Still the King

The Cleveland Cavaliers are leading the Eastern Conference as the second half of the NBA season approaches in the aftermath of the league's all-star weekend.

Almost no one is expecting the Cavs to fall short of reaching the NBA Finals for a third straight year, and they’ll probably be favored to get there as long as they have LeBron James, who’s played in six straight Finals.

Ask most anybody who the best player in the world is and LeBron is often the answer.

Some used to throw Steph Curry's name out there, but Curry isn't even the best player on his own team now that Kevin Durant plays for Golden State.

And no one elevates Durant above LeBron because James' teams are 18-5 against Durant's teams, with KD's one win in the last three years coming last month.

So if LeBron is the best player in the world and the only player who is almost automatically expected to be in the NBA Finals every year, why isn't he the front-runner, or even hardly mentioned, in MVP conversation at the All-Star break?

The answer is easy....because he's LeBron James, and after 14 seasons of unmatched and wide-ranging greatness, we don't gasp in awe nearly as much as we yawn in boredom.

You hear a lot these days about Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double or James Harden ranking third in scoring and leading the NBA in assists, but you don't ever hear about James ranking just behind Westbrook and Harden in scoring, rebounding and assists, while shooting a much better percentage than either guy from the field and from three-point range.

Here are the numbers:

Player             PPG                Reb         Asst        FG/3P%

Westbrook    31.1                10.5          10.1        42/34

Harden          29.2                8.3            11.3        44/35

James            25.9                7.7             8.8         54/39

Now, you tell me who's having the better overall year, LeBron, Westbrook or Harden?

The argument is at least close enough for there to be an argument, but LeBron is just expected to be great every night so he doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves when he lives up to expectations.

If his record against Durant isn't proof enough, if you need more evidence how much better James is than guys who purport to be his equal, check this out.

James has won 31 of 37 career games against Indiana's Paul George, including 17 of 19 in the playoffs. And when the two met last week, George scored exactly zero points when James was guarding him.

There's a slight chance that James' still-unsurpassed abilities might creep back into the national spotlight now that Kevin Love is out for six weeks following knee surgery.

LeBron just may view this as a chance to shoulder so much of the load in keeping the Cavs No. 1 in the East that no one will be able to miss it.

You got a hint of that last week after Love's surgery when LeBron explained why he was no longer focusing on needing help via a veteran pickup or a trade at the league deadline.

“As long as I'm in the lineup, we've got a chance,” he said. “We good. Kev is out, Kev is out for an extended period of time. J.R. (Smith) has been out, but I'm in the lineup. I'll be suiting up. We've got a chance against anybody. I ain't worried."

Nor should he. Nor should you if you're a Cavs fan.

Already this season, LeBron has climbed from 11th to 8th in NBA career scoring. He's also entered the Top 20 in NBA career steals.

So he's the first player in league history to rank in the top 20 in points, assists (13th) and steals (20th).

And he's far from done.

Two years ago, at age 30, James became the first player in NBA history to lead both teams in the NBA Finals in scoring, assists and rebounds per-game.

Predictably, that wasn't good enough to win James Finals MVP honors.

So he came back last year scored 41 in games five and six, then had a triple-double in Game 7 to hand the City of Cleveland its first major sports championship in 52 years.

This time, people noticed, and LeBron wound up unanimous Finals MVP.

So watch what he does over the next six weeks to make people notice again. Because if you look away, or take it for granted, you're only cheating yourself.

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