LeBron James curtails social media as he shifts into 'playoff mode'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James says he has indeed pre-emptively switched into so-called "playoff mode" with three weeks left in the regular season. The Cleveland Cavaliers star's recent social media activity is only an extension of that, a source familiar with James' thinking told ESPN.com.

"I have," James said when asked about whether he has consciously shifted his disposition. "A little bit sooner than normal, but you know I understand that [the postseason is] right around the corner and I want to start mentally preparing myself for the distance. So mentally I'm just being a little more sharper minded as of late, just gearing toward it. Understanding that it's right around the corner and it's going to be very, very challenging."

James spoke extensively at practice Tuesday after only offering a curt "Next question," response when asked about whether he unfollowed the Cavs' official Twitter and Instagram pages following a 124-91 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

James not only unfollowed the Cavs' accounts on Monday but the accounts of team broadcasters Allie Clifton and Austin Carr as well as NBA journalists Lee Jenkins, Chris Broussard and Dave McMenamin.

On Tuesday, he started to dip his toes back into the social media pool, as he refollowed the Cavs' Instagram account and expressed interest in joining yet another social media platform in Snapchat.

While adding Snapchat to his social media tool belt could be seen as contradictory to his self-titled "Zero Dark 23" social media blackout for the postseason, a source close to James insists that using Snapchat would be more about James sharing a glimpse inside his world to outsiders, rather than James potentially reading comments and mentions from those outsiders that could shake his focus on winning a championship. Snapchat allows users to share photos or up to 10-second-long videos that can only be viewed twice before disappearing.

He has made a similar distinction in the past with his social media habits during the playoffs. During the 2014 postseason, James shared videos through the "LeBron" app available exclusively on Samsung Galaxy phones. During the 2015 postseason, he shared first-person videos through "Uninterrupted," his burgeoning digital platform for athletes to tell their stories, and is expected to do that again this spring.

James, who also changed up his pregame routine for the Nuggets game by listening to music while wearing headphones instead of playing it on his speaker system for everyone in the locker room to hear, said that sometimes he adopts different demeanors based on the situation he is facing rather than always striving for a consistent attitude.

"It's for every individual," James said. "Every individual is different. I know what suits me. I know I'm able to play with different demeanors. I can do that. When the time feels right, I'm able to change from one demeanor to the next to get the most out of my ability and try to get the most out of my teammates. But it depends on who you are."

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue welcomes the new James.

"If he is going through something, the way he played last night, I hope he continues to play that way," Lue said after James had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against Denver, picking up his 41st career triple-double. "I don't know. I haven't talked to him about that. His demeanor has been more serious, more locked in, which I will take. What we're trying to do moving forward, if that's what it takes for him to get focused and get the team on track, then I will take it."

While James has taken a serious turn, it doesn't mean his outlook has darkened. If anything, James sounded optimistic about the Cavs' current state.

"We're heading in the right direction for sure," James said. "At the end of the day, we're 9-3 in our last 12 [games], so, I mean, we're playing some good ball."

Does James think, with all of the supposed drama surrounding the Cavs, his team gets the proper respect for its 50-20 record?

"They better [recognize our record]," James said, "or they'll lose."