Monday's HOT MIC
What's happening to LeBron and the Cavaliers? Last night they were blown out—again—by the Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, 113-132. Fox Sports' Chris Broussard had this to say about LeBron:
LeBron’s played well. I mean, triple-double. He didn’t settle for the jump shot, he only took three 3-pointers. He attacked the rim. We know he had 14 assists, but he set guys up for open looks that they missed.
"If you want to say he wore down toward the end, I can get that. He’s used to playing big minutes, but not at this pace. And he’s used to playing big minutes, but if you notice during the regular season and the playoffs, he doesn’t usually guard the best perimeter player. That allows him to roam and coast and pace yourself. He has to guard [Durant] for the most part full-time, and then have it on the offensive end. So I do think he wore down.”
It seems like an accurate assessment. The three-time MVP from Akron began to look ragged by the end of the third quarter, overwhelmed by the swarming Warriors defense. Could fatigue be a problem? In an April article at ESPN Henry Abbott speculates that LeBron has been pushing the boundaries of human endurance for years. Brian Windhorst, who has been covering LeBron since he played high school ball, explained:
It's a nearly annual event for him to come into training camp with the goal of reducing his minutes. And sure enough, after he looked exhausted in the 2011 Finals and the Heat lost to the Mavs, his minutes per game declined from 38.8 in 2011 to 35.6 in 2016.
That trend has reversed this season. He's on pace to play the most minutes since 2013-14. LeBron and the Cavs have said this was by design, that James believed it would benefit him by playing more minutes to get into premium condition before tapering later in the season. But that hasn't happened -- as the Cavs faltered he's averaged more minutes in March than November.
Abbott notes that in 2010, the year LeBron suffered what some have speculated was an episode of "general lameness," he was perhaps pushing himself to unheard of levels:
James was wrapping up seven seasons in which he'd played 25,197 total minutes. It's been nearly 20 years since any other player has done the same. By the 2015 playoffs, one of the high priests of biometric science, Athletic Lab's Michael Young, would declare James' workload "unfathomable," perhaps greater than any other athlete in any other sport.
That said, LeBron goes to extraordinary lengths to take care of his body:
"When LeBron was a springy 18-year-old, he didn't even tape his ankles regularly," [Windhorst] says. "But now he invests hundreds of thousands per year on his body." Windhorst reveals this fun tidbit: James has his own system of liquid nitrogen tanks to apply supercool cryotherapy to inflamed joints, and a black Mercedes Sprinter van with custom white leather lounger seats, in part to allow him to receive treatments on the go.
Don't count LeBron out. The series could totally flip once the Cavs come home to Cleveland. But other players (I'm looking at you, J.R. and Tristan Thompson) will need to step up and get back into their pre-Finals groove. And it wouldn't hurt to have a few calls go the Cavs' way. The officiating was terrible last night. Calling 3-point fouls on desperation tosses from half-court needs to stop immediately. And would it kill them to call a travel on Curry once in a while?