CLEVELAND - LeBron James swears that three days of hanging out with Shaq, ’Melo and movie stars in Los Angeles last weekend didn’t wear him out.
The Cavaliers’ rookie star returned from the NBA’s All-Star break surprisingly refreshed.
Hey, he’s 19. Who needs sleep, anyway?
“I got some (sleep) on the plane on the way back home,” James said with a laugh. “That was about it. But I’m very recharged. I’m back to where I need to be.”
And with roughly two months left in the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers (20-33) are where no one thought they’d be: in the NBA playoff chase.
The Cavs will begin the season’s unofficial second half just 2½ games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and coach Paul Silas thinks his club has a realistic chance at making the postseason.
“We have some tough games,” Silas said. “But we’re still there. We’ve still got a shot.”
Cleveland’s next six games could go a long way in determining the Cavs’ playoff fate.
The Cavaliers will host Dallas on Wednesday night followed by games against San Antonio, New York, New Orleans, Houston and Orlando. Only the improving Knicks and Magic have losing records.
Silas knows his young club has its hands full.
“It’s going to be awful tough,” said Silas, whose teams have historically played better after the break. “But it’s right there. We just have to win some games.”
Thanks to James’ phenomenal start, Carlos Boozer’s emergence and two trades, the Cavs are nothing like the team that opened the season 6-18, lost 13 straight road games and appeared to be headed for a fifth straight 50-plus loss season.
Since acquiring Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown from Boston in a Dec. 17 trade, the Cavs have gone 14-15, won six road games — twice their total from last season — and renewed hope in a city aching for a winner.
“It’s gratifying to know that from 6-18 we’re still there,” James said. “As bad as we started, to be in the playoff hunt is really remarkable.”
Remarkable, too, has been James’ first season.
The No. 1 overall draft pick has soared above the stratospheric expectations placed upon him. He’s averaging 20.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.
James’ stats have trailed off a bit recently, probably because of fatigue. He didn’t get as much rest in L.A. as he — or Silas — would have liked.
“He was tired,” Silas said following Tuesday’s practice. “He didn’t get much rest out at the All-Star game. The rest of them looked fine, apparently they got their rest. He didn’t.”
James, who spent time in Los Angeles with fellow rookie Carmelo Anthony and Shaquille O’Neal, and participated in preliminary events to the All-Star game, says he’s ready to lead Cleveland’s playoff push.
“We’ve got a job to do now,” he said. “We got 29 games left and I’m bringing all my energy. Every little piece of energy I got, I’ve got to bring to these last 29 games.”
The Cavs did suffer a minor setback Tuesday. Silas said backup center DeSagana Diop will miss at least two games with a sprained right ankle.
Diop got hurt during practice on Monday night.
However, Battie will be activated before Wednesday’s game after missing six games with a bruised right knee.
PBT: The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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