INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- With his team mired in a two-game losing streak, LeBron James lifted some of the clouds hovering over the Cleveland Cavaliers after shootaround on Thursday.
"I'm not sitting up here saying it's Armageddon or anything like that," James said as the Cavs prepared to host the Milwaukee Bucks. "But we need to play better ball. Until we own that, we won't get better."
After blowing a 13-point second-half lead in its 104-99 loss in Detroit on Tuesday, Cleveland attempted to improve itself by taking a step away from the court. The Cavs canceled practice Wednesday, opting for a team film session instead.
"Coach got on us pretty well, rightfully so, which he should have," James said of David Blatt. "We spent about 45 minutes in the film room, so [Wednesday] was not a day off. It was a day off from the court but not from us preparing and still getting better."
With the NBA coaching landscape experiencing a major shift this week as the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start, James offered up perhaps his strongest endorsement of Blatt yet.
"He does his job as great as any coach can do in this league," James said. "It's up to us to go out and produce."
The Cavs, at 8-3, are tied with the Chicago Bulls for the top record in the Eastern Conference, but James made reference to the defending champion Golden State Warriors as being the "more hungry" team earlier this week. Thursday, however, James conceded that Cleveland's injuries make it hard to compare the Cavs' start to any other team's success.
"It's still been challenging because I look around the league, we're the only team that hasn't kind of had our whole team just yet," James said. "Trying to see how many guys have been out all year, I'm not quite sure. We haven't had our All-Star point guard or our 2-guard to start the season, so it's been challenging, but at the same time, it shouldn't take away from the guys that's in uniform. We need to come out and play with a little bit more sense of urgency."
Kyrie Irving is "making progress" with his rehabilitation of his fractured left kneecap, according to a source familiar with Irving's training regimen, but is still considered to be "nowhere near" a return in the immediate future. Iman Shumpert told Cleveland.com this week that he is hoping to beat the recovery timeline on his right wrist injury and be back on the court by late December. The Cavs play the Warriors in a Finals rematch on Christmas Day, and Shumpert has been motivated by that date, a source told ESPN.com.
James has been tough on the rest of his teammates in the early going and said they are being "too nice" on the court. James was asked when he stopped worrying about hurt feelings when leading a team.
"I don't know when that point came," he said. "I think being in Miami, the best thing about our team in Miami was that we could say whatever you wanted to say, when you wanted to say it, right then and there. No one took it personal. You may be mad at that guy for a few days or whatever the case may be, but it never affected what we did out on the floor. We only had one common goal, and that was to win. That's all that mattered. We realized stuff like that; you realize that it's not about you. It's never about you. It's about the big picture."
Ignoring the big picture for a moment, James was asked what he wanted to see out of the Cavs against the Bucks on Thursday night.
"I think it's trying to play as consistent a 48 minutes as possible, play our game," James said. "That's defending at a high level and that's not turning the ball over. When we don't turn the ball over, we share the ball offensively, we got the ball popping, and we defend at a high level, we're a pretty good team. When we're not, we're not good at all."