Coach David Blatt and the Cavaliers reveal new mindset for the upcoming season
LeBron James led Cleveland all the way to the Finals last summer. This year, he's already at work rewriting their ending.
By the time this month is over, everything will begin anew in Cleveland. All the hope and all the hype.
For Cleveland's Cavaliers and their superstar, LeBron James, the 2015-16 NBA season brings one glaring, inescapable fact, too. No Cleveland team, in any professional sport – not baseball’s Indians, not the NFL’s Browns, and certainly not the NBA’s Cavaliers – has won a championship since the Indians in 1954.
And for James, a local boy from nearby Akron who promised a title for the Cleveland faithful when he returned last season to all that pomp and expectations, the clock is ticking.
“We have no time to waste. I have no time to waste. We need to start right now,” James said as the Cavaliers began their preseason training camp in the Northeast Ohio town of Independence, just south of Cleveland. “It’s a process. But, at the same time, why wait?”
James, entering his 13th season in the NBA, is arguably still the best player in the league. Which makes the Cavaliers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, arguably still one of the favorites.
A lot can go right for the Cavs. All of it needs to be brought together, of course, which falls on David Blatt, the Israeli-American coach who's starting his second season with the Cavaliers. Blatt, a former head coach for the championship-winning Maccabi Tel Aviv team in Israel, joined Cleveland in June of 2014.
Blatt led his team through the playoffs, winning the Eastern Conference title in a sweep over Atlanta before the Cavs fell to the Warriors in six games in the Finals.
“I think we got very used to expectations from last year,” Blatt told reporters as preseason camp began. “We faced an awful lot of adversity. Without question, that made us stronger. And our final results showed that.”
Besides James, the sun that the entire team revolves around, the team returns two all-stars in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The Cavs have a big center in the 7-foot-1 Russian, Timofey Mozgov. Guards Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova (an Australian), all integral parts of the Cavs’ run to the finals last season, are back, too. And they add a couple potential key pieces in point guard Mo Williams, James’ running partner the first time he was in Cleveland (2003-2010) and veteran forward Richard Jefferson.
The Cavs still have questions, certainly. They’ll begin the season with Love recovering from shoulder surgery, Irving coming back from knee surgery, Anderson Varejao still hobbled from his Achilles tendon surgery and Shumpert out with a wrist injury. Forward Tristan Thompson, a ferocious rebounder and another critical part of the Cavs’ run last season, still has not signed.
On top of that, James – who began his career straight out of high school in 2003 – is 30 years old, with nearly 1,100 games of NBA mileage (counting playoffs) on his 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame. Blatt’s going to have to manage James' minutes carefully during the 82-game regular season to keep him fresh for the long, long playoff push.
If Blatt can do that, if the Cavs can get healthy and stay healthy, they may be able to bring something to Cleveland that the town hasn’t seen in more than 50 years.
“We obviously didn’t come into last year with the same feeling that we’re coming into this year, in terms of the continuity, and in terms of the enthusiasm of so many guys being back, and us being ahead of the curve … relative to last season,” Blatt said. “That brings a positive mentality and very positive light.”
It's exactly what the people of Cleveland are looking for.
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