The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t consistently playing anywhere near the level many predicted for them going into the season and LeBron James is uttering the kinds of words no one would have ever imagined him uttering.
Such are the bottom-line results of a team many projected by many as the next NBA champion struggling to a 5-7 start and showing little signs of life or chemistry.
As the Cavs’ immoveable anchor, James appears willing to play the heavy in it all. “We’ve got a four-game losing streak so I stink,” he said. “I’m not doing my job. I got to do a better job.”
What that might entail, given the way some quickly point out James already ranks in the top 10 in both scoring (24.7) and assists (6.8) and is also averaging six rebounds, still manages to befuddle some.
But numbers can lie, or at the very least mislead. And LeBron James appears open to admitting as much to myself. There’s little question that night in and night out the four-time league MVP has been a different player for the Cavs this season.
In their wins, he’s averaging 33 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds compared to far more pedestrian levels of 19, seven, and six in all their losses. What’s more, James’ scoring average and field-goal percentage of 46.7 percent are at the lowest point they’ve been for him since his rookie season.
Already this year, James has often deemed this season the biggest challenge of his career as he desperately seeks to transform the long struggling Cavaliers into a winning franchise and cohesive organization. Clearly that phenomenon won’t just come overnight.
After James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love recently blew an 18-point lead and lost to the visiting Toronto Raptors by nearly as wide of a margin (110-93), the veteran forward openly referred to the psyche of his team as “fragile.” Just as startling, the weight of getting them up to speed has even taken its toll on The King.
James would be the first to admit he hasn’t always been his usual razor-sharp self on either end of the court of late. He officially leads the team in turnovers at four per game and almost surely rates near the top in the unofficial department of blown defensive assignments.
James’ relationship with rookie coach David Blatt has been just as chaotically uneven. During one recent juncture, he openly admitted to reporters that he “didn’t seek Blatt’s guidance” during a late-game timeout where he took to instructing and coaching his teammates on his own.
But through all the struggles, LeBron James still fully understands the power in being LeBron James.
“I can’t be negative at all,” he said of dealing with his young and impressionable teammates. “Once I crack, then it will trickle down to everybody else… I want to win now. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not down the line. It’s a fine line for me, but I understand what we’re enduring right now.”
Indeed, James (29 points, 11 assists, four rebounds) was back in rare form Monday in leading the Cavs past the Magic 107-76. Now if only he can consistently get his mates on the same page.