The signals are coming out of James left and right recently, in between his discourse about Durant's hot streak. James has been quick to remind people that his shots are down to career-low levels this season, going so far as to say how he was "jealous" of Durant's shot attempts.
This week James said he's been petitioning coach Erik Spoelstra to play more minutes. Virtually never in James' career has he ever publicly talked about wanting to play more minutes. During his first two seasons in Miami, James both openly and behind closed doors carped about his minute load being too much. Last season, James privately harped on how he was being asked to do too much in playing so many minutes at power forward against bigger defenders and how it was wearing him out.
Now James' playing time is at a career low, less than 37 minutes a night. Spoelstra has almost totally eliminated James' time at power forward. And yet now James is reversing his position on the matter.
"I'm not playing as many minutes as I would like but Spo is in control of that," James said Tuesday. "I don't like playing less, I don't feel like I need to play less. Don't ever put it out there that LeBron wants to play less."
There's no rift between James and the coaching staff. James knows Spoelstra is trying to be prudent for the long haul. If you're looking for an explanation for this attitude, the root lies not with James' team at all, but it wears No. 35 and lives in Oklahoma.
James' stats overall are down and Durant's are up. With the middle of the season here, James is perhaps starting to have that feeling that he eventually succumbed to back in 2011, sensing that someone else might get the MVP that he treasures.
Never before in league history has a player won five MVP awards over a six-year span, as James is attempting to do before he even turns 30. Last year when he won his fourth in a five-year run, James became just the second ever to do that after Bill Russell. Only three players in history -- Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Russell -- have won three straight.
There are many different reasons for it. It's hard to stay motivated year after year, just ask Michael Jordan. It's hard to stay healthy. The voters get fatigue and the winners of multiple MVPs end up competing against their own ghosts, held to the standards of their past seasons. Most important, there's always rising, and usually younger, competition.
Durant has been on James' heels for a few years but James, as he has blossomed into his prime, has been untouchable. For various reasons, that no longer appears to be the case as of now.
Simply, James hasn't had his best season to this point. Instead of his usual rigid and rugged September workout regimen that included his so-called "hell week" of two-a-days with Durant, James took most of that month off last fall. He took two trips to Europe, one of which was for his honeymoon after his wedding in San Diego.
There's no fault in that, after two Finals runs and the 2012 Olympics, James had been on basketball overload since December 2011, when the lockout ended. He more than earned and badly needed a down summer. He took it but he also came to training camp in less than the shape he's used to.
Early in the season, James struggled with his stamina. Then he tweaked his back. Then he tweaked his ankle. Then he tweaked his groin. Then he hurt his shoulder.