The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their second game of the season on Wednesday night on the road against the Indiana Pacers.
Having now come away with a loss in 12 of their last 13 visits to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it may not have been a huge surprise to many as it appears to just be a customary defeat for the Cavs every year.
However, there are bigger issues for the defending champions to take away from this particular setback as it once again came without LeBron James.
The four-time MVP was rested by coach Tyronn Lue on the second night of a back-to-back following a testing encounter with the Toronto Raptors in Cleveland the previous night.
The Cavaliers are now 4-16 without LeBron in the lineup which should be a huge worry for the franchise.
Of course, most teams would be worse off without the best player on the planet in their lineup, but the Cavs have the most expensive roster in the league and have gone way above the luxury tax in recent years to surround their superstar with the help he needs.
That should shine through when the King is rested or suffers an injury, but for some reason it doesn't.
That raises the question, where would the Wine and Gold be without James?
In his first stint with his hometown team, LBJ led the franchise to the finals and made them one of the best teams in the east. When he departed for Miami, however, they never made it to the postseason and were a lottery team until he came back home.
In Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two All-Star players, the Ohio-based outfit should have enough to be a playoff team without James, but without the presence of the Akron-born star, they haven't had success on the floor.
LeBron is one of the most durable players in the league and per Cleveland.com, having gone to six consecutive Finals, he's logged 47,231 minutes in 13-plus seasons. He is averaging 37 minutes so far this campaign.
The Cavaliers have made it clear that they will manage his minutes this year in order to keep him in peak condition for the playoffs, so there will be more games where he sits out and Irving and Love will have to show their true value.
James does everything on the floor for Cleveland and his teammates feed off him, but if disaster were to strike in the form of an injury, the team must have confidence that everything will not fall apart. At the moment, that isn't the case.
Level playing field
There's no doubt that the 12-time All-Star makes the reigning champs the best team in the Eastern Conference. Without him, the likes of the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and even Indiana will have a greater chance of beating them and balancing out the competition.
With no disrespect to the Cavs, without their superstar, they would probably be a middle-of-the-pack playoff team that would either be bounced in the first or second round.
You wouldn't put money on them making the conference finals and they certainly wouldn't be good enough to reach the finals.
Reaching six straight finals with the Miami Heat and Cleveland shows the dominance that LeBron has in the east.
He could make any team championship contenders, but the reliance on the 31-year-old to carry the franchise at that age can't go on forever, especially with multiple All-Stars also on the team.
Kyrie is more than capable of leading the team, but as we saw before James returned to Ohio, he struggled to make his team win and didn't play in the postseason until King James arrived.
Somebody else needs to step up for the Central Division team and reduce the weight on their leader's shoulders.