LeBron James did something Friday night we rarely see these days.
Late in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors, Kyrie Irving attacked the basket, drew a double-team and flipped the ball to a cutting James, who slammed the ball home uncontested. If you watched the game, you may not have batted an eye over this sequence. A four-time MVP dunked. Big deal.
Actually, this season, it is a big deal.
Believe it or not, that slam in Toronto was just James' sixth dunk this season in the half court -- six. Reggie Jackson has more. So does Solomon Hill. Since James' highly anticipated return to Cleveland, he has registered 19 dunks overall, with 13 of the throwdowns coming in fast-break situations, according to NBA tracking. That leaves only six in traffic.
So if you've noticed that he hasn't made as many high-flying plays at the rim, your eyes aren't fooling you. Perhaps the NBA's most athletically gifted player of this generation has been strangely grounded this season.
On the surface, this seems so backward. James famously shed heaps of pounds this offseason as part of a strict sugar-free diet in order to make him lighter and more mobile. James told CNN's Rachel Nichols this offseason that the Cookie Monster haunted him in his sleep, but it's as if the Sesame Street gobbler has been not just on James' mind, but his back, too.
One would assume James would have more lift, more bounce to his step this season. In fact, James has played below the rim more than ever. While the Cavs are on a roll, James is quietly on pace to have his worst season in years. The question is: Why? Let's dig in.