LeBron still limited in practice with back issue; team being ‘cautious’
LeBron James has not practiced since getting an injection in his back, but the Cavaliers remain confident he’ll be ready to start the NBA season.
James did "light work" on the court Thursday, with the Cavs gearing up for Tuesday’s opener in Chicago. The four-time MVP has been limited since his anti-inflammatory shot, similar to the one early last season when he was slowed by knee and back issues.
"We’re being very conscientious and cautious with him in terms of his feeling," coach David Blatt said. "He’s fine and he’s going to be fine. We’re just going slowly and carefully with him. He’ll be out there very soon."
So will forward Tristan Thompson, who signed his five-year, $82 million contract and is expected Friday to practice with his teammates for the first time since last season. The valuable rebounder held out for a long-term deal. His agent, Rich Paul, and the Cavs reached an agreement Wednesday, ending a months-long standoff.
Thompson gave the Cavs a huge lift when Kevin Love was injured in the playoffs last season.
"He’s a big part of what we do," guard James Jones said. "Unfortunately, the business aspect of our game slowed us down a little bit. But we have full faith and confidence that knowing the way he works, he’ll get up to speed soon and more importantly, knowing that we have that extended depth because we all know the healthiest teams usually are the ones that are most successful in the postseason."
James didn’t speak to reporters following the workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts. However, he did throw around some footballs with a few teammates on a field outside the facility before heading home.
The 30-year-old star played in just two of Cleveland’s seven exhibition games, missing the last three after receiving the shot. Last week, James said he would get another injection in his back if needed.
Entering his 13th NBA season, James has said he may play fewer minutes in the regular season to stay fresh for the postseason and a run at a third league title. He has played over 43,000 minutes — he averaged a career-low 36.1 last season — and James has acknowledged his basketball mortality saying "Father Time is undefeated" on more than one occasion.
James missed 13 games last season, the most in his career, and he took two weeks off to rest his back and a strained knee. Blatt said he’s not concerned the time off will affect James’ conditioning.
"LeBron is constantly working and he’s a guy that takes care of himself 24 hours a day," he said. "I don’t have to tell anybody here what a fabulous athlete he is. He also takes care of himself, so he’ll be fine."
Meanwhile, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving remains sidelined after breaking his kneecap in Game 1 of the finals. Irving has not practiced, and the Cavs don’t have a timetable for him to play.
"Every day he adds a little bit to his workout regime," Blatt said. "The idea with him is to go slowly and surely, not to rush anything and make sure he comes back 100 percent ready to play. We’ll continue that as long as it takes. He is making progress, he looks good. His mood is good too because he knows he’s coming along."