LeBron James isn’t about load management: ‘LeBron’s healthy, Lebron’ll play’
LeBron James isn’t about load management: ‘LeBron’s healthy, Lebron’ll play’
The controversy surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers’ handling of Kawhi Leonard and sitting the star out of games under the auspices of load management is perhaps the biggest talker — not to mention point of contentious debate — early on this NBA season. © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Every team and player seems to have an opinion on the load management conundrum amid those developments. The latest player to enter the fray is James Harden, and the Houston Rockets superstar made it clear Friday there is no way he’d ever sit out of a game unless a serious injury prevented him from doing so.
“If I’m hurt, of course, I won’t play,” Harden saidj. “Even if I’m a little banged up, I try to push through to a certain extent. Have you ever seen me not play because of load management?”
Harden has remained remarkably healthy as he enters his 11th NBA season, with his season low of 62 appearances coming in 2011-12 when he was still with the Thunder. The lowest number of games Harden played beyond that season came in 2017-18 — his MVP season, incidentally — when he suited up for 72 contests.
With that in mind, perhaps “load management” rest has not been necessary for Harden to stay healthy over an 82-game grind.
What does Michael Jordan think about load management? 'You're paid to play 82 games'
Amy Klobuchar, 2020 presidential candidate, sits down with three voters at a restaurant in Bedford, New Hampshire, for a conversation about the issues.
It goes without saying that “load management” has become an increasingly polarizing term in the NBA vernacular over the past few seasons, and some old-timers unsurprisingly do not agree with the practice.
While individual teams likely will pursue such wellness and player maintenance strategies as it suits them — under the watchful eye of the NBA, of course — it’s apparent Harden is not buying into the hype. At least not yet.
Related slideshow: The NBA 2010s All-Decade team (Provided by Yardbarker)
The NBA 2010s All-Decade team
Welcome to Yardbarker's All-Decade team, an exercise where we take the All-NBA team concept and spread it out over the 2010s, effectively answering the question: "Who were the 15 best players this past decade in the NBA?" Players are ordered from most deserving to least. Positions were not factored in (e.g., each team does not have to include two guards, two forwards and a center). Regular-season points, rebounds and assists per game are displayed as a quick reference point. Various accolades are also highlighted such as All-NBA Selections, awards and championships. A player's impact on winning was rewarded over individual statistics and accolades (sorry Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge) and sustained excellence was favored over peak performance to break ties between players (see Russell Westbrook vs. Kawhi Leonard). Hope you enjoy! Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
First Team: LeBron James, Forward
Decade averages: 27 ppg, 8 apg, 8 rpgKey accolades: three MVPs, three Finals MVPs, three championships, 10 All-NBA selectionsNo room for any argument here, as LeBron James was easily the player of the decade, making First Team All-NBA nine straight seasons before a groin injury last season caused him to fall to Third Team. James' first season of the 2010s began with an MVP in Cleveland. Then he proceeded to go on an unprecedented run that saw him often carry his team to the NBA Finals for eight straight seasons, a feat that has only been matched by Bill Russell's Celtics of the 1950s and 1960s (during which there were only eight to 10 NBA teams). His consistent athletic and intellectual dominance over the sport for all 10 years of a single decade is paralleled only by Michael Jordan's run of six titles in the 1990s. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
First Team: Kevin Durant, Forward
Decade averages: 28 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 apgKey accolades: one MVP, two Finals MVPs, two championships, nine All-NBA selections, four times PPG leaderKevin Durant was perhaps the most complicated basketball figure of the decade, as he was the only player who could claim to be LeBron's equal but spent the better part of the 2010s always finishing second to him — that is until Durant controversially joined the 73-9 Warriors despite coming inches away from beating them as a member of the Thunder. In OKC, Durant developed into perhaps the most gifted scorer in league history. With Golden State he rounded out his game, especially on the defensive end, and he became one of the most complete players the game has ever seen, winning back-to-back Finals MVPs and, as some would argue, even outdueling LeBron on the brightest stage. Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
First Team: Stephen Curry, Guard
Decade averages: 24 ppg, 7 apg, 5 rpgKey accolades: two MVPs, six All-NBA Selections, three championships, NBA Record 402 three-pointers in a season, one-time PPG leaderWhile LeBron and KD were more dominant the entire decade, the history books will likely look back at the 2010s as the decade that Steph Curry changed the trajectory of basketball. People often refer to highly innovative players such as Pete Maravich as having been "ahead of his time" as a player. Well, Curry's prodigious shooting and ball-handling skills synced up perhaps more perfectly than any player's ever could with the NBA's analytically driven three-point revolution. His ability to shoot with extreme accuracy from literally anywhere inside half-court shifted the gravity of the defense so dramatically that it took half a decade for the rest of the NBA to catch up with him and the Warriors. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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First Team: James Harden, Guard
