INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James practiced Sunday for the first time since receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his lower back and is on track to play in the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ season opener in Chicago.
“It’s a good sign. It’s a good step,” said Cavs coach David Blatt. “We’ll see how he responds later today and tomorrow, but he did a great job practicing today and hopefully that bodes well for Tuesday.”
James was unable to participate in full-contact practice for close to two weeks after receiving the shot in his back. He received the same shot in January and missed two weeks of the regular season.
This time, however, the shot was planned as a preventative measure.
“It was something that was already planned from the medical staff to the front office to the coaching staff to myself that we would do this,” James said. “When they say ‘rest,’ it’s not like I’ve just been sitting on my ass for a week and a half. Because I haven’t. I’ve been doing so much strengthening and conditioning and things of that nature. The rest just comes from not being able to be in contact practices and pounding a lot on the floor.
“But it’s always been in the works, and if it happens again where I need to sit down for another week for the better of the team, then [that will be] in the works as well.”
Hearing James say that missing time during the season could be best for him in the long run is a significant departure from how he approached the regular season for the bulk of his career. Before missing a career-high 13 games last season, he had never missed more than seven games in a season through the first 11 years of his career.
Blatt, who purposefully limited James to a career-low 36.1 minutes per game last season, said he could also look to save James’ body by keeping him out of practice as the season drags on.
“Once the season gets started, we don’t overpractice anyway,” Blatt said. “In the event that it’s necessary and we got to sit him out for a practice or two here or there, we will. Absolutely.”
James balked at the notion of not practicing and still playing in games, though.
“I haven’t got to this point by cheating the game,” James said. “If I’m capable of practicing, I will practice, and if I’m capable of playing, I’ll play. When I’m not, I’ll quit. The game has gave too much to me for me to ever cheat the game. That’s not how I was born. That’s not how I was taught.”
James laughed when a reporter asked if he was coming into the season “fresh,” quipping that he hasn’t felt fresh since his rookie year. But he would appear to have a refreshed mental resolve heading into the season.
“It’s for me not to go out and prove it to myself and not to nobody else that I’m capable of doing the things that I’m accustomed to doing,” James said. “So I look forward to the challenge. There’s a lot of questions about my health and about my durability and things like that over the last couple weeks. So it’s just all about my mind frame and how I approach the game and how I approach practices and how I approach my team when we go out there. We will be great, and how great is up to us.”