LeBron James a ‘game-time’ decision on Tuesday in Phoenix
LeBron James is taking a trip to Arizona, but we’re not sure if he’ll be leaving his talents in a travel bag.
The King and his Cleveland Cavaliers will make their only Phoenix appearance of the regular season Tuesday night when the Suns begin a potentially difficult eight-game home stand.
James, who has missed the previous eight games (seven losses) while recovering from lower back and left knee ailments, practiced with the Cavaliers in Phoenix on Monday and told reporters afterward that his availability would be determined at game time.
After practicing with the Cavs on Monday, LeBron James says of his possible return at Phoenix Tuesday: "I'm a game time decision…"
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 12, 2015
James said he did some work on the floor, but didn't go entire practice.
— Jeffrey Sanders (@JeSanders11) January 12, 2015
— Eric Sorenson (@EricSports360AZ) January 12, 2015
Cleveland coach David Blatt indicated after Sunday night’s loss in Sacramento — which dropped the Cavaliers’ record to 19-19 — that he was hoping James could practice Monday and play on Tuesday. If not, the LeBron and the Cavs will be shooting for Thursday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
The Cavs are expected to suit up former Suns forward Shawn Marion and recently acquired reinforcements in shooting guard J.R. Smith and center Timofey Mozgov.
Smith and Suns guard Gerald Green should be a match made in gunslinger heaven. But with Iman Shumpert (also acquired in the deal with the New York Knicks that landed Smith) still injured and Matthew Dellavedova registered as the back-up to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland may have an issue or two matching up with the Phoenix backcourt.
An anticipated battle between Irving and Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe — one of LeBron’s best NBA buddies — could be compelling.
The Suns, by the way, have a new employee who’ll be making his home debut against the Cavs. Brandan Wright, acquired from the Boston Celtics over weekend, played his first game on Sunday in Memphis, where the Suns were repelled by the Grizzlies in double overtime.
Working 15:06 against the Grizz, Wright provided seven points, two rebounds and one blocked shot. As he adapts to the Phoenix system, Wright will provide plenty of inside support for Alex Len.
While taking on the rugged Memphis front line, Len scored 14 points, snagged 13 rebounds and blocked two shots.
That defeat was the Suns’ second in a row on the road — following victories in Milwaukee and Minnesota — keeping them at 10 wins in 15 games since Len joined the starting lineup.
Now 22-18, the Suns do have an opportunity to get well over the first three dates in this home stand.
With Cleveland always vulnerable without James, Tuesday could provide some salve for that two-game losing streak. Even if he plays, the Cavaliers aren’t quite at the elite level.
Additional help for the Suns’ fortunes may arrive when they take on the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday and the Lakers two nights later.
It should be noted the Suns haven’t exactly pushed around lesser teams on dates at U.S. Airways Center.
Anyway, the final five games of this homecoming could be a little gruesome.
The challenge begins with a visit from the Portland Trail Blazers the following Wednesday. The rest of the gauntlet, in order, co-stars the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls.
Each of those five teams has a winning percentage of .658 or higher.
Even with the high caliber of competition, the home stand is a welcome relief for the Suns, who have played 21 of their last 30 games on the road and have had only six home games since Dec. 3. Their 24 road games total (13-11) are tied for most in the league with Orlando.
In addition to Irving vs. the Suns’ army of point guards, the visitors’ list includes some of the league’s top PGs. The roll call includes Chris Paul of the Clippers, John Wall of the Wizards, and — if he’s fit enough to participate — the Bulls’ Derrick Rose.
The Rockets have an elite two-guard in former Arizona State star James Harden but may be looking to upgrade their point guard situation. Yet another salvo of reported gossip suggests they could make a play to — yes, get ready for it — acquire Goran Dragic of the Suns.
At least by returning home, Dragic — who, according to local belief, isn’t on the market — can avoid many questions regarding his future employment status.
With such a tough lineup of guests, the Suns are hoping to avoid any slide out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings.