 and in his 18th NBA season — he’s already third on the all-time minutes list once you combine playoff and regular season minutes.
Monday night, LeBron played more than 43 minutes in an overtime loss to the Wizards, the Lakers’ third straight loss (all without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, not so coincidentally).
Is it too much? Should the Lakers rest LeBron more?
LeBron shot that idea down postgame. Here’s his quote, via Mark Medina of the USA Today.
“I think this whole narrative of ‘LeBron needs more rest’ or I should take more rest or I should take time here, it’s become a lot bigger than what it actually is. I’ve never talked about it, I don’t talk about it, I don’t believe in it. We all need more rest, s***. This is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest. But I’m here to work, I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates.
“And if I’m hurt or if I’m not feeling well, then we can look at it then. But I have nothing but honest people [advising me], but I’m also honest with myself, as well, and me having a love for the game and me being able to be available to my teammates is more important than anything.”
Frank Vogel would love to lower LeBron’s minutes total, maybe even discuss a night off, but that’s not where he and the Lakers are right now. Los Angeles’ offense is stumbling, and was doing so before Davis started missing time — over the last seven games the Lakers’ offense is 27th in the NBA and 5.3 points per 100 possessions off the team’s season average. Vogel and the Lakers will right the ship (although three-point shooting remains a concern), but the Lakers can’t sit LeBron right now.
Congratulations to the Wizards, who have strung together an impressive five-game win streak beating the Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Lakers. Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook understandably get the offensive credit, but the Wizards have played strong defense of late, particularly when Robin Lopez is patrolling the paint, which has helped fuel the streak.
With this streak, the Wizards are just 1.5 games back of the East’s final play-in spot — they have hope. So stop asking about a Beal trade at the deadline. Not happening.
2) LaMelo Ball, meet Rudy Gobert
LaMelo Ball is having an impressive rookie season, but he’s still a rookie learning some lessons the hard way as he moves through the league.
For example, always be aware of where Rudy Gobert is if you’re trying to attack the rim against the Jazz.
Ball finished the night with 21 points but wasn’t efficient (8-of-20 shooting, four assists), and the Jazz pulled away in the fourth for a comfortable 129-108 win.
3) Mavericks rumored to test trade market for Kristaps Porzingis
Here’s the thing: Every GM wants to know his players’ trade value, even if he has zero intention of trading them. It’s just smart business for a GM to know how other teams perceive and value his players. There are only a handful of players where that does not apply, players who are 100% untradable and not going to move — LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a few others.
Luka Doncic is on that list for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis is not — and he has not looked like the No. 2 star on a championship team this season. He’s been good, scoring 20.5 points and grabbing 8.2 rebounds a game, shooting 35.2% from three. However, his defense has not been great, he’s looked kind of one-dimensional, and Dallas needs to think big picture about how best to win with Luka Doncic. Porzingis can be part of that, but Dallas needs another top shot creator and more to make this all work.
So the report out there from Jake Fischer at Bleacher Report that the Mavericks have “quietly gauged the trade market for Porzingis” should not be a surprise. Dallas and front office head honcho Donnie Nelson need to consider everything, including a potential Porzingis trade. It doesn’t mean it is going to happen, but they need to consider the possibility.
It would be challenging to find a trade for the pick-and-pop big man right now. Porzingis is in the second year of a five-year max contract extension, and he is owed three-years, $105 million after this season (the last year of that is a player option at $36 million, teams have to assume he will pick that up). That’s not an easy salary to move, and Porzingis is not a guy that can be plug-and-play in every system. There would be a limited market.
Dallas is smart to test the trade waters for every player not a former EuroLeague MVP on their roster. There is still a lot of building to do around Doncic, and Porzingis ultimately may or may not be part of that future.
However, Porzingis is part of the present in Dallas, and it needs him if the team is going to climb above .500 and out of the play-in games in the West.