CLEVELAND — Over the last several years, LeBron James has learned how to construct midseason training camps to address issues with his body.
Whether it was his two-week hiatus last season or his midwinter trip to Miami to work with his offseason trainer in the middle of this season, James has found ways to use downtime to do far more than just stay down.
James did conditioning and weight training every day during the gap and got some treatment that helped refresh his legs and back. It appeared he may have even lost a little weight during the week off, as most of his sessions were intense, according to a source.
In the previous series against the Atlanta Hawks, James had issues getting his usual lift, especially in the closeout Game 4. Those were long gone on Tuesday.
James threw down five dunks, showing explosion that may have been lacking in the previous round. In perhaps his most impressive move of the postseason thus far, James ditched DeMarre Carroll on a baseline drive in the second quarter and threw down a slam with such power that still photos showed the ball compressed against the rim because of the velocity.
“We didn’t rest,” James said of his activities over the last week. “We just didn’t have a game.
“Coach [Tyronn] Lue gave us one day off. Other than that, we were in the gym working, keeping our rhythm, keeping our legs ready for whenever the game was, whenever we were going to play. So we didn’t rest. We just didn’t have a game in front of cameras.”
As his career has extended, James has become increasing attuned to recovery and targeted strength training. He has attempted to be at the forefront of technology, and when he returned to the Cavs in 2014 he had a so-called “cryosauna” installed at his house so he could have full-body cryotherapy treatments conveniently.
James has said he buys liquid nitrogen in bulk this time of year to make sure he always has a supply for him or any teammate who wants to visit his home. Of course there’s also the old-fashioned way of taking care of your body over the course of the playoffs: playing less. The Cavs’ performance and James’ efficiency have taken care of that as well.
Through the first game of the conference finals last season, James had played 455 minutes and taken 269 shots. With Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving dealing with foot and knee issues, the stress on James had ramped up and he was in the process of getting ground down a year ago at this time.
At the same point this season, James has played 116 fewer minutes and taken 103 fewer shots. It’s not a mystery why he’s shooting 52 percent so far in these playoffs compared to 43 percent last season.
The toughest games for James, though, are still ahead. Which is why he’s not letting himself declare any sort of accomplishment despite his improved physical situation.
“I don’t think we have complacency in our minds right now,” James said. “We have a goal, and our goal was not nine wins. It’s just not my focus. I’ve won nine games in the postseason before, won 14 games in the postseason before.
“It’s not my goal, and as the leader of this team, I’m going to continue to make sure that these guys understand what our goal is.”