LeBron could sit out rest of preseason after painkiller injection in back
After downplaying injuries, LeBron James has accepted reality: the Cavaliers won’t start the season looking like potential NBA champions.
"I don’t think we will immediately be able to play at a high level because we have so many guys out," he said. "I don’t think our chemistry is where it needs to be to start the season off. "
Decimated by injuries since the 2014-15 playoffs, the Cavs will open a new season without starting guards Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (wrist). Kevin Love (shoulder), Anderson Varejao (Achilles) and Timofey Mozgov (knees) are still recovering from surgeries. Tristan Thompson is holding out for a new, long-term contract and guard Matthew Dellavedova is slowed by a sprained ankle.
If that wasn’t concerning enough, James just received an anti-inflammatory injection to ease discomfort in his back.
It’s hardly an ideal beginning for the defending Eastern Conference champions. But James is confident that once they get back to full speed the Cavs will be fine.
"As we get guys back into the flow of things, guys come back off of injury and we’re able to put the time in on the practice floor, I think we’ll be a much better team," he said.
James said the shot he received this week was part of a planned maintenance program for the 30-year-old, who missed a career-high 13 games last season. He had a similar injection early last season when he was bothered by both a sore knee and back. He took two weeks off for the injuries, reviving him for the second half of the season.
James feels better than he did a year ago, and the four-time MVP said he won’t get another shot unless he needs one.
"We’re definitely hoping that we don’t need it," he said.
James is expected to sit out Sunday’s game at Toronto when Love will play in a game for the first time since he had his left shoulder dislocated in the first round of the postseason against Boston. James would like to get in some time on the floor with Love so it’s possible both could play in Monday’s exhibition finale at home against Dallas.
"I would like to get out there with Kev in a preseason game, just to get some chemistry going," James said. "If it doesn’t happen, hopefully it’s the (Oct. 27) opener for the Bulls."
Cavs coach David Blatt said he’d like to have James and Love on the floor together before the season gets underway.
"It’s not critical in terms of their connection and timing together," he said. "They’ve practiced together, they played together a whole year, they know each other. I’m not worried about that. "
Love struggled while adjusting to a new role during his first season with Cleveland. He had just settled in alongside James and Love when Boston center Kelly Olynyk pulled his shoulder from the socket. Blatt knows that it could take some time for Love to get back into a groove this year as well.
"It’s still going to be a work in progress in terms of getting his rhythm and getting him comfortable and getting game conditioning," he said. "That’s a reality. But it’s also reality he’ll be out there and competing and what he can give us will be very, very welcome and important. But he’s not going to be 100 percent right away and we recognize that. But everything we can get from him is important."
Blatt said that Dellavedova, who gave the Cavs a major boost when Irving was hurt in the Finals, twisted his ankle recently. He also injured his other ankle during the summer. Blatt said the new injury isn’t serious, "but a little worrisome."
The Cavs, who are winless in five preseason games, can’t seem to shake this injury bug. Blatt said he’s never experienced anything like it in his years coaching.
"Another one of those life experiences," he said. "You never stop learning. The famous John Wooden quote, ‘It’s what you learn after you know everything that counts.’ "