Fear not, Cleveland Cavaliers fans.
LeBron James has officially declared himself active for Tuesday night’s season-opener against the Chicago Bulls. The NBA veteran will be on the court for his 13th NBA season, despite battling through lingering back problems that kept him sidelined for much of the preseason.
James has received two anti-inflmmatory injections in his back in the past 10 months, most recently on October 13, and said last week that there’s already a contingency plan for a third. He practiced twice leading up to Tuesday’s opener and said he’s simply focused on trusting his body:
I haven’t gotten to this point by cheating the game. If I’m capable of practicing, I will practice. If I’m capable of playing, I’ll play. When I’m not, I’ll quit. The game has gave too much for me to ever cheat the game. That’s not how I was born. That’s not how I was taught. And when I’m not able to do it to my level, then I’ll quit. It’s that simple.
James missed a career-high 13 games last season despite logging nearly 44,000 minutes. He sat out five of Cleveland’s seven exhibition games during the preseason and the Cavs have even discussed reducing his minutes even further this year to preserve James for a run at his third NBA championship.
In addition to James’ lingering back issues, the entire Cavaliers roster has been ravaged by injuries this preseason. All-Star guard Kyrie Irving remains sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair a broken kneecap.
Forward Kevin Love (shoulder surgery), Anderson Varejao (Achilles injury), Tristan Thompson (contract holdout) and center Timofey Mozgov (knee surgery) are all working to get back into shape, while Iman Shumpert will be out two more months after wrist surgery.
That, of course, makes James’ ability to go on Tuesday night that much more important. He’s not only a statistical leader for the Cavs, he’s an emotional leader and James’ back could determine how both play out this season.