by Anthony Lima
Listen to Anthony weekday mornings from 6-10 am on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima
The Cleveland Cavaliers are about to embark on what hopefully will be another unforgettable playoff journey, and as Clevelanders know, that means two-plus months of botched wedding plans, excessive food and liquor consumption, and sleepless nights.
This will be the eighth year of the LeBron playoff experience, and in seven of those years, the season has culminated in agonizing exits. Last season, the Cavs made NBA history by partying for seven consecutive weeks after beating the Warriors. So, undoubtedly, this upcoming playoff run will add another riveting chapter to LeBron’s legacy and potentially close the presumed gap between him and the G.O.A.T. A win would get LeBron to four titles and erase almost all of the jokes about his finals losses. However, a defeat would leave many wondering whether the Cavs have to go in a different direction and tweak their “Big 3.”
Naturally, the stakes are significant and fans are a little bit on edge, considering the team’s barely .500 record since the new year (25-24). The body language doesn’t look great, the bench stinks, and the pressure seems to be mounting. All told, there are plenty of reasons to bet against the Cavs heading into the post-season. But as always, they have LeBron James and an attitude following last year’s historic finish that they can never be truly counted out until they are actually out.
Probably nothing like this, but I’ll give it a try.
If you are like me (and sadly many of you have been trying to fight it with various hair restoration methods; LeBron, kinda. Deron, not so much) – then you know the physical and emotional toll last season’s playoff run and this season’s glorified 82-game preseason schedule has put us through. It’s been a whirlwind. Making history last season, and then trying to defend our title has been far from easy. In fact, we’ve blown through 22 players on the roster this year, which means 22 ring fittings, 22 pre-game handshakes to create, and endless hours of content for our veterans to inappropriately share.
This hasn’t been easy.
But it was never supposed to be. We’re the Cavs. We forgo “easy,” and instead embrace the challenge. We create national headlines where a simple canned response would suffice. We throw our management under the bus (thanks #23) when we could take our own responsibility for some of the team’s issues. We compile more minutes in year 14 than anyone has ever done before, and finish the season as the league leader in minutes logged. Why? Because we love making things difficult.
Stress is our middle name, and if we’re not giving our fans heart palpitations, then are they truly giving them the most bang for their buck?
Look, we were on a mission this year to show everyone that it’s not about last year’s title run. Heck, it’s not even about this year’s. We barely broke a sweat after the All-Star break – unless you count Iman’s post-game alleged impromptu workout after the Hawks loss. Which one you ask? Oh wait we lost to them twice? Twice in three days?! And Dwight Howard played in the second game? And we still lost? Never mind.
But fellow Cavs, leave the nitpicking to the national media. Sure, they’ll be peppering you with questions about how we could possibly finish second in the Eastern Conference behind a Celtics team with one 5’4’’ player and a bunch of average guys they inexplicably wouldn’t have traded for Paul George or Jimmy Butler. They’ll be asking you how a team with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love could have possibly finished below .500 on the road. They’ll probably bring up the fact that we finished 22nd in defensive efficiency – a two-spot surge in the last two weeks of the season, I might add! But as we proved last year, literally nothing matters in the regular season. Heck, we proved nothing matters over the course of the first week of the NBA Finals.
Here’s the reality – we weren’t built for the regular season. We were built to win in the post-season. LeBron and Kyrie become un-gaurdable in that format, and as long as they actually try to get back on the defense a few times a quarter, it’s an entirely different ball game.
Sure, some of our players aren’t exactly playing ideal basketball at the moment. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith look like their deal with the devil expired and they’ve morphed back into New York Knicks. Channing Frye looks like he’d rather be back in Orlando playing for Scott Skiles than actually battle for a rebound near the basket. Derrick Williams has seemed to remember the type of basketball that led him to five different cities in four years.
The bench has had its downs this year (and mostly more downs). But this team was built on a Big-3, and the overarching truth is that when they are on, they unlock a potent offense that is as efficient as it is deadly.
LeBron is playing some of the most economical basketball of his career – one that when he is rested, is as masterful as he’s been in decision making. A torturous combination of veteran savvy and athleticism that remained unrivaled even after nearly 50,000 minutes on the floor. There is literally nothing you can throw at LeBron that he has not seen in his career. It has been proven to be brutally hard to beat LeBron twice in a series, but four times? With a team that is healthy? It might be easier to actually see Kevin Love with a chase down block.
So fellow Cavs, allow everyone else to feast on the negatives as they tell us again what we cannot accomplish. All of that will be a distant memory this June when LeBron James has the ball and another team has to figure out a way to stop him with their gang of mere mortals. By then, the only questions left will be whether LeBron James is the best to ever play the game, and whether Andrew Bogut gets a ring. Oh, and Larry Sanders. Oh, and Chris Andersen.
So just like last time, remember that NBA HISTORY HAS CHOSEN US. Don’t run, don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. WE WILL SEIZE OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THAT HISTORY!
(and remember, this will all make for a really fun Roadtrippin’ Podcast at the end of the year)