Wednesday, June 1, 2016

LeBron's time

LeBron James probably didn't see it as him piling on himself. Someone asked a question, he answered it.

"We're better built to start the Finals than we were last year," LBJ said the other day. "Doesn't matter who it's against. I mean, that's not a headline. It's obvious."

He's right. It is obvious.

It's also why there's more pressure on him to deliver now than there's ever been.

That's saying something when the subject is LeBron, perhaps the most scrutinized/deconstructed/psychoanalyzed player in NBA history. He is at once the greatest player of his generation, and (to some) an abject failure. And if he fails again to win in the Finals that begin tomorrow night -- and his Cavaliers are heavy underdogs to the defending-champion, 73-win Warriors -- he'll have both damaged the first part of his reputation and solidified the second.

There'll be no other way to play it if he goes to 2-5 lifetime in NBA Finals. Even if only once in his six previous Finals appearances you can legitimately say he failed.

All the other times -- including last year, when LeBron took on the Warriors virtually by himself -- he lost because there was no realistic way he was going to win. Not true this time.

That's because, again, he's right: This team was not only built to win in the Finals, it was built specifically to beat the Warriors. It's a team that was deliberately constructed to match the Splash Brothers 3-pointer for 3-pointer. It was deliberately constructed to be athletic enough and quick enough to hang with Golden State for 48 minutes. And LeBron deliberately paced himself this year to arrive at the Finals with fresh legs.

With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both healthy this year, and Channing Frye added late in the season to fatten the Cavaliers' cache of outside shooters, it's almost impossible not to think that if LeBron is ever going to get it done in Cleveland, now's the time. The stars are absolutely aligned.

A few things about that:

1. The Warriors are still better, particularly on the defensive end on the floor. And the best defensive teams, historically, are the ones that win the titles.

2. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are still better than Kyrie and whomever in the backcourt.

3. The Warriors, if it comes to that, still get Game 7 in the Oracle, where they lost only once in the regular season.

And last but not least:

4.  In their one regular-season meeting, the Warriors crushed the Cavaliers by 34 in January.
The Cavaliers scoff at that last, saying they're not only a different team than they were a year ago, they're a different team than they were in January. They also go into the Finals knowing they pushed the Warriors to six games last year with LeBron and basically no one else. So they've got that going for them.


I think LeBron's right. But I also think nothing ever remains static anywhere, which means the Warriors aren't the team they were a year ago, either. They're better.

And so: Warriors in seven.

The Blob is now open for rebuttal and/or ridicule.

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