After LeBron James sat out the first of two Friday practices to rest a sore back, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new head coach David Blatt told assembled media that James’ absence was a “maintenance day,” and that the team was open to sitting him for entire games during the course of the upcoming campaign.
Blatt said, “It’s not specifically planned at this point. In other words, we didn’t sit down and already write up a plan for what game he would miss or what practice he would miss, but it could (happen) depending on need.”
The Cavaliers’ coach noted that new veteran guard Mike Miller was absent, while two other veteran players, newcomer Shawn Marion and center/forward Anderson Varejao, had also already sat out a practice thus far.
“This is really insignificant to me,” said Blatt, who added, “the fact that we may need to rest [LeBron] and others at different points during the preparation process and even during the season, in my mind, it’s the right and the smart thing to do.”
James will turn 30 on December 30, and is getting ready to start his 12th NBA season, having seen over 33,000 minutes of on-court action. During the course of that career, he has never had a major injury, missing a total of 44 games—12 of them due to actual injuries. Eight of those absences were due to ankle trouble over the course of three different seasons, while the other four came in late 2007 when he sprained his left index finger.
The plan, if carried out, is modeled after what San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has done for years: keeping otherwise healthy older players out of games in order to hopefully store some energy for the postseason. The end result has been that during his tenure with the team, the Spurs have won five NBA titles.
James is very familiar with this strategy, since Popovich did it for a November 2012 nationally-televised game between James’ then-team, the Miami Heat, and the Spurs. The strategy resulted in former NBA commissioner David Stern fining Popovich $250,000.
The Cavaliers will play their first preseason contest on Sunday night when they host Blatt’s old team, Maccabai Tel Aviv, at Quicken Loans Arena. Tipoff will be shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern.