LeBron James has played the fourth-most minutes in the NBA so far this season, but with the All-Star break approaching and the Lakers set to conclude the first half of their season with a back-to-back, the reigning Finals MVP will finally get a break. James will miss his first game of the season on Wednesday as the Lakers take on the Sacramento Kings, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports.
James has been listed as probable on most injury reports this season, most recently with a left-ankle sprain, but Charania is not reporting any new developments on the injury front, so it is likely that this is simply rest. If that is the case, it will be somewhat surprising in light of comments James made earlier this season about his refusal to rest after a string of overtime games forced him to play an unusually high number of minutes.
"I have never asked for time off or time throughout the season," James said after an overtime loss to the Wizards. "And it's growing to a point where it's not even coming from me anymore. It's just like, 'OK, LeBron should take time off' or 'Why is his workload at this?' I've been hearing it for five, six, seven years now, and I'm still going strong. So I don't need a handout, I'm not looking for a handout; my job is to go out when I'm available, when I'm healthy to go out and play, and that's what it's all about."
The Lakers already had a barebones roster available even with James playing. They lost to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday without Anthony Davis (calf strain), Kyle Kuzma (heel contusion) and Marc Gasol (health and safety protocols). Alex Caruso left the game with neck spasms. Davis will remain through the All-Star break. The statuses of the other three are not yet known. With James out as well, the Laker backups will have a difficult task ahead of them even against a reeling Kings team.
LeBron's absence on Wednesday will not affect his availability for Sunday's All-Star Game, according to Charania, though James has publicly disavowed the entire idea of playing one. He will still be a captain in Wednesday's All-Star Draft, but with the Lakers out of commission until Friday, March 12 following the break, James will have a chance to rest after a grueling first-half schedule. The Lakers received only 72 days off between winning the 2020 championship and kicking off the 2020-21 season, and James has not missed a game despite that quick turnaround. That makes Wednesday a well-deserved break for the 36-year-old James.