The San Antonio Spurs decapitated the LeBron James-lead Miami Heat in last years NBA Finals and by the end of the series, you were left with an wilted and exhausted Heat unit that were eventually broken up by James' departure.
LeBron had to carry an unearthly load with Miami last season, he played in 77 games of the regular season at 37.7 minutes per game, coupled with the brutal playoff run, James had just been completely spent by the time the Finals came around, possibly culminating in his controversial exit with cramps of Game 1.
The King went home this summer to Cleveland, where he joined a young core of players, centered around other superstar talents Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. A vastly reduced work load was expected for James but this season has already lead to early playing time problems for the 29-year-old.
Minutes are not just a problem for James within a new system and rookie head coach David Blatt, LeBron is averaging 39.1 minutes a game. Kyrie Irving is averaging 38.4. Kevin Love is averaging 37.
That would be third, fourth and fifth most minutes per game of players in the entire NBA but whilst the season is in its early doors and players retain their fresh legs, that is heavy milage to begin a campaign and something LeBron was desperate to avoid upon returning to Cleveland.
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Not what James asked for
Coach Blatt is attempting to build a strong rhythm within key rotations that will only come through extensive playing time together, the Cavaliers are also looking to put a few win streaks together after a troublesome start.
However James who has a lot of experience with burn out and the gruelling schedule the NBA season offers, he realises the extensive minutes he and the other stars of the Cavs are facing cannot last forever:
“That has to come down, for me, I don’t want to do that all year, Obviously right now it’s difficult because we’re trying to find a groove and we’re trying to find a rhythm and we’re trying to find something that you can’t really, you don’t want to shortcut it but at the same time you gotta be smart about it.”
Its one of the significant changes that new coach Blatt will have to overcome whilst making his transition from the European basketball league to the NBA.
In the NBA you have to be willing to sacrifice to make sure key guys stay fresh and certainly superstars of the calibre of James, there are fewer games and fewer games per week, there are also a lot more practices for him to work with.
The NBA season is always a calculated marathon, despite the vital importance on gaining good seeding come playoff-time, keeping key assets fresh for the post-season is the number one priority.
The Cavaliers are developing a real rhythm like Blatt has targeted, it will help them win a lot of regular season games, but that’s not the race that matters, they'll need to rest up for playoffs.