James youngest to 30,000 as Cavaliers’ struggles continue

LeBron James celebrates after scoring his 30,000 career point during a time out against the San Antonio Spurs.LeBron James’ climb up the NBA’s all-time points list has not been slowed by the recent struggles of the Cleveland Cavaliers. James became the youngest player to reach the 30,000 point milestone in a Tuesday loss to the San Antonio Spurs, which dropped Cleveland to 3-10 since their Christmas loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Any hopes that the Cavaliers would play better once Isaiah Thomas joined the lineup have been dashed, as Thomas has appeared in eight games during which Cleveland’s record is 3-5. James remains the team’s lone bright spot in January, which has been a disastrous month for the Cavaliers on offense and defense. The Spurs won on Tuesday largely thanks to a 38-point outburst in the second quarter, while Cleveland got 28 points from James and 14 from Thomas, who were the team’s top two scorers.

James is the seventh player to reach 30,000 career points, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and fellow active player Dirk Nowitzki. If James continues to score at a rate of around 2,000 points per season, he would finish 2017-18 close to 31,000 points and reach 33,000 by 2019, putting him in range of catching Bryant for third. Malone and Abdul-Jabbar are harder to reach at 36,928 amd 38,387 points, respectively, but James is in the best position to catch them having reached 30,000 less than a month after he turned 33 years old.

As for the Cavaliers, lineup changes appear to be on the way if coach Tyronn Lue is to be believed. The team reportedly had a heated meeting on Monday focused on the recent slump and specifically the play of Kevin Love, who missed Saturday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with an apparent illness. Love and J.R. Smith are two Cavaliers starters having bad scoring months, shooting well below their season averages, and Smith seems the most likely candidate to shift to the bench to make room for Dwyane Wade, who has been a more consistent scorer. Lue might also decide to fit Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup if he decides fixing the squad’s defense is a higher priority than solving the nagging offensive issues. Whatever changes Cleveland makes will be on display on Friday when the Indiana Pacers visit.