CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – After Golden State realized they couldn’t beat a fully healthy Cavaliers team last June they went out and added former league MVP Kevin Durant.
Durant not only helped to dismiss the defending NBA champions in just 5 games but he was named the unanimous series MVP Monday night.
Now James and the Cavs are left to ponder their next move – or moves – to get back on top, assuming that they can even get back on top again.
“I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” James, who became the first in NBA Finals history to average a triple double with 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the series, said.
Over the past week James seemed resigned to the fact that no matter what he would do in this series it was not going be enough. He spoke openly about the “firepower” of the Warriors being the most he’s ever faced and how comfortable he is personally, professionally as well as with his place in basketball history.
But is he really?
James is the ultimate competitor and it’s hard to believe 3 rings are enough.
They may have to be because another reality faces James – the Warriors, who have beaten him and his Cavs twice in 3 years, are a dynasty in the making and as presently constituted they may have ended his NBA reign Monday night.
They’re Michael Jordan’s Bulls or the 90’s New York Yankees and he knows it.
“They’re going to be around for a while,” James said. “Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.”
The Warriors, stacked with 2-time MVP Steph Curry, Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are already the odds-on favorites to repeat next summer, once again at the Cavs’ expense.
“They’re assembled as good as you can assemble,” James said, “and I played against some really, really good teams that was assembled perfectly, and they’re right up there.”
Thank goodness the Cavs made history last June by rallying from 3-1 down or else this would be 3 straight Finals defeats and there would be comparisons to the Buffalo Bills plus talk of a major overhaul of the roster.
It’s almost a compliment that James forced the Warriors to add Durant, but Durant has now forced James to rethink what is next for him.
James doesn’t even know how he can counter Golden State, at least that’s what he said, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true.
What makes James so great isn’t just his physical skill, it’s his intelligence.
As James realized over the last few days that he would need even more help to take down the juggernaut by the bay, it’s a high probability that he had already begun assembling a short list of names he’d like to welcome to Cleveland this summer.
Cavs general manager David Griffin’s contract expires June 30th. Owner Dan Gilbert told Cleveland.com following Game 5 that he is happy with the direction and state of the franchise and he doesn’t see the need for any major overhauls upstairs, on the bench or the floor.
Step 1 is getting Griffin, who has done a masterful job making deals on the fly the last 3 years to turn the franchise from a lottery team into a perennial powerhouse and title contender fueled of course by the return of James, signed to a new deal.
Then comes a deep look at the roster that needs to get younger and more athletic, especially the bench and role players.
James has 1 year left on his contract before he can opt out again next summer. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith have 3 years left and Kevin Love has 2 years before a player option on his deal kicks in.
With the Cavs cap more than maxed out, Love will once again hear his name mentioned this summer if they want to add another high-profile piece but his value should not be diminished.
Before the champagne stopped flowing down the hall in the Warriors locker room, James was asked what he thinks the Cavs need to do to this summer so that a year from now he’s being asked about his fourth championship.
“I’m not the GM of the team,” James said. “I’m not in the front office, but I know our front office is going to continue to try to put our ball club, put our franchise in a position where we can compete for a championship year in and year out.”
You could almost already see the gears turning as James spoke.
Unfortunately there might not be anything that James or Griffin can do but where there’s a will there’s a way and if there’s anyone that can set the wheels in motion to compete with Durant’s Warriors, the Cavs have that guy.