LeBron James helped turn the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season around with a two-week break in Miami early in January.
Prior to the break, James and the Cavs looked out of sorts, and James looked noticeably less explosive. James went to Miami to rest his aching knee and back, leaving the Cavs for seven games (during which they went 1-6).
When he returned, he looked like his old self, helping the Cavs climb the standings to the No. 2 seed in the East.
Bill Simmons had ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst on the “B.S. Report” Tuesday, and Windhorst gave some background on what happened before LeBron went on the break.
Windhorst says that late in 2014, James had been moody and his body wasn’t 100%. After suddenly deciding not to play in a game against the Hawks, the Cavs gave him take two weeks off to rest, from which he returned healthy and in a better mood, seemingly revitalized by some midseason trades.
“[Cavs GM] David Griffin tells the story,” Windhorst begins. “He said that LeBron had been moping for weeks.
“It was LeBron’s birthday — it was December 30th. They were playing in Atlanta. It was before Atlanta went on their 20-game win streak, so it wasn’t really deemed a big game yet. And they thought LeBron was going to play, and LeBron just decided, ‘I’m not gonna play.’ Like, at the last minute, he told them, ‘I’m not playing.’ Didn’t even come out to the bench, just sat in the back, didn’t come out.”
Windhorst says the Cavaliers’ brass was stunned.
“[James] had sort of just like waved a bit of a white flag there. He just didn’t feel like playing. He had never done that ever before. He had always just played through it. And so it was after that game, [the Cavaliers] said, ‘Alright, take your two weeks off,’ because he had reached a very low point.”
Windhorst says that during James’ hiatus, the Cavaliers traded for center Timofey Mozgov. The Cavaliers were staying at a hotel in San Francisco when Mozgov walked in for the first time, and James’ attitude completely changed.
“David Griffin tells the story that LeBron was sort of leaning against the wall, sort of still moping, and he saw Mozgov and he just was like, ‘I can’t believe how big he is.’ Obviously, he had played against him a dozen times, but he was like, ‘I just can’t believe how big he is.’ And he like straightened up. Griff tells the story of how LeBron just straightened up to meet him.”
James returned from his two-week break in Miami on January 13 to play the Phoenix Suns. The Cavs lost that game, pushing them to 19-20, but James had his best game of the season to that point, totalling 33 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Since that game, that Cavs have gone 29-7, while James has averaged 24.5 points, 48.5% shooting, six rebounds, and seven assists per game.
Nobody is quite sure why James’ two-week break turned around his season. He does seem healthier and more explosive. If it was just fatigue and simple aches that he was dealing with, then two weeks may have been enough to revitalize him.
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