The Cavaliers have made it to the NBA Finals, just as many expected the moment that LeBron James announced his return, and the deal to acquire Kevin Love via trade had been completed.
But James himself had his doubts.
LeBron was careful not to make the same elaborate championship promises that he did when leaving Cleveland the first time to join the Miami Heat. He was coming into a completely new situation, with a rookie NBA head coach and young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who, along with Love, had never experienced the postseason.
After the sweep of the Hawks was complete, and James had time to reflect on the accomplishment, he admitted that getting to the Finals in his first season with this club was something he never envisioned.
“To be at this point tonight sitting up here talking to you guys, like I said, it’s very emotional,” James said at the postgame podium. “Could I foresee this? At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t. I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season because I just knew that we just had to get better and I just saw how young we were and how young‑minded we were at that point in time. But I knew I had to lead these guys, and if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place where they haven’t been before.”
Look at all that’s happened since James signed on:
– Anderson Varejao was lost for the season due to injury.
– Dion Waiters was traded out of town.
– J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov were added via midseason trades.
– Kevin Love was lost for the remainder of the season in the first round of the playoffs.
– J.R. Smith was suspended for the first two games of the second round.
– Kyrie Irving missed two Conference Finals games with a knee injury — both of which were Cavaliers victories.
And there’s probably even more that could be mentioned.
James was right to doubt whether or not his goal could be accomplished with the team he joined in July. But the one that remains standing and will play in the Finals in June should be more than capable of competing with whoever comes out of the Western Conference.