Behind-the-scenes details shed light on LeBron James’ two-week hiatus
A plethora of fascinating NBA-related stories have been surfacing courtesy of ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst’s appearance on colleague Bill Simmons’ “B.S. Report” on Tuesday. But perhaps none are more interesting than the reported behind-the-scenes activity that led to LeBron James’ two-week absence from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lineup in late December/early January.
All told, James missed a total of eight games, all losses. James, apparently nursing a few nagging injuries, returned rejuvenated and inspired by some roster moves the team made during his absence from the court.
Windhorst claimed during his appearance on the “B.S. Report” that there seemingly was much more to James’ decision to shut it down for a spell than what was generally believed. Windhorst intimated that the star’s frustration with the team’s lackluster and underwhelming play during the first part of the season may have at least partially influenced James’ decision.
“[Cavs GM] David Griffin tells the story,” Windhorst said, as transcribed by William Scott Davis of Business Insider. “He said that LeBron had been moping for weeks.
“It was LeBron’s birthday — it was December 30th. They were playing in Atlanta. It was before Atlanta went on their 20-game win streak, so it wasn’t really deemed a big game yet. And they thought LeBron was going to play, and LeBron just decided, ‘I’m not gonna play.’ Like, at the last minute, he told them, ‘I’m not playing.’ Didn’t even come out to the bench, just sat in the back, didn’t come out.”
Simply stated, Windhorst continued, the Cavaliers were shocked by James’ decision.
“[James] had sort of just like waved a bit of a white flag there,” he continued. “He just didn’t feel like playing. He had never done that ever before. He had always just played through it. And so it was after that game, [the Cavaliers] said, ‘Alright, take your two weeks off,’ because he had reached a very low point.”
Cleveland’s acquisition of center Timofey Mozgov apparently helped buoy James’ spirits, inspiring the superstar to return a motivated man.
After losing the first game following his return to drop to 19-20 , the Cavaliers, after struggling all season, rattled off 11 straight victories. The team surged into the All-Star Break by winning 14 of 17 games and haven’t looked back since, going 29-7 overall since their leader’s return to the floor.
The Cavs, heading into Thursday’s game at home against the Miami Heat, boast a 48-27 record, good for the second seed in the East and have the look of a more-than-serious contender to make a run at the Finals.
Given that James and his point guard Padawon Kyrie Irving appear to be forging a solid relationship after a rough start, things are looking much better in Cleveland now than before James’ sabbatical. And that remains true despite James purportedly playing puppetmaster pulling the strings on marionette/head coach David Blatt, along with the supposed rift that exists between the star and Kevin Love.
(photo credit: Christian Petersen—Getty Images)