Decade averages: 24 ppg, 6 rpg, 5 apgKey accolades: one MVP, six All-NBA Selections, two-time PPG Leader, one-time APG leader, most PPG in a season since 1987Although he was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, James Harden's game has made a quantum leap since his rookie season, the first year of this decade, when he averaged 10 points, three rebounds and two assists per game. By the end of the decade, Harden was doing things on offense no player since Michael Jordan had done, averaging 36.1 points per game in 2018-19. He's been arguably as good as Steph Curry in regular seasons, but his inability to take down Curry in the playoffs places him a slight notch below but still easily on the First Team All-Decade. Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
1st Team: Russell Westbrook, Guard
Decade averages: 24 ppg, 9 apg, 7 rpgKey accolades: one MVP, eight All-NBA Selections, three straight seasons averaging a triple-double, two-time PPG leader, two-time APG leaderRounding out the First Team All-Decade is the third member of the OKC Big Three who should have been the Team of the Decade. Russell Westbrook was a perennial All-NBA performer while playing with Kevin Durant and James Harden and an MVP player on his own. He finished off the decade by breaking Oscar Robertson's triple-double records and averaging a triple-double for three straight seasons. He'll forever be a divisive player because of his visible shortcomings, but his consistent night-to-night effort and performance was a sight to behold in the 2010s. Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Second Team: Kawhi Leonard, Forward
Decade averages: 18 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apgKey accolades: two Finals MVPs, two championships, three All-NBA Selections, two DPOYs, one-time SPG leaderFrom a playoff performance standpoint, Kawhi Leonard belongs on the First Team All-Decade. However, Leonard's regular-season performances (not to mention the season where he sat out with a mysterious quad injury) must be taken into account in this exercise. While Leonard was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, his two-way performance in the playoffs, particularly in his two championship runs, where he ended the Heat and Warriors dynasties and won Finals MVP, was some pantheon level stuff. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Second Team: Chris Paul, Guard
Decade averages: 18 ppg, 10 apg, 4 rpgKey accolades: six All-NBA Selections, six All-Defensive Teams, four-time SPG leader, two-time APG leaderCP3 is a player who, had a couple of basketballs bounced his way, would have easily made his way onto the First Team All-Decade. Whether it was getting injured at the most inopportune times or Josh Smith and Corey Brewer inexplicably catching fire to swing the momentum of a series in the Rockets' favor or having a minor melt down in the final minutes vs. the Thunder, Paul always seemed to fall short in the biggest moments of his playoff career. In spite of his playoff failures, Paul spent the entirety of the 2010s as the best pure point guard in the game, and that can never be taken from him. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Second Team: Kobe Bryant, Guard
Decade averages: 25 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apgKey accolades: four All-NBA Selections, one Finals MVP, one championshipThis one probably comes as a shock — Kobe stans probably think he's a First Team All-Decade player, and the analytically driven basketball nerds probably think he doesn't belong on any of these All-Decade teams. They're both wrong. With four consecutive First Team All-NBA Selections to start the decade, and a championship and Finals MVP in 2010, Kobe absolutely belongs on the All-Decade. However, as the advanced stats would point out, Bryant's final couple of seasons in L.A. were, in fact, detrimental to his team's success as he was one of the least efficient players in the league and squeezed every ounce out of his reputation as humanly possible. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Second Team: Anthony Davis, Forward-Center
Decade averages: 24 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apgKey accolades: three All-NBA Selections, ROY, three-time BPG leaderThough he's only 26 years old, Anthony Davis has already made three First Team All-NBA Teams. At the end of the 2017-18 regular season, Davis was starting to gain momentum as the best player on the planet (or at least next in line after LeBron) after posting a 28 point, 11 rebound, three block per game stat line. Unfortunately his trade demand backfired and damaged his status as one of the best players on the planet. Despite having a tumultuous 2018-19 season, Davis actually put up the best per-36 numbers of his career (career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals) last year. If he stays healthy, Davis should be on next decade's Firs Team, as he will be in his prime for the first half of the 2020s. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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Second Team: Blake Griffin, Forward
