Healthy LeBron James a key to Cavaliers' improved start

TORONTO -- After missing most of Cleveland Cavaliers training camp as a result of an anti-inflammatory injection he received in his lower back, LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

"I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day," James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. "It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we've been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines."

Cleveland started off the 2014-15 campaign just 5-7 as James noticeably lacked the lift that made him the high-flying attraction he'd been for so long in the league. This season, the Cavs are 11-3, and James has played in every game, averaging 25.8 points (fifth in the NBA), 7.1 rebounds (eighth among small forwards) and 6.7 assists (first among small forwards), all while shooting 51.7 percent from the field (fourth among small forwards). He's also back playing above the rim, with his 18 dunks tied for 13th in the league, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

James was asked if his vigorous three-a-day workout schedule in September is paying off as the season unfolds.

"That had a lot to do with it, but I always work in the offseason," he said. "I just think my body wasn't ready for the adjustment of last year."

Where James is operating on the court is a sign of just how good he feels. James often shifts his game to include more post-up opportunities in the playoffs, but he's been going to the block with frequency already this season.

"It's definitely not a health thing, because being in the post with my back wouldn't be that great," James said. "So I'm feeling pretty good. I feel great."

Despite James' confidence in himself, Cavs coach David Blatt says he has to manage his star player. Even with his improved health, James is averaging just 36.1 minutes per game -- tying the career low he set last season.

"We want him to be at the top of his game at the time of the year that is most important," Blatt said. "But, you know, he's important to us all the time, obviously. But we're doing our best to be conscientious and be careful with his load."