Dribbles: LeBron still finding his range

Cavaliers star LeBron James is shooting 46 percent from the floor through two games.


CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the Cavaliers heading into Friday’s home-opener vs. the Heat.

1. LeBron James still needs to get his shot in order. That’s not intended to be a harsh criticism — as LeBron has been mostly fantastic through the first two games. He also tends to make ’em when they count. (See Game 4 of playoffs at Chicago.) But he struggled with his perimeter shot for large chunks of last season and it’s been more of the same this year.

2. James continues to be the best in the league at driving to the basket and finishing at the rim. That explains why he’s shooting 46 percent (16-of-35 combined) in the first two games. But he’s just 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, and worse, a miserable 4-of-11 on free throws.

3. Again, this is basically nitpicking. When it comes to potentially winning a championship, we all know James is the guy who will lead the Cavs. But his jumper isn’t what it used to be, and if he can re-discover it, things will be that much easier on his achy lower back.

4. One of James’ basketball heroes is Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Interestingly, Erving started primarily as a slasher and forceful dunker. But he reinvented himself later in his career by becoming a strong outside shooter. It’s a major reason why Erving was able to be an effective (if not excellent) player until the moment he retired at age 36. Hitting perimeter shots saves your body from the wear and tear that comes with driving to the basket.

5. Overall, LeBron is averaging 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Hard to complain about any of that.

6. As for the lower back, James underwent an MRI around the time he took that anti-inflammatory injection. The MRI showed no structural damage. So good news there.

7. Perhaps that’s why LeBron gave the following answer when asked how many regular-season games he expects to play this season: “82.”

8. Following Tuesday’s cakewalk in Memphis, James indicated he suspects Kevin Love will be an All-Star this season. Love is undoubtedly off to an all-pro start — and just generally playing like a guy who understands how to win.

9. Read: It’s always a good sign when a star player such as James sets individual goals (either for himself or for teammates). It means they think the team is good enough to handle a new set of challenges. Getting Love to the All-Star Game is one.

10. I’ve been particularly impressed with Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. They’re a large upgrade over last season’s older vets Mike Miller and Shawn Marion – which is likely bad news for the rest of the league.

11. Williams can be streaky, but he’s always amazed me with his ball-handling during the few times I’ve seen him work on it at practice. He may not be as flashy as Kyrie Irving or some of the other standout point guards, but Williams puts in the work and can really handle the rock.

12. Speaking of newcomers, the Cavs love young guard Jared Cunningham‘s athleticism and willingness to learn. That said, keep an eye on second-year man Joe Harris. It seems the Cavs are beginning to question his potential after some of Harris’ uneven play in the preseason.

13. James and the Cavs didn’t fare too well vs. the Heat last season, starting with that stinker in Miami on Christmas Day. It will be interesting to see how LeBron handles facing his friends and former running-mates this time. Dwyane Wade has certainly tried to up the intensity by telling reporters the Heat “are coming for” LeBron.

14. After holding out for all but a few days of practice, Tristan Thompson has been as active as ever on the boards. He is averaging 10.0 rebounds through two games.

15. For those wondering, LeBron never pressured the Cavs during the Thompson contract talks. James did tell Thompson to do what he had to do — as well as reassure Thompson that he’s important and needed.

16. As Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal pointed out, James called for a team meeting between the end of the preseason and start of the regular season. No one is exactly sure what was said, but it was clearly the act of a champion aiming to get his guys to believe in and rely on one another.

17. Finally, I’ve covered the Cavs on and off for about 20 years, and I have never once – and I mean not ever — seen them move the ball as consistently well as they have in these first two games. It’s beautiful basketball and coach David Blatt deserves credit. Let’s hope it continues.

Sam Amico is the editor of Amico Hoops. Twitter: @AmicoHoops.