INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – Counting LeBron James out is dangerous.
After the defending NBA champions completed an underwhelming regular season that saw the Cavs finish 51-31, including giving away the final 4 games and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, many have already written them off before the playoffs begin this weekend.
Bad idea, because James believes that despite the litany of injuries, lack of defensive intensity, lack of chemistry and lack of consistent winning, the Cavs can still repeat as NBA champions.
“I think through everything that went on with our team, we’re in a position where we can do something special still,” James said Thursday. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to harp on what happened in the regular season through injuries, through bad losses, through good wins, through whatever the case may be. We have a good club going into the postseason. That’s all you can ask for.”
James has been to 6 consecutive NBA Finals, 7 overall with 4 of his conference titles coming as the No. 2 seed.
James knows the Cavs have as good of a chance as anyone to win it all again, but he declined to get too specific as to why he feels that way about a team that sputtered down the stretch and are 10-14 since March 1.
“I’ve got the answer,” James said. “I’m not giving it to you, but I’ve got the answer why I feel like we’ve got a great chance.”
At least the Cavs enter the playoffs relatively healthy. The regular season saw the team use 22 players on the roster because of injuries.
J.R. Smith was lost for 11 weeks due to a broken thumb, Kevin Love missed 4 weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his knee, Andrew Bogut lasted all of 58 seconds before breaking his tibia, Kyle Korver, acquired in January, missed nearly a month with a foot injury and although considered to be healthy Kyrie Irving recently revealed that his surgically repaired left knee is still sore and bothers him.
James acknowledged that the injuries affected the chemistry within the locker room that was so prevalent a year ago when they pulled off the most incredible comeback in NBA history to end a 52-year championship drought for the city of Cleveland.
“It’s been very challenging just for the simple fact that a lot of our guys haven’t been able to make road trips,” James said.
Then there’s the defense – or lack of.
Cleveland finished the season ranked 22nd defensively, but 29th since the All-Star break, yet it is assumed they’ll be able to flip the switch starting Saturday against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers.
James refuses to dwell on the last 6 months, which have been difficult. As he fielded question after question about the team’s problems, James stayed away from the rear view mirror, opting to keep his eyes and thoughts looking forward.
“I can’t have my mind focused on the past now,” James said. “The present is the only thing that matters. Me preparing this group, me getting this group locked in and understanding what our opportunity is, I mean it is what it is. Let’s get ready to go. We’ve got to have our mind sharp, our bodies as fresh as possible going into Game 1 on Saturday.
“You guys can harp on the regular season. I’m not one to do it, not with the postseason starting right now. You guys are trying to drain my energy. I just told you I feel great. Don’t do that to me. I feel good. I’m not going backwards.”