Interesting to look at the top of the NBA leaderboard for minutes played today and find the Trail Blazer backcourt sitting at No. 1 and No. 2.
Damian Lillard is averaging 38.6 minutes per game and CJ McCollum is playing 37.7 – higher than anyone else in the league.
Is everybody happy with that? Are there concerns in this era of load management?
“I’m a little bit old-school,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “There is going to be somebody to lead the league in minutes played. But if we hadn’t gone to overtime (Sunday night), Dame would have been at 39 minutes. To me, two guys in their prime can average 38 minutes and be fine. We did a study on how many players over the years averaged 40 minutes a game – Wilt Chamberlain averaged at least 40 minutes a game every year of his career and 48.5 one year. To me, it’s about managing his minutes,” Stotts said. “I’m very aware of Dame’s minutes. He only played 15-something in the first half last night. I like his minutes to be relatively low in case we need to extend his minutes in the second half. To me, managing his minutes – we do that in the course of the game. Today he took the day off. So, he’s kind of built for it.”
Neither player showed any outward concern about the length of his playing time in games.
“There’s going to come a point where everyone is going to wear down and get tired,” said Lillard, who played in all 82 games and averaged the same 38.6 minutes he’s clocking this season as a rookie and has averaged 36.3 per game through his career. “It turns into a mental thing at that point.”
Can he sustain that load?
“Yes,” he said.
McCollum, annually one of the players who runs the longest distance on the court during a season, believes he and Lillard can sustain those minutes over the long haul.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We take great care of our bodies. We know how to get our rest. It’s a long season but we don’t really have a lot of room for error right now. What’s our record? We have to take care of our bodies, be in shape and sustain a certain accountability to play. It’s a part of the game. This is what I do. I play basketball. My job is to be available. Obviously, we all battle little injuries here and there but it’s your job to take care of it and if you’re able to play, you play. That’s how I was trained.”
For these guys, load management is not a familiar concept.