Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James Has To Be ‘The Guy’

Nov 14, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

As LeBron James sat on the bench in San Antonio, Game 5 of the NBA Finals in mid-June, after scoring 31 points and bringing down 10 rebounds to still lose by 17, he knew his glory days in South Beach were in the past.

With the chance to opt out of his contract with the Heat, return to his home in Ohio and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers once again, James took it. He knew there would be adversity in the beginning, just like there was for the 2010 Heat.

He knew it would be hard to win with a young, inexperienced roster that had little playoff games logged altogether, yet he took the chance in hopes to win a championship for the city of Cleveland.

In the early stages of the new Cavs’ era, all those worries coming in have been exposed.

Before coming to Cleveland, LeBron didn’t know first overall pick Andrew Wiggins would be flipped for Kevin Love and didn’t know Mike Miller and James Jones–two former Heat teammates that had seen more than enough playoff time to be considered experienced–would come join him.

He didn’t know another seasoned veteran, Shawn Marion, would join the group in hopes to win another title.

Even with all of that experience and talent now on the roster, they still don’t know how to play together, how to win together, and on top of that, the defense could use some work, as well. The adversity James expected to face has reared its ugly head early on, and the Cavs are learning how to deal with it.

Starting out 1-3 surprised many across the league, but it was just a hiccup, as it should have been.

"I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that."

With or without Love and all of the veterans, James knew it would be a challenge when first joining, as mentioned earlier. While those additions may have inched Cleveland closer to a title, they had work to do to start the season with or without them.

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After that 1-3 start, the Cavs have now won three straight.

James wanting to be more of a mentor for his team turned into being more of a distributor, and that just flat-out did not work. While James, averaging 6.7 assists per game this season and 6.9 in his career, is a very capable passer, it cannot be his main focus.

Passing needs to just come with the flow of his game, when he is in a playmaking (for others) mentality. James may have thought he could sit back and be the “old head” for his team, but it turns out he needs to do just as much work as he did in Miami.

A specific game to look at thus far in the season is against Portland, where he tallied only 11 points (4-of-12 shooting) along with seven assists.

With 12 shots being his season-low in attempts and seven assists being his high on the year (at the time of this game, has gone up since), James was clearly in more of a distributing state of mind. The Cavs lost by 19 that game.

Now, take a look at James’s two most recent performances. Against New Orleans, James needed 32 points (9-of-17), 11 rebounds, and nine assists (was a triple-double, but the NBA took away an assist, as you can see) to survive the Pelicans at home.

The next game at Boston, James recorded 41 points (16-of-27) and seven assists to top the Celtics. Moral of the story: when James does his thing, the Cavs are winning games.

The scoreboard might not be showing blowouts, and that is just the way it is going to be. For now, at least. Just beating teams like New Orleans and Boston with all the adversity still surrounding the Cavaliers could be considered a challenge as the Pelicans and Celtics are both ascending NBA teams.

Cleveland should beat them, but doing that by a small margin is acceptable.

It does not really seem to matter what others surround LeBron do, because to grind out these victories, it seems necessary for him to post big numbers. When the roster finally reaches its peak, LeBron may have big games, but they should come easier.

Currently, the help is there in the starting lineup, but not the bench. Every starter but Shawn Marion scored at least 12 points vs. Boston, yet the bench did not help add much to the final score.

Before facing the Celtics, Cleveland’s bench ranked dead last in the NBA with 19.7 points per game, a total they just eclipsed in Boston with 20 points.

Until Matthew Dellavedova returns or Ray Allen signs, James will have to carry his bench and perhaps the rest of his team. Even if and/or when one of those things happens, James will still have to work up a sweat every night to lead his team to victory.

He wants to be a mentor and lay back, and understandably so after all the work he has put in over the years, but right now, that is just not an option. To teach Love and Kyrie Irving how to win, he needs to lead by example and show them how to win, not tell them.

Early on, the only differences in LeBron’s former Heat team and current Cavs team are the players, staff, arena, and weather outside. He is still carrying the load, but it does not always have to be that way.

Soon enough, Love, Irving, and co. will finally ace LeBron’s class on winning and start to carry him. Until then, the LeBron James we are accustomed to will still have to do what he does best: dominate the NBA.

Next: NBA Power Rankings: Cavs Not At The Top Amid Slow Start