* Tonight on TNT: Cavs vs. Raptors (8 ET)
Issues on defense and up-and-down results have marked the Cleveland Cavaliers of late. To any other team, perhaps, these would be issues of concern. To Cavs star LeBron James, it's just part of life for Cleveland the last few seasons.
The Cavs take on the Raptors tonight having lost six of their last nine games and are 2-2 so far in the 2018 portion of the season. Since Dec. 1, they rank 29th in Defensive Rating (110.3) and are in the midst of a run of games against teams that are either playoff-bound (tonight in Toronto, Monday vs. Golden State, Jan. 20 vs. Oklahoma City) or playoff-hopeful (Friday at Indiana).
In his comments to the media before tonight's game, James is chalking this rough patch up to par-for-the-course behavior for the Cavs, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
James said the Cavs' current midseason lull, is, well, "this is just us during the regular season."
"I love our potential," James said Thursday, prior to the Cavs' morning shootaround in preparation to play the Raptors. "We have ... this is just us during the regular season. It's four years since I've been back and this has just been us. We have great months, we have not so good months, we have times when we're not playing well, we've got times when we are playing well. This is just us. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at times. But potential is always there."
In each of Cleveland's first three seasons since James returned, the team has had one or more bad stretches. Each season ended in the Finals.
"You never want to go into the postseason not playing good ball," James said. "But at the end of the day the seeds will take care of themselves. I just want us playing us playing ball the right way. For the seeding, I can start a playoff game on the road personally and feel just as confident as if I was starting at home."
Aside from the state of the team these days, James also took time to ponder the state of his own NBA career. Now in the midst of his 15th season, James has more than enough accolades and accomplishments to get into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. To him, though, figuring out when to hang it up in the league is much like another big decision he made in his life:
"The game will let you know when it's over with," James said. "I kind of look at retiring for me as like getting engaged. I didn't know if I was ready or not, but I just felt like it was the time. The timing was right, the vibe was right. Did I know I was ready for marriage? No. I never had nobody in my family that had been married before. So I had never experienced it. I definitely never had nobody in my family that played in the NBA and retired, so, it'll be the same. We'll see, we'll see, but, right now I feel great."
James, who's won three championships and four MVPs, told cleveland.com during the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto that he had nothing left to prove.
On Thursday he said: "I've already went further than I thought I would go. So, everything else at this point is extra credit. I'm at 15 years in, I don't know, I've been in this spotlight for half of my years, maybe more. I'm 33 now, this started when I was 15, so, yeah, more. Eighteen years I've been in this light, so, I've already exceeded everything I've ever dreamed about. At this point I'm just adding crazy toppings on the cake, like by daughter would do. Just throw all kinds of stuff on the cake and whatever happens, happens."