LeBron James has appeared to give the Cleveland Cavaliers all he has through three games of the NBA Finals. Apart from his tremendous statistical production, LeBron has played 47.3 minutes per game in which he has served as the only consistent offensive creator and played a big part in the Cavs' stellar five-man defense. It's an unprecedented load for a star in the NBA Finals, and James is thriving regardless. Even if Cleveland fails to win the series, the circumstances of its 2-1 series lead make for a great story.
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Despite his superhuman character, the effort takes a lot out of LeBron. James has stated in several postgame news conferences that his recovery practices are essential to keeping an otherwise undermanned squad competitive in this series.
What exactly does that process involve? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com provided a breakdown of the recovery plan James developed with personal trainer Mike Mancias, whom he's worked with since 2005, between Sunday's Game 2 and Tuesday's Game 3. Here's a sample:
According to a complete timeline of James' recovery protocol between Games 2 and 3 provided to CBSSports.com, it began with the simplest of training tools -- hydration and an ice bath, to replenish the critical fluids lost during Sunday night's 3-hour, 7-minute overtime game and signal to James' central nervous system it was time to switch from activity to recovery. [...]
Altitude promotes swelling and dehydration, so the fluid intake continued in-flight for James -- as did Mancias' systematic campaign against inflammation. This included a meal consisting mostly of high-quality protein and carbs and a nearly non-stop effort to flush the toxins and lactic acid from his muscles to jump-start the healing process.
James was hooked up to an electro-stimulation machine to keep his muscles contracting and enhance the flushing of toxins being pumped from his extremities by compression sleeves. The latter are Michelin-man-looking boots that fill with air with the pressure-gradient pushing blood toward James' heart. [...]
When James left the practice facility around 3 p.m. Monday, the work was far from over. Mancias showed up at James' home in suburban Bath Township, a suburb of Akron, at 6 p.m. to perform four more hours of treatment, massage and rehab. [...]
"There's not much recovery time," James said. "Just getting my body as close as I can to 100 percent. I still have a lot of time right now throughout the day to stay on the treatment regimen I've been on. ... When you only have a day or 36 hours, you've got to cram everything in there. Hopefully the body reacts accordingly to it."
Those bracketed ellipses skip over many, many steps in LeBron's recovery, so it's worth taking a look at Berger's full article to get a better sense of how much work goes into getting the best basketball player on the planet ready. The short version is that there are very few hours of any day in which James does not receive direct treatment from Mancias, and the others are either filled with sleep or some sort of indirect direction from the trainer.
LeBron is far from the only star who undergoes such intensive care between playoff games, but it's remarkable to see what's involved to maintain an ostensibly healthy player. It's also a useful reminder of how narrow Cleveland's margin of error in this series really is. While it's not clear that James requires every single one of these procedures to continue to play at a high level, this sure is a lot of work to get him playing at his peak. If one massage or specially formulated concoction didn't go as planned, who knows what it'd mean for the Cavs?
Of course, LeBron has been so great in this series (and his career as a whole) that it's probably safest to assume he'll play at his best. It's just worth remembering that he doesn't reach such heights with a single flip of a switch.
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