Now Cavs coach David Blatt believes it's time for the narrative surrounding LeBron James' campaign to change as well. Specifically, Blatt wants to know why James' name doesn't appear in the MVP conversation more often.
"That's just kind of funny, to be honest with you," Blatt said before the Pistons game. "First of all, he's the greatest player in our game, and he's had, since he's been healthy -- and really all year, but particularly since he's been healthy -- his performance has been as high level as ever. And you don't have to look very far at our record to see what impact he has on this team when he's playing and not playing."
The Cavs have gone 25-12 with James in the lineup this season, and the 12-year veteran is now averaging 30.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.0 steals in eight games since returning from a two-week rest period to rehab strains in his left knee and lower back.
"He's the greatest player in our game, and ... his performance has been as high level as ever. And you don't have to look very far at our record to see what impact he has on this team when he's playing and not playing."Cavs coach David Blatt on LeBron James
Going into Tuesday, James was averaging 26.2 points (second in the league), 7.4 assists (tied for seventh), 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game with 49.3 percent shooting for the season. His PER of 26.15 ranked seventh.
He finished Tuesday's win with 32 points, seven assists, six rebounds and a steal, and even heard a smattering of an "M-V-P" chant from the Palace at Auburn Hills crowd late in the fourth quarter.
Supporting his case is the fact that James' impact has been felt nearly as much when he has been missing from the lineup, as Cleveland is a lowly 1-8 without him this season.
"Certainly it does say something about what his value is when he is absent, what happens to the team," Blatt continued. "But again, it's of course what his impact on his own team but it's also the performance that that player is having relative to the rest of the league. Obviously if we look at our own example [in James], then you're looking at an MVP player in every respect. Which is not new news to anyone."
James, a four-time MVP, said the criticism he heard earlier in the season -- that he had lost a step or that, at 30 years old with so many minutes played in his career, he was already on the decline -- did not bother him.
"I don't really get involved in what people say about the way I approach the game," James told reporters Tuesday at Cavs shootaround. "I know I can play the game at a high level. I know who I am and what I'm about. So, me making an excuse about my injuries throughout the time while we were struggling would just add on to what we were going through. So, it made no sense for me to talk about it until I crossed that path. I went out and played. Sometimes I was hurting the team, sometimes I was helping the team, but I went out and gave what I had. But it got to a point where I knew that I just had to give my body a rest. My body told me it needed a rest, and it's paid off for our team."
"The award says itself: It's the guy you think is the most valuable to his team," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said when asked to provide his own criteria when considering the honor. "I personally think it's always going to come from a successful team. Doesn't necessarily have to be the best team, but it's going to come from a successful team, and a lot of times it's going to be the best player on one of those teams. I mean, right now we can narrow it down to four or five guys. I could probably do the ballot for you guys and then you'd make the final determination."