LeBron James' return to the Cavs hasn't been as much of a feel-good story as many thought it would be, with the Cavs winning just one of their first three games this season. The good news is that it's a long season, but the bad news is that the Cavs haven't looked very good in their first three games this season.
After the Cavs were blown out by the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who is one of the most well-sourced reporters when it comes to LeBron James, wrote after the game that LeBron was letting his young teammates struggle on purpose early in the season so that they'll buy into his plan, whatever that is, later in the year.
Windhorst said the following.
"In recent days there have been growing questions as to whether James might be hurt -- he has dealt with some minor back soreness -- or in some way suddenly physically diminished because at times he has looked lackluster. That is not the case at all."After the Cavs loss to the Trail Blazers on Tuesday, James blamed everything on his teammates' "bad habits."
"This is a conscious decision on how he plans to operate in a passive-aggressive mission to yank some teammates toward his way of thinking. Let some of them fail at their way so they will be open to new ideas, is what it looks and sounds like."
"There's been a lot of losing basketball around here for a few years," said James. " A lot of bad habits have been built over the last couple of years. When you play that style of basketball it takes a lot to get it up out of you. But I'm here to help."
James' quote seems to be a shot at Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, all of which played a lot of minutes for last year's Cleveland team that finished with a record of 33-59.
It seems that James has been taking a bit of a backseat in the first three games of the Cavs' regular season, as on Tuesday he had a usage rate (an advanced metric that measures the percentage of a team's plays that a player uses) of 19.7. James' usage rate for his career is nearly twice that, at 31.6.
LeBron took just four shots in the second half on Tuesday, a half in which he just stood around doing absolutely nothing.
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver gave an assessment of LeBron's performance after the Cavs loss on Tuesday.
"The plan, it seems, was for James to avoid overexerting his four-time MVP influence so that his teammates can learn to play the right way on their own. That's a bad plan. Cleveland's younger players followed James' detached lead right off the cliff. James deferred, and his teammates compensated by pounding the basketball. James floated on the perimeter, and his teammates enthusiastically chucked low-percentage shots. James never set the tone defensively in the second half, and his teammates allowed clean look after clean look for Portland's sharpshooting guards."James is hoping that by him not bailing out his teammates when they make mistakes, that they'll eventually learn to play within the system and therefore the Cavs can operate more successfully. This strategy could backfire on LeBron but for now, it's just a necessary growing process in James' mind.
[Photo via Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports]