LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers look for their 12th straight victory on Thursday night, hosting the Los Angeles Clippers. Elsewhere on the four-game NBA slate, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Phoenix Suns to town in a Western Conference battle.
LeBron James has made it a point this season to teach his young teammates how to win. At the beginning of the year, he refused to shoot to make a point about unselfishness, and now he has taken that approach to a new level by volunteering to come off the bench if that’s the best thing for the team:
“For me being the leader of the team, it doesn’t matter,” James told reporters after practice Wednesday. “Whatever this team needs in order for this team to win — I’ll come off the bench and I’m serious. I’ll come off the bench. If it helps our team, that’s what it’s about, man.”
The Cavaliers don’t have a traditional sixth man after trading Dion Waiters and inserting J.R. Smith into the starting lineup. According to HoopStats, their bench is the least productive in the league in terms of points per game. Against the 76ers Monday, they were outscored 37 to 28 in bench points. They definitely need more production from their subs.
Still, having LeBron come off the bench to solve that problem would be preposterous. Coach David Blatt agrees.
“No. No. He’s doing fine where he is. He’s doing quite fine.”
That’s an understatement. James is having a down year by his standards, but he is still averaging 26.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists. The Cavaliers are a whopping 17.2 points better when he’s on the court as opposed to sitting. He has led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists during their 11-game win streak. Needless to say, they need him on the court as much as possible.
Spirits are high in Cleveland right now and it’s easier to get young players to buy in when the wins keep piling up. With his comments, James is simply trying to send a message about sacrificing for the good of the team, which is something his teammates might need to do in the future.
It would definitely be entertaining to see James come off the bench and destroy team’s second units but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.