James, 31, played 39.1 minutes per game in the playoffs. Lue said effectiveness is not the concern, rather longevity and stamina into the summer months when the NBA Finals wrap. To be in position to defend the NBA title, Cleveland is carving a detailed plan for James to get plenty of rest.
"I've looked at the schedule," Lue said. "Just seeing what makes sense and what's smart when playing four-in-five type of nights. Can't run our guys into the ground. We have to be smart, understand we have to take care of our bodies and take care of our key guys. Make sure that when we get to the playoffs we're ready to go."
Cleveland's training staff applies biometrics to gauge the fuel in every player's tank all season, and Lue will apply those results to the entire roster, not just James. But going to the Finals six consecutive seasons means James has played more games than any player in the league during that time.
"I talked about the red zone last year," Lue said of the biometrics system that uses color-coded warnings of red, yellow and green. "And our training staff does a great job of making sure they let me know who is getting close to that. For me, in the playoffs, health is more important than anything. As long as we can get to the playoffs healthy, I will be very excited about that."
Several coaches have used maintenance nights to preserve players of a relatively advanced age by NBA standards. The Chicago Bulls are planning a similar approach with shooting guard Dywane Wade and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich frequently gives players nights off in the midst of consecutive games, especially on the road.
The Cavaliers don't actually play four games in five nights at any juncture of their 82-game schedule. However, they do play five games in seven nights twice this season, including Dec. 20-26. Whether James will sit for the full game and not dress might not be left up to him. If he's in uniform, no doubt James wants to be on the court.
"I try to make myself available for my teammates every night, and I think I've had some pretty good coaches over the last few years, with (Miami Heat coach) Erik Spoelstra my last couple years there and now Coach Lue has done a great job of just trying to help me take care of my body," James said, "because I'm very stubborn when it comes to wanting to play."