Is this an overreaction? Maybe. Or maybe it’s not. Last night said a lot to me about the state of the NBA as we know it. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-95 on opening night led by Nikola Mirotic of all people with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist. It’s not the loss that really concerns me about Cleveland. It’s the way Cavs superstar LeBron James looked last night.
By no means did LeBron have a bad game; 25 points on 54% shooting from the field, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists is nothing to sneeze at, but it wasn’t a LeBron-like performance that we’re used to seeing. He looked sluggish, out of shape, and frankly, pretty weak. This performance was epitomized by the final play where James drives down the lane to a waiting Pau Gasol and instead of powering through the contact or elevating above the less athletic Gasol, LeBron faded away and tried to float it above the seven-footer to have his shot blocked and lose the game.
This left my jaw dropped. The King James I’ve grown to know and love would’ve executed it a little something like this:
I know it’s the first of a long 82 game season, the Cavaliers were without star PG Kyrie Irving and despite playing very poorly, were in the game to the very end. On top of all of that, James has been receiving shots for pain in his back during the offseason. He also has a lot of NBA miles on him.
Despite being just 30 years old. LeBron is in his 13th NBA season coming straight out of St. Vincent St. Mary High School in 2003 at 18 years old and has averaged about 40 minutes a game in his career. He has also been to the playoffs for the previous 10 postseasons and has appeared in 6 NBA Finals. That’s a lot of wear and tear, especially when you play as physical and aggressive as James does, or has in the past.
LeBron is one of my favorite players in the league and I hope he can find a groove so I can enjoy him at his best for at least one more season. With a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the mix, he should have a reduced workload to let him play a little more freely, but the jury is still out on how his body and play will hold up through the season.
– Credits: NBA.com (Statistics and Scores) and pippenainteasy.com (Photo)
– Melvin Jenkins Jr.