OAKLAND -- Is it good for the NBA that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are representing their respective conference’s for the fourth consecutive season?
This was a common question asked on Finals Media Day 2018. It was also a question met with snarky remarks from both Warriors and Cavs players.
“Yeah, I think it's great,” Kevin Durant said. “I think it's great. You want me to elaborate?”
“I mean, it may not be as suspenseful as a lot of people want it to be or as drama filled, but that's what you've got movies and music for,” Durant continued.
Cleveland’s LeBron James had a similar reaction. First, he skated the question, telling reporters to, “Ask Adam Silver.” But when asked to expand on his answer, he gave a solid rebuttal.
“Teams have had their opportunities to beat the Cavs over the last four years, and teams have had the opportunities to beat the Warriors over the last four years,” James continues. “If you want to see somebody else in the postseason, then you got to beat them.”
The fact is, if you want to win a ring, you have to unseat one of two conference champions. So far, teams like the Rockets, Spurs, Raptors and Celtics have failed in their quest. So the Warriors and Cavs will do battle once again.
James is the star of the Cavs. He’s making his fourth straight Finals appearance with Cleveland and eighth straight overall. He’s set a new standard for greatness throughout his 15-year NBA career, but his performance in this year’s postseason run is one for the books.
Through the first 18 games of the playoffs, James has posted 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 41.3 minutes per game. At 33-years-old, he seems to be getting better.
Playing with one of the all-time greats is both a blessing and curse. James steals the spotlight, but he also faces the most criticism when the Cavs fall short. His teammates have flown under the radar, but against a team like the Warriors, it’s all hands on deck.
“Yeah, well, Michael had the Jordanaires,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Anytime you have a team that's led by somebody who is considered the greatest player of all time or one of them, there's going to be an interesting sort of dynamic with the teammates.”
Kerr might be an expert on this subject. He played alongside Michael Jordan on three straight championship teams in Chicago during the late 90’s and he earned another two rings playing with Tim Duncan in San Antonio in 1999 and 2003.
“You don't get to The Finals with one man, no matter how good that one man is,” Kerr added. “So we have great respect for the Cavs, their resiliency. The fact that they're here four years in a row. We know exactly how hard that is. So we're preparing for a lot more than just LeBron, that's for sure.”
Andre Iguodala is out for Game 1 and possibly longer, but the Warriors return to the Finals with most of their 2017 championship roster intact. It’s a star-studded group of starters with a bench that most teams in the league would envy.
For Cleveland, this is a season of change. They’ve rolled over eight of their 15 roster spots, including five additions that came after the 2018 calendar year began. Jeff Green, Cedi Osman and Jose Calderon joined up during the summer, but that was only the beginning of the makeover.
General Manager Kolby Altman understood his roster had holes and gambled in February. George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood have all played rotational minutes in the postseason after joining the Cavs at the deadline. Kendrick Perkins signed for the minimum in April for added depth.
“I think every season is different,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Every season you acquire new guys and have different guys in the rotation. You make trades. We have a different team, but our main focus the whole year was just to, by the time we get to the playoffs, playing our best basketball.”
James still has holdovers Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver from last season’s Eastern Conference title team. Bot overall, Golden State has to prepare for a very a different roster than the one they faced last season.
“I like to call this season the growing pains for me, just because you never really experience stuff like this, and this is the first year where we've had some major adversity,” Thompson said. “But we fought through, we fought through and dug deep. I'm just happy these guys are, you know, here with me to go to war.”
The Warriors come in heavy favorites to repeat as champs, but they’ll need to quickly adjust to the new additions surrounding James. It’s a tough and versatile group of veterans that compliment their leader well, despite having very little time together.
After falling in the 2017 Finals in five games, Cleveland had to reboot their roster. Did they make the right moves or is this just a replay of last season?
|Game 1||Oakland -- Thursday, May 31 at 6pm|
|Game 2||Oakland -- Sunday, June 3 at 5pm|
|Game 3||Cleveland -- Wednesday, June 6 at 6pm|
|Game 4||Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm|
|Game 5||Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm|
|Game 6||Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm|
|Game 7||Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm|