Partly it's the same thing that's wrong with this website: a severe lack of effort. Maybe the team hasn't bought into coach David Blatt's system. Maybe LeBron James is a prima donna who has undermined his Euro-League legend and NBA rookie head coach. Maybe the defense is lacking a true, rim-protecting big man (a need that was harped endlessly on this site and other prior to the season even beginning). Maybe it's an aging bench, or a crappy system, maybe it's an insistence on having our big men hedge on screens and chase players too far from the hoop.
Maybe it's all of that.
But, and I'm spit balling here, maybe it's the declining play of LeBron James.
I'm ignoring players like Kevin McHale and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because they were strictly post-players. There are certainly merits to arguments that LBJ performed mostly as a power forward in Miami but James is, in my eyes, a wing player. He is judged most frequently against wing players.
And unlike his fellow Pantheon dwellers on the perimeter, Jordan, Bird and Kobe Bryant, James is not known for his blistering outside shot or bevy of veteran moves. He is known for his total disregard for human life and ability to absolutely overwhelm defenders. His prowess in attacking the rim is legendary. It's a skill that made my father wonder, year after year after year, why James didn't merely attack the rim on every single play. Which is insane, if you think about it. My father, like many other reasonable, intelligent and perceptive people, wanted a basketball player to run the same play EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
But that was the power James possessed. His skill level was and is obviously in the stratosphere. The man has court vision that is almost unparalleled in the league today. But he melded that with an android's body. LeBron James was the Ultron of the league. Brilliant, physically unstoppable, capable of beating you in every imaginable way. (And yeah that makes the Spurs the Avengers.)
The sheer force of the minutes he's played seems to be taking a toll on his body though.
The simple stats bear this out: his scoring is down from last year, but only by a smidge to 25.2 ppg. But his field goal percentage has dropped to .488, a threshold he hasn't seen since 2007-2008. But let's keep looking.
His three point percentage is down to a three-year low. Not a huge drop off but worth noting.
His rebound totals are the lowest they've ever been but his assist totals are the second highest of his career. His steal numbers, per game, are the lowest of his career. He is turning the ball over at a career high rate.
And as Deadspin's Tom Ley noted today, James is performing pretty poorly at the rim. Dig the numbers, per NBA.com, LBJ is shooting 67 percent at the rim---12 points lower than the previous season. And more horrifyingly, he's shooting 47 percent on drives to the hoop---down 16 points from last year.
Is there reason to panic? I mean, probably. The guy isn't getting younger and at some point the minutes he's logging in regular season, postseason and international play will destroy his body. It's going to happen and we all have to deal with that mentally. Life is ever decaying, or whatever Rust Cohle said.
But that doesn't mean he's a corpse with a pulse. He's still the best player on the planet, he's just not the best version of himself. And maybe that's just him not trying. His dismantling of the Orlando Magic was somewhat inspired, but why the hell did it take Tobias Harris punking him to get him to play meaningful, energetic basketball? I don't know. Maybe it's David Blatt.
Brian Windhorst, the man who built his career and professional reputation on reporting on LeBron James, co-wrote a report on Blatt losing the team. That's not a good sign for Blatt, whose job will probably be taken from him in about two weeks---if I'm guessing (and I'm a worthless blogger writing about worthless sports, so I am).
Blatt's eventual termination will likely lead to the installation of one of two men in the head coaching spot: Tyronn Lue or Mark Jackson. Lue is apparently a friend of James and if you Google Mark Jackson right now you'll see that one of Google's first recommended searches is "Mark Jackson Cavs". It's also worth noting that LeBron James' sports agency represents Jackson.
Look, James will probably be fine. He shed some weight prior to the season. It's possible that adding that weight again, in the postseason for example, could re-establish his physical dominance. It's possible he's been nursing an injury that hasn't been disclosed to the public. It's possible he's going through an odd dry spell. His career has been littered with those.
It's concerning to think about the alternative though. We all have to get old at some point.