Early in the week LeBron James had an anti-inflammatory injection for back soreness, according to ESPN. If the Cavs end James preseason now, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. In twelve days when the regular season starts, James is going to have to shoulder a larger than preferred burden because of injuries to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert.
In the preseason, the Cavs have struggled. They are the only Eastern Conference team not to win a preseason game as injuries have also limited Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith. Tristan Thompson is still on his contract vacation and Kevin Love hasn’t played in the preseason yet. That will happen on Sunday in Toronto.
Back issues are no stranger to James. Over the course of his 13 year career, he has had to be proactive in addressing back pain. He had an injection last year when he had a flare up. Nevertheless, just the mention of back issues creates unease. A list of NBA players, most notably Larry Bird and Steve Nash, had back issues that altered their game after the age of 30. No one expects anything like that from James. But let’s be realistic. If any one player is a candidate for back issues it is LeBron James. He has played more basketball than any other NBA player since he entered the league in 2003, appearing in 94% of the games on the schedule, a tremendously physical burden considering his responsibilities. The surprise is he doesn’t have more injuries than a sore back.
The Cavaliers and their haze of injuries keep on coming so LeBron not playing in the preseason isn’t earth shattering. It makes sense that the Cavs would have one more player hurt. It feels normal. LeBron’s injury hurts him less than it hurts the Cavs second year coach David Blatt who can’t rely on the excuses of a neophyte, particularly when called on to defend his Kevin Love disappearing act offense.
Monday’s game against Dallas is important to the Cavs, not because it matters if they win, but it is important for Blatt to rework the offense and highlight Love’s talents with James, and especially stop trying to reinvent Love into a 6-10 Kyle Korver. Blatt needs the work more than any Cavs player.
As attractive as it is to want Love and James to play together on Monday, long term thinking is what’s needed. The Cavs can work it out on the court. They play in the East. The conference is 6 teams deep, not 12, so they can get it together in season like they did last year. The one thing, though, that cannot happen is to lose LeBron James for an extended period of time. That would be a disaster.
photo via llananba