LeBron James is playing at 80 percent engagement, says teammate Channing Frye

Shortly after LeBron James scored the final 13 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night, holding off the feisty Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers backup center Channing Frye said his teammate isn’t even in peak form.

“Well everyone was talking like, ‘Hey, this is not Playoff LeBron.’ Usually LeBron gives you about 60 percent. He’s about 80 percent LeBron and it’s looking effortless so pretty scary,” Frye said. “This is 80 percent engagement. He’s engaged on offense and defense. Tonight he didn’t have a lot of rebounds, but every night almost has a triple-double, he’s shooting the ball well, he’s seeing the game a lot better, he’s diverting to his teammates and that’s pretty scary.

“He adjusted today. They were double-teaming from the bottom so he moved to the elbow. Once he starts adjusting then he starts getting the ball screen-and-roll. You’re seeing post-up passing LeBron, post-up scoring LeBron, shooting 3’s LeBron. There’s a lot of different aspects of that. So when I say 80 percent I just mean that it’s engagement every single game.”

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James has learned to pace himself over the years, focusing on the big picture while trying to gear up for the postseason. He has talked numerous times about the arduous 82-game schedule being a marathon, not a sprint. It’s clear James cranks it up to another level when the playoffs arrive. But 80 percent James in the regular season is still better than most.

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On Saturday, he scored 34 points on 13-of-22 from the field and 0-of-3 from 3-point range. He made all eight of his free throws and dished out 12 assists while grabbing a pair of rebounds, helping the Cavs extend the winning streak to 11 games with hard-fought 116-111 win.

After pouring in 15 points in the final period, James upped his league-leading crunchtime scoring average to 9.6.

“Thank God he’s on my team,” Frye said. “I don’t know what y’all told him or what he heard, but whatever zone he’s in, keep it.”

James likely has plenty of motivation this season. But I’m not quite sure where the media fits into that.

The Cavs came off another Finals loss to Golden State, which didn’t sit well with James during the summer. Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland, in part because of James. The Celtics, led by Irving, had an NBA-high 16-game winning streak earlier this season and some proclaimed them as the Eastern Conference’s best team. An opportunity for a fifth NBA MVP shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should the summer chatter about whether Golden State’s Kevin Durant had closed the gap on James.

No matter what it is, the Cavs have found their groove, with the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month leading the way.

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