Decade averages: 22 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apgKey accolades: five All-NBA Selections, ROY, Dunked over a KiaLike Chris Paul, his teammate for six seasons on the Clippers, Blake Griffin's decade will always be weighed down by a number of "what ifs." What if his body hadn't failed him at inopportune times in the season and playoffs? What if he hadn't run out of gas in the 2015 playoffs? What if he and CP3 had gotten along better? What if Donald Sterling hadn't been the Clippers' owner? Despite the injuries, Griffin should be proud of his progression from explosive, Lob City forward to a LeBron-lite, do-it-all kind of point forward this decade. His past season with the Pistons was the best statistical season of his career, as he averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game. Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Third Team: Paul George, Guard-Forward
Decade averages: 20 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apgKey accolades: five All-NBA Selections, MIP, four-time All-Defense, one-time SPG leaderKudos to Paul George for remaining inevitable this decade. After flashing superstar potential in two Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James' Heat, George suffered one of the more grotesque leg injuries anyone has ever seen during a Team USA scrimmage. He missed all but six games the next season but miraculously came back looking better than ever the season that followed, averaging a then-career high in points and assists. Then when he became the butt of jokes for his late-game failures, he turned in two superstar seasons in OKC, the latter of which he averaged 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game and led the league in steals. Had he not injured both shoulders, he may have even had a shot at the MVP Award. (He finished third.) Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Third Team: Dwyane Wade, Guard
Decade averages: 20 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apgKey accolades: four All-NBA Selections, two championships, one-time All-DefenseLike Kobe Bryant, the beginning of Dwyane Wade's 2010s were incredible, as he started the decade off with a First Team All-NBA Selection, a Second Team All-NBA Selection and two Third Team All-NBA Selections. He also went to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. Although his knees started to go during LeBron's last season with the Heat, and he had a couple of seasons hiatus from Miami, Wade was able to maintain his effectiveness by embracing somewhat of a closer role for the Heat late in his career. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Third Team: Tim Duncan, Forward-Center
Decade averages: 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apgKey accolades: three All-NBA Selections, one championship, Top Defensive Rating in NBA at age 36This was originally Carmelo Anthony's spot. Then it was LaMarcus Aldridge's spot. But the more I think about it, the more Tim Duncan deserves a spot on the All-Decade Team. Duncan's raw numbers weren't all that great, but much of that had to do with the way the Spurs utilized him to maximize the back end of his prime — his per-36 numbers were 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Duncan also has one of the better championship redemption storylines working in his favor, as he overcame arguably the most heartbreaking loss in Finals history in 2013 to eviscerate the Heat in 2014 and put an end to their Big Three. Give me Duncan over Melo and LMA any day. Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Third Team: Draymond Green, Forward
Decade averages: 9 ppg, 7 rpg, 5 apgKey accolades: two All-NBA Selections, three championships, one DPOY, five-time All-Defense, one-time SPG leaderAnother deserving player whose total impact rarely shows up in a box score is Draymond Green, the defensive catalyst for the fabled Warriors dynasty of the 2010s. Though he only won Defensive Player of the Year once, Green's versatility and genius ability to guard all five positions at an elite level, protect the rim and help and recover made him the most important defensive player in the league. Further, his playmaking skills on offense allowed the Splash Brothers to maximize their legendary shooting abilities. Finally, Green's abrasive confidence and leadership style gave Golden State a mental edge over nearly all of its opponents, a bark to match its already lethal bite. Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Third Team: Klay Thompson, Guard
Decade averages: 20 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apgKey accolades: two All-NBA Selections, three championships, one All-Defense, Multiple single-game/quarter scoring recordsThe final member of the All-Decade Team is the Luigi to Steph Curry's Mario: Klay Thompson. Without Thompson, the Warriors never become the Death Lineup Warriors, as his Hall of Fame shooting touch created an impossible "pick your poison" scenario for opponents trying to slow down Curry, (and, for the last three years, Kevin Durant). Moreover, Thompson's severely underrated and overlooked ability to shut down opponents' point guards (and two guards) allowed Curry to focus his energy on offense. (Look no further than the way he guarded the likes of James Harden, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving.) Thompson was also the ultimate teammate of the 2010s, as he didn't even need to dribble to have a major impact on games — like the game where he had 60 points and dribbled only 11 times. Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
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