LeBron James

I, for one, am missing LeBron James in the NBA Playoffs. I say this while acknowledging that I am not a big fan of James.

Two years ago, James surpassed Michael Jordan as the all-time playoff scorer. It confirmed that he is one of the best playoff performers in NBA history.

This year, for the first time in over a decade, LeBron missed the playoffs. It just did not work out in year one with the Los Angeles Lakers. But that is another story.

I will miss the drama that has been James vs. Golden State in the NBA Finals. His teams never had the same amount of talent but they competed and he, with Cleveland, beat the Warriors once.

Season after season, James pushed the limits of what we thought possible when it came to bringing his team as far as he could manage. Last year was a super-human effort, as he averaged 34 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, while carrying a less than talented Cavs team to a Finals appearance. He single-handedly broke the city of Toronto’s heart in the Eastern Conference Finals and won a Game 7 on the road in Boston during second round action.

Speaking of Toronto, the Raptures benefited most from James moving west. They are in the finals out of the East and Kawhi Leonard is putting up James-type numbers. But it is just not the same.

The playoffs seem to be lacking this year. I know I have not watched nearly as many games. But I expect to view the Finals while hoping new drama unfolds. Like Kawhi and Toronto pulling off the upset and ending the Golden State dynasty.

Will Cam Be Ready?

One unanswered question still surrounds the Carolina Panthers as OTAs started this week. When will quarterback Cam Newton be cleared to throw?

The more I look into this question, the more I wonder if this will be an Andrew Luck type of story. Remember, Luck missed an entire season in 2017 due to a similar shoulder injury and surgery.

Cam Newton

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has hit pat answer to the question. He repeatedly states that there is not a timetable for when Newton will attempt to throw again. I remember the Indianapolis Colts saying the same thing for weeks and then for months.

The veteran quarterback struggled with shoulder pain in his throwing arm last season, which ultimately hampered his ability to throw downfield as he was shut down for the Panthers’ final two games after Carolina fell out of playoff contention.

Newton underwent surgery at the end of January and has been optimistic throughout his rehab process as the 2019 season approaches. He initially had the same shoulder surgically repaired in mid-2017.

With Newton out, rookie third-round draft pick Will Grier from West Virginia and last year’s backups Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen are getting more looks at OTAs. Hardly inspiring names if Newton is not ready for the season opener.

It is not time to panic, though concern has to have increased in recent weeks. I read that it has been 125 days since the Panthers announced that Newton had shoulder surgery. When he had shoulder surgery in 2017, Newton started throwing 88 days after the surgery.

When Newton is healthy, Carolina is a playoff team. The Panthers had a 6-2 record and Newton possessed a 100.8 passer rating with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions halfway through the 2018 NFL season. But Carolina lost its next six games as Newton, obviously hurting, compiled a passer rating of 85.9 with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions

Carolina sidelined Newton for its final two games of the season, with Heinicke and Allen each getting a start under center.

This is clearly a fluid situation that will become more and more written about as the summer progresses. After all, we are just under 100 days until Week One of the 2019 NFL season.