Trinidad Express / INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James has never missed a season opener in the NBA — or at any level. His streak is in jeopardy.
James remains questionable for Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Celtics and former teammate Kyrie Irving because of a sprained left ankle that has bothered him for three weeks.
James, who injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game, participated in the team’s morning shootaround but did not speak to reporters afterward. A team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether James faces the Celtics and Irving, who was traded to Boston this summer after six seasons in Cleveland.
The 32-year-old James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavaliers work out.
Dwyane Wade believes James will do everything he can to play given the buildup to the matchup with Irving.
“Everyone around expects him to play because that’s what he does,” said Wade, who has been reunited with James in Cleveland after playing four seasons together in Miami. “But at the same time the decision’s on him. He’s going to make the right decision for what he feels is best for the long haul season. “We’ve been preparing like he’s going to be in there, we also have to be ready if he’s not. That’s how we have to be.”
Coach Tyronn Lue said Monday that if James doesn’t start, J.R. Smith will take his place. It’s hard to imagine James missing the chance to play against Irving, who demanded to be traded this summer because he wanted to be the focal point of his own team. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016.
On Monday night, James tweeted about the opener, saying, “hopefully I can be ready to get it going.”
James tested his ankle last week in a preseason game against Chicago. He played 30 minutes but may have aggravated the injury on a spin move. He may not want to risk injuring himself further and missing more time.
James’ injury has deprived the Cavs from blending together several new players, including Wade and Derrick Rose, who has taken Irving’s point guard spot. Wade said it’s been challenging to develop chemistry with such a major piece like James limited.
“Obviously LeBron is still making his way, feeling himself out, trying to make sure he’s healthy enough,” Wade said. “So we haven’t had a lot of time together with that unit but it’s not an excuse. We got to be ready to play. Everybody is excited about opening night around the world. We just got to be ready to play. If we make mistakes, we’ll figure it out. But we’re all excited. We’re excited to see him back on the court.”