CINCINNATI -- LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite lingering injuries and an ongoing contract dispute, still have ample talent, so he won't have to shoulder more than his fair share of the load when the regular season opens in less than three weeks.
"I will lead this team, but I don't have to carry it," James said before shootaround as the Cavs prepared to play the Atlanta Hawks in their preseason opener at Xavier University on Wednesday night. "We have enough guys until all our guys get here.
"Until Kyrie [Irving] and Tristan [Thompson] and [Iman Shumpert] is ready, we have enough guys that will all help. It's not about me carrying the team and that nature. We're all grown men, we're all professionals and they're here to do their job."
Even though Cleveland addressed its depth in the offseason by adding Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson and Sasha Kaun to the mix, injuries have already turned that luxury into a necessity as Irving and Kevin Love didn't even accompany the Cavs on their two-game preseason road trip this week.
Irving (knee) has been limited to individual workouts and rehab, and Cavs coach David Blatt said Tuesday it would be "realistic" to expect Irving to miss the season opener. Love has been slow to test his shoulder and won't play full-court 5-on-5 in practice until this weekend.
Shumpert had surgery for a wrist injury suffered four days before the start of training camp, and he will be sidelined up to 3½ months. Timofey Mozgov (knees) and Anderson Varejao (Achilles) are behind in their conditioning, and Thompson has yet to even report to camp as he holds out while seeking a new long-term deal.
James is already doing his part to prepare J.R. Smith for the season opener vs. Chicago on Oct. 27. The pair showed up an hour before Wednesday's shootaround to get shots up before the rest of the team arrived. It's a tradition the two started in the postseason last spring.
"Just trying to get better," James explained. "It's all about repetition. In order to try to be as good as you can, it's about getting on the floor and getting extra work in. And that's what we do. Myself and J.R., we got some chemistry. We got some great chemistry and we just try to give it our all."
Cleveland's schedule to start the season is relatively easy -- only three of the Cavs' first 10 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season -- but lacking a full roster always makes things difficult.
"I mean, every game is important," James said. "The East has gotten better. And I understand not to put too much into the beginning of the season, but I'm a guy who is all about chemistry and camaraderie on the floor. But you need your guys to be healthy. So I'm not quite sure if Kev [will be ready]. Obviously we know Kyrie won't be available. Shump won't be available. So it's unfortunate, but we want to get these guys healthy and get them to 100 percent as close as possible."
James also said the Cavs still might be better equipped to begin this season, despite all those injuries, than they were at the start of last season, when they had a relatively clean bill of health. Cleveland was just 5-7 through their first 12 games in 2014-15 before eventually raising their standards en route to becoming Eastern Conference champions.
"I think just as far as a franchise and how we carry ourselves every day is a lot different," James said. "Last year at the start of the season, I don't think people saw the vision and didn't understand the process. I think guys do now. We know how important every practice, every day is for us to get better.
"And until we're whole, we still won't understand it as a full unit. But we'll approach the game as we should and our coaching staff is going to prepare us the best way every night to be ready for anything, both on and off the floor."