LeBron James (left) is in doubt for the season opener against Boston
LeBron James (left) is in doubt for the season opener against Boston Jae C. Hong

James doubtful for NBA season start

BASKETBALL: LeBron James could miss his club's start to the 2017-18 season against Boston with an ankle injury.

But Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith was definite the superstar would play.

"Oh, he's gonna go," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."

Coach Tyronn Lue and other team officials remained unsure of James's status for the game against the Celtics.

The 32-year-old James did not miss an opener in his previous 14 seasons, and it would be hard to imagine sitting this one out.

He practised on Monday and Lue said it depended on how James pulled if he would play.

"I'm preparing that he is (playing)," Lue said on Monday.

Smith, who is beginning his third full season with Cleveland, knows it will take a lot more than a sore ankle to keep James off the floor.

"Just because he loves the game," he said.

"We were talking about it, he's never missed, since he was eight years old and he started playing, he's never missed a first game. I'm preparing for him to play."

The Cavaliers have struggled mightily when James (pictured) has been out of the line-up, losing 11 straight regular-season games and going 4-23 without him since 2014.

His demand to be traded this summer rankled some Cavaliers fans, and he created a larger divide last week when he described Boston as a "real, live sports city".

That didn't sit well with many Cleveland residents.

Nevertheless the Cavaliers plan to honour Irving, who made the biggest shot in franchise history, with a video tribute at some point during the game.

Irving's three-pointer in the waning moments of game seven in 2016 lifted Cleveland to the city's first championship since 1964.

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