LeBron James' Back Bothering Him, but Heat Schedule Could Give Him a Break

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterNovember 8, 2013

MIAMI — It's easy to understand why some see LeBron James as inhuman, watching him shake off ankle twists of such severity that they might sideline another player for six to eight weeks.

During his three-plus seasons with Miami, he has missed 13 of a possible 236 regular-season games, but they have largely been absences of his choosing, with the Heat's seeding already secured.

So when he stays on the sidelines a little longer during a competitive contest, it is met with a significant level of surprise. And when he is caught stretching out on the floor, or applying a heating pad to his lower back, as was the case during Thursday's win against the Los Angeles Clippers, there's even a pinch of panic.

"He's like every other player," Erik Spoelstra said Friday, when asked if he has taken James' durability for granted. "Through an 82-game season, even the strongest and fittest will go through something."

In that light, this should be said:

The timing of this is fortuitous.

James participated in a light workout Friday and said he plans to play Saturday night against the Boston Celtics, barring an intensification of the spasms.

But if he doesn't feel right, he needn't overexert himself Saturday, or in the weeks to come.

That's because the Heat are entering the softest spot of their schedule. None of their next 12 games are against the 11 teams that were deemed preseason contenders. The best of the lot are Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas and Cleveland, with two games each against Charlotte and Orlando and one apiece against Boston, Milwaukee and Phoenix.

Most of those teams have their sights set on the lottery, not the postseason.

So James' disclosure should actually be viewed as a positive.

His statistics are in line with what he produced last season (24.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 56 percent shooting).

"LeBron James' back had been sore for a while, and he's still on a LeBron James pace,'" Dwyane Wade said.

That's true, but it's also apparent that he is less consistently explosive.

James revealed Friday that his back's been aching since the start of training camp.

Why didn't he say something publicly?

"It just never came up," he said. "If it doesn't come up, I don't talk about it. For me, I don't really talk about injuries much. I mean, I've had my fair share of injuries throughout my career, but I don't really talk about it. If I'm OK to play and I'm out on the court, then I don't have an excuse."

Plus, he's dealt with this ailment previously.

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 03:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Washington Wizards at American Airlines Arena on November 3, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading a
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

"I've had (it) off and on probably since my third year in the NBA," James said. "I've had to sit out second halves of games and things like that because of it. But this isn't the worst." 

He said he felt good in Toronto on Tuesday, and that manifested itself in a 35-point performance, his most dominant of the season. But, on the whole, he admitted, "I'm not where I want to be. I'm going to continue to work at it. I've had back issues before, so I kind of know where to tackle it. But I'm not where I want to be physically."

What about sitting?

"I don't like to rest," James said. "I've never been able to rest through anything. It's something I'll probably try to continue to play through, and just do the exercises and the treatment to help it get better, and hopefully it will turn around. There's nothing you can do about it. There's nothing going on in there that's structural damage. It's just that time of the year, I guess."

Perhaps so.

But looking at the Heat's slate, it's the ideal time for it.


Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.