LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, left, walks on the sideline during an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

So far, LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers hasn’t exactly blown anyone away. But the Cavs are still a formidable team and have already passed the halfway mark of last season’s 33-win season, sitting at 19-14.

However, with the news that James will miss the next two weeks with knee and lower back strains, how will Cleveland fare without the NBA’s best asset? The Cavaliers’ star forward has delivered some outstanding games this season. But he was already lacking the explosiveness that defined his early career, and his latest body tweaks have the look of issues that could linger deeper into the season. James turned 30 years old in late December, and admitted to reporters that he has “over 41,000 minutes” on his body. James was expected to take Cleveland to the next level, but is he already breaking down before things get started? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.

Riley: A few strains here and there don’t mean James is breaking down, they’re just normal NBA wear and tear. Slowing down might be one thing, but James doesn’t appear ready to break down at this point. He’s still averaging 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. He’s still a fantastic player. You can’t realistically expect him to be jumping over defenders like he did during his first stint in Cleveland. He’s a better player now and a better leader. His points are down but he’s averaging his most assists since the 2009-2010 season, when he was the league’s MVP. He’s not as explosive, but he’s not breaking down either. He’s still in his prime and the best small forward in the game.

Green: James’ athleticism has been depreciating for years now, and things have bottomed out this year. He’s breaking down. He’s looked exhausted in some games and flat-out dead in others. You mentioned assists, Riley, but failed to mention that he’s averaging the lowest point total since his rookie season, which should definitely be a concern considering Cleveland’s lack of scoring depth. If his second stint in Cleveland is going to be a success, then James is going to have to be the dominant player that we’re accustomed to seeing. Right now, that’s not happening.

Riley: There are several other reasons why James is averaging his lowest point total since his inaugural year, and they have nothing to do with his game breaking down. He’s on a completely brand-new team, joining players with whom he’s only shared limited minutes during Olympic and All-Star play. For all we know, his scoring numbers could be down based upon his lower back and knee troubles. I’m not ready to close the book on James yet, and say his body is breaking down. A couple of weeks of rest should do wonders, and I’m sure he’ll dominate once again upon his return. There are plenty of other superstars around the league who have missed more time than James this season.

Green: You’re right, there are stars who have missed more time, but they’ve also been explosive and dominant when they’ve returned. I can tell you’re hinting at Oklahoma City Thunder stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but the two of them have returned to post some monster games. James gets a pass based upon his tenure in the league, and I don’t really expect him to be spending significant time in the gym at this stage in his career, but he has looked winded quite often this year. He’s playing like an advanced veteran instead of the young stud that he was during his first stint in Cleveland, and that’s hard for a lot of people to accept. But if Cleveland is going to win anything, we need to see the James that was MVP-caliber, not the one in a suit on the sidelines.