Is it just me, or is LeBron James looking decidedly human so far this season?

Has someone laced his Kia with Kryptonite? Seriously. Because I don’t think the real King James has been seen since some time in mid-June.

In all the homecoming hype this summer, many wondered how long the new-look Cavaliers might take to gel, or how David Blatt will find the transition to coaching in the NBA. But never was James himself, or his ability, questioned.

I know it’s early days, but maybe it’s time that changed? Maybe the crown has started to slip?

The first crack was exposed when Cleveland lost their season opener, at home, to the Knicks.

Make no mistake, this was a huge embarrassment, especially after all the fanfare. Usher sang the national anthem. Kendrick Lamar performed outside the arena. Justin Bieber and Kevin Hart were in attendance. James himself said it was “one of the biggest sports events ever”. Yes, he really said that.

Yet he failed to live up to his own billing, finishing with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting, a +/- rating of -13…and a big fat L.

Even James’ TV audience pulling powers appeared to have faded. The much-anticipated “return” game wasn’t even one of the two most-watched sporting events of the night. Its 4 million viewers were beaten by the “Thursday Night Football” contest between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. And even the college football game between Florida State and Louisville beat the NBA with 5 million viewers.

The following night he did, admittedly, have a big game – scoring 36 against the Bulls. Although he needed 30 shots to get there…and it took overtime AND a Derrick Rose injury for the Cavs to scrape past their Eastern Conference rivals.

But when James and the gang popped to Portland on Tuesday, things started to look seriously wrong. A distinctly disinterested LeBron managed just 11 points after going scoreless for the final three quarters of the game (something he hasn’t done since his first month in the league, back in 2003), as Cleveland took an 82-101 spanking.

And just when it looked like the start to the season couldn’t get any worse, the Cavs took an L in Utah – and LeBron ended up on the wrong end of a Gordon Hayward highlight.

There’s a theory that LeBron is deliberately doing this – trying to teach his team mates a lesson, to show them that they can’t just rely on him to single-handedly win games every night.

But former NBA coach turned ESPN analyst, George Karl, is rather more sceptical: “Right now, he’s just playing like almost a role player,” he says.

A bad role player at that. LeBron is, staggeringly, 69th in the Player Efficiency Ratings.

But Bill Simmons articulated my feelings perfectly last night, when he said this:

“Anyone who thinks LeBron looks the same is fooling themselves. He doesn’t have the same impulsiveness. He looks 20 pounds lighter physically. Just his general force-of-natureness capacity — whatever you want to say — it’s not there. And he’s driving to the basket, and he’s under the rim now, and I don’t know what that means.

“I don’t know if he’s hurt, I don’t know if the big weight loss has affected his game or whatever. This is not a jump-to-conclusion thing. I have been watching this Cavs team since the preseason games started, and he does not look the same.”

Things are already getting tense. James and Irving reportedly exchanged heated words after the loss in Portland, with the young point guard leaving quickly without speaking to the media.

A lot of subliminal criticism of  his team mates has come from LeBron’s mouth so far this season – talk about ‘bad habits’ existing in Cleveland, and how he’s not going to allow selfishness at the club.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s time he took some responsibility himself.

NBA Range appears every Friday on MVP

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