After starting the season just 5-7, the Cleveland Cavaliers have rattled off three straight wins and they may be able to thank LeBron James for making some subtle changes to his routine both on the court and off.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com chronicled some of the changes that LeBron has made in the past week, the most obvious of which is that James has ditched his signature pregame chalk toss.
While losing the chalk toss may have just been a message from LeBron to his teammates that he is just one of them, some of the other changes may be impacting the final scores.
In addition to the chalk toss, James has also ditched his “rigorous” pregame calisthenics and body maintenance routine and is instead participating in the pregame shootaround with his teammates. Vardon speculates that the pregame shooting may be helping James to be more aggressive earlier in the game, noting he averaged 11.3 points in the first quarter and the Cavs were leading by an average of 10.3 points at the end of the first quarter during the 3-game win streak.
But we also see differences in how James is playing both offensively and defensively. Here is how some key stats have changed for LeBron in the past week.
What we see is that even though LeBron is shooting less, he is scoring more thanks to more free throws. In other words, LeBron is being more aggressive and attacking the basket.
Those moves to the basket are also opening up outside shots for LeBron’s teammates as his assists have jumped from 6.8 per game to 8.7.
On this particular play, watch as four Indiana Pacers move towards LeBron as he starts to move towards the basket. This leaves Kevin Love wide open for an easy three.
Finally, we are also seeing a more aggressive James on defence as his steals per game have more than doubled.
Yes, it is just three games. But the Cavs won those three games by an average of 23.3 points and defensively, the Cavs held those three opponents to just 86.0 points per game after giving up 103.4 points per game in the first 12 games.
But more importantly, it appears that LeBron has stopped imploring his teammates to do the things teams need to do to win and is now just leading by example.
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