While it seems like ancient history now, LeBron James’ decision to take two weeks off last season while the Cavaliers were struggling was once the biggest story of the NBA.
LeBron had not looked like himself for two months, and as the Cavaliers got off to a surprisingly slow start, he disappeared for two weeks from late December to mid-January.
There was never an official injury report, though people said it was rest for his knees and back, and many people wondered what the purpose of the break. Some people even began calling it a “vacation,” suggesting LeBron simply needed time off for his own mental health.
When James returned, with a new supporting cast, the Cavaliers took off, and LeBron looked like his normal dominant self. The Cavs rode a hot streak from January to the Finals, where they lost in six games.
Now, 10 months later, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst revealed in greater detail why, exactly, James took the two weeks off.
LeBron has been struggling with a bad back. He recently got an anti-inflammatory injection in his back that ended his preseason and nearly caused him to miss the Cavs’ season-opener. This was reportedly the second such injection he’s gotten in his back, which requires constant maintenance when he’s not playing. As Windhorst notes, the first injection came in December last season:
“When James’ regular back maintenance wasn’t working as well as he wanted last season, the Cavs sent him for an MRI on New Year’s Eve and saw some inflammation they didn’t like. Though there has been some confusion as to how James’ midseason break came about at the time, it has now become clear it was at the insistence of team doctors because he needed to recover from the injection. When he did, he played tremendously for the following six months.”
This coincides with a story Windhorst told on Bill Simmons’ old podcast about why James took the break. He was dealing with back issues, and on a December 30 game against the Atlanta Hawks, simply told his coaches, “I’m not playing,” much to their surprise. He took off the following night, too, which was New Year’s Eve, when Windhorst says the Cavs sent LeBron for an MRI of his back. He didn’t play again until January 13.
As Windhorst notes, James has been dealing with back issues for some time, and if last year is any indication, the anti-inflammation shot could help him.
Nonetheless, it’s worth watching, and with LeBron already saying he’s going to play fewer minutes and hand the offence to Kevin Love, we may see more periods of rest for LeBron than ever before.
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