LeBron James returned to Cleveland with the angst that one would expect. Finally back home, the incredible pressure of the national media…no one was expecting a dominate Cavs team on opening night.
Then as the season took off, LeBron James appeared as a shell of his old self. Cavaliers fans noticed a certain reluctance on offense. He wasn’t dunking with force. He wasn’t driving into the paint with that locomotive strength. He looked like a different player.
Yet as everyone continued scratching their heads, the offensive numbers were there. 26 ppg and 7 apg. Miami Heat LeBron numbers.
So what gives? The core issue falls on LeBron James’ effort on the defensive side of the ball. He’s consistently playing effortless defense…and not in the “it’s so good it almost seems effortless” kind of way.
— BIGPLAY (@BIGPLAY_com) January 16, 2015
James is averaging his lowest defensive rebounds per game (4.6) since his rookie year in 2003. He’s averaging the lowest steals per game in his entire career (1.4). He’s averaging his third worse average in blocks per game ever (0.7). How many LeBron James patented chase down blocks have we seen this year?
Outside of the stats, his body language tells the real story, which leads to two different theories. 1.) he’s hurt and older than he once was, incapable of dominating on defense. 2.) he’s trying to get his coach fired.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN hinted on ESPN Cleveland 850 WKNR that certain Cavs players were purposely playing lethargic defense to have their coach fired. Obviously no one has come out and said this publicly, but the rumblings continue to grow.
Does that LeBron James close out above look like the kind of effort David Blatt requires from his team’s leader?
The Cavaliers aren’t mediocre because Kevin Love is struggling. They aren’t mediocre because their percentage from the arch is subpar. They’re mediocre because LeBron James has and continues to set a defensive lethargy problem in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how Blatt, GM David Griffin and Dan Gilbert approach him this time around.