By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James experienced the worst training camp of his stellar career due to an ankle injury and is not surprised by his team’s lackluster start to the NBA season, he said on Wednesday.
James said the injury which kept him out of all but one of his team’s five pre-season games denied him a chance to properly prepare a revamped Cavs team many expected would roll into the NBA Finals in June for a fourth consecutive year.
“This was probably the worst training camp for me in my career because of the injury,” the three-times NBA champion said ahead of Wednesday’s home game against the Indiana Pacers.
“I didn’t get an opportunity to do the things that I like to do and with the summer that I had, I kind of had a setback.”
The most glaring issue with the Cavs, who are 3-4 on the season after dropping three consecutive games, has been their struggles when it comes to playing transition defense.
And while the NBA’s regular season started a week earlier than normal and the pre-season was shortened to accommodate the switch, James was not about to blame the calendar.
“I was kind of already behind the eight ball, so it didn’t matter if it was a shortened pre-season or not with the injury that I had personally,” he said.
“So I’m not sure. We know that the season kind of started earlier. Everybody was kind of a little bit off rhythm for a little bit. But we’re into now so it’s not much of an excuse.”
The Cavs made a number of off-season moves in a bid to topple the Golden State Warriors, who have won two of the last three NBA Finals, by adding experience and talent at the risk of becoming an older team with injury concerns.
James suggested that his failure to be present on the court could help explain why the team’s chemistry has been slow to develop.
“Training camp has always been like my favorite point in the season, it sounds weird, but to be able to get back into it, get the team going, having that camaraderie, getting back on the floor, getting that system back in place,” James said.
“For me to be in and out and much more out that in and to be able to implement what I do, especially with seven new guys, that kind of hurt.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)