Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ unsightly 91-89 win over the visiting Miami Heat on Wednesday.
1. LeBron James had a January to forget and not surprisingly, so did the Cavaliers.
2. For the month, James’ numbers were down in nearly every category that matters. His scoring dropped by a whopping four points — from 27.5 in December to 23.5 in January. He averaged nearly 30 points per game (29.6) in November.
3. He still shot 51 percent from the floor in January, which is still plenty good. But in the 36 games before January, he was hitting at a 56-percent clip.
4. This doesn’t take into account his 8-of-21 performance Wednesday — when he went 1-of-6 on 3-pointers.
5. James started the season hot on threes, making 43 percent in November and 36 percent in December. In January, it was 23 percent.
6. Or how about free throws? James connected on 81 percent in November; and just 67 percent in January. He went 7-of-11 from the line in a close game Wednesday.
7. There’s more. LeBron’s rebounding numbers dipped from 8.7 per game in November to 8.2 in December to 7.0 in January. He averaged a remarkable 10.3 assists in November … but nearly three per game less (7.5) this past month.
8. Now, in LeBron’s defense, he sets the bar awfully high and a lot of players would kill for his January stats. But the Cavs were a disastrous 6-8 for the month, and you can’t help but wonder if their 33-year-old superstar is feeling worn out.
9. James’ answers were a bit sharper than usual after the game. He repeatedly said, “I do me. I can’t really remember the question that lead to it. It was just obvious LeBron was irritated.
10. He also more or less brushed off a question that asked if he’s happy if January is behind him — implying that he only looks ahead and doesn’t really worry about the past.
11. LeBron has played a lot of basketball. He’s played from October until June each of the past seven seasons, his teams appearing in the Finals seven straight times. While he’s taken off games to rest here and there, he’s almost never missed extended time. He has logged heavy minutes and played in the Olympics.
12. He’s been out there for all 50 games this season and is averaging 37.0 minutes — only slightly down from the 37.8 he logged last year.
13. Is all of this reason to worry? Probably not yet. But suddenly, February has become a critical month for both LeBron and the Cavs.
14. That’s especially the case when you consider Kevin Love is unofficially expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken left hand. He could be sidelined for not just February, but all of March, too. LeBron will have to carry an even bigger load.
15. Plus, Isaiah Thomas has been up and mostly down, as January was his first month of the season, his first month as a member of the Cavaliers. While James scored 24 points and grabbed 11 boards Wednesday, Thomas had 13 points on a miserable 2-of-15 shooting.
16. Thomas on January: “It was definitely my preseason. … My legs are not there and it’s obvious.”
17. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue gave Thomas a pass. “He’s our starter, what else are we going to do?” Lue said. “He’s our starting point guard. I told him there’s going to be times like this. The only way he can shoot the basketball better, get his timing better, is by playing. I feel comfortable with Isaiah on the court once he gets himself going, gets his legs. It’s just going to take some time.”
17. As for the team overall, Dwyane Wade offered an honest answer. “I’m happy January is over,” he said. “Move on to February, which hopefully is a better month. In this league, you have to have a short memory.”
18. Of course, all of this came after a win, but it was an ugly win, at home, against a team that just couldn’t shoot straight. The Heat finished a miserable 3-of-28 (or 11 percent) on threes.
19. For more on the actual game, check out my other story: Cavaliers’ victory dominated by lowlights.
20. Finally, February is also the month of the NBA trade deadline. That’s Feb. 8, or a week from Thursday, to be exact. They will also explore the buyout market both before and after that day.
21. Phoenix Suns center Greg Monroe agreed to a contract buyout Wednesday, and the Cavs will certainly consider Monroe once he clears waivers. If nothing else, they could try to sign him simply to keep the Boston Celtics from doing so.
22. Other than that, Cavs general manager Koby Altman and his staff will work the phones and look for a deal. It’s hard to envision them making one that will make a difference — but you never know. One thing is certain, and it became clearer than ever in January. The Cavs’ star player could use some help and probably a bit of a rest, too.