Magic Johnson Doesn't Want LeBron James, Lakers to Be 'Cleveland All over Again'

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 30, 2018

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Lebron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket against Trey Lyles #7 of the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center on November 27, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson spoke on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Thursday regarding superstar LeBron James' usage:

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James carried a heavy burden at times in Cleveland, notably posting a 35.0 usage rate during the 2017-18 playoffs. His 31.2 usage rate is 11th in the NBA this season among those who have played at least 12 games.

Per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com, Johnson expanded upon his previous comments:

"Basically minutes, trying to make sure we don't overplay him and then also usage of the ball in his hands. We got a lot of ballhandlers so we feel we won't overuse him in terms of his ballhandling and also every play has to run through him. I think we got proven scorers—Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram ... and then when you have two point guards like Ball and Rondo, we don't have to have LeBron having the ball in his hands all the time."

James is enjoying another stellar season in his 16th NBA campaign. Through 20 games, the three-time NBA champion has averaged 27.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists. His minutes are down from last year, although he is still on the court 34.8 minutes per contest on average.

James leads the Lakers in points, assists, rebounds and steals, however, so while he isn't shouldering as much of the load as he did in Cleveland last season, the four-time MVP is still doing a lot for L.A., which entered Thursday's contest against the Indiana Pacers with an 11-9 record.

Johnson is right in that Los Angeles has players who can score (e.g. forwards Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram) and handle the rock (e.g. point guards Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo).

L.A. may have a few notable issues, however.

First, the Lakers are still learning to play with one another, which is a hard task, considering the mix of youth and the four veterans who joined the team in the offseason.

Adding a new group to a roster isn't easy for any team as it looks to develop chemistry. For example, James' first Big Three in Miami got off to a sluggish start at 9-8 in 2010.

Second, how will the young players fare in the playoffs? None of them have postseason experience, but can they contribute against tough Western Conference competition?

If they do, a more well-rounded side with James at the wheel could be a title contender.

If they don't, then James may have to go through a gauntlet like last year when he was routinely posting triple-doubles. Such herculean efforts may not work against stiffer Western Conference opponents.

Regardless, the Lakers' desire to curtail James' usage is a sound decision. The key is whether that works out.