Tag: Kevin Love

LeBron James

LeBron James: Championship not a requirement of a great team


LeBron James played for a 66-win team. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron and his teammates proved it wasn’t a fluke the next season, winning 61 games. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a team many feared would destroy the NBA’s competitive balance. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron formed yet another super team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Didn’t win a title.

But – at least in LeBron’s eyes – that doesn’t mean those teams necessarily fell short of greatness.

LeBron, via Bleacher Report:

If you don’t know the history of the game, man, you’ll forget how many great teams didn’t win championships. And that doesn’t mean they wasn’t great, though.

LeBron was referring to the 2000 Western Conference finals. The eventual-NBA-champion Lakers beat the Trail Blazers in seven games. Portland – with a starting lineup of Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis – won 59 games and crushed the Jazz and Timberwolves before running into the Lakers.

I agree with LeBron’s premise. A team can be great without winning a title. Sometimes, a team just catches the wrong breaks, like playing in a season where there are multiple great teams.

Those Trail Blazers were borderline great, with both past and future success to support their consistency. They just ran into Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Nothing Portland could do about that.

But a title is an important consideration – the most important – when determining a team’s greatness. Personally, I think the 1999-00 Trail Blazers fall just short, but either argument is reasonable.

And for what it’s worth, I think all of LeBron’s title-less teams fall short of greatness for similar reasons, though last year’s Cavaliers played great between their midseason trades for Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith and the postseason injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Erik Spoelstra: Heat’s starting lineup needs time before it’ll succeed

Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons

Who has the NBA’s best starting lineup?

The Warriors (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut)?

The Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov)?

The Spurs (Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan)?

The Clippers (Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan)?

Take your pick between those four or other contenders like the Thunder, Rockets or Bulls.

But there’s one team that belongs in the discussion despite two oddities:

  • All five projected starters played for the team last season, but its projected starting lineup didn’t log a single minute together.
  • The team missed the playoffs.

Yup, the Heat with Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Bosh was sidelined for the rest of the season with blood clots just after Miami traded for Dragic. So, the lineup’s debut was postponed to this season.

On paper, the Heat have it all – offense and defense inside and out. They’re balanced, and nobody is playing out of position.

But Miami coach Erik Spoelstra cautions against expecting instant gratification.

Spoelstra, via Zach Lowe of Grantland:

“It’s not the kind of lineup where you can just throw it out there, and you know it will work,” Spoelstra says. “It’s going to take practice.”

The biggest question with the Heat’s top lineup is health, especially Wade. He’s 33 and has a history of knee problems. There are also questions about Whiteside’s ability to perform over a full season, Bosh’s rust and Deng’s longevity.

But those are all individual concerns.

Like I said, there’s a lot to like about this unit as a whole. The one area for caution is probably Dragic and Wade sharing ball-handling duties. Though they play different positions – Dragic point guard and Wade shooting guard – both are used to being the lead guard. That could take more time to sort out.

Mostly, though, I think Spoelstra is just trying to lower expectations. The less people think of a team, the more opportunity the coach has to impress (and the less blame he’ll take if the team falters).

Report: Kyrie Irving likely not back opening night, could be out until January

Kyrie Irving

LeBron James may be pumped about finally getting to play with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love again, but it looks like he is going to have to wait awhile.

The Cavaliers are going to be very cautious with Irving’s return from a fractured left kneecap, which required surgery. Understandably, we’re talking about a franchise player here. But instead of the original timetable of 3-4 months, the Cavaliers likely will not have him when the season tips off in late October, reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They may not even have him in 2015 period.

Multiple league sources say his rehabilitation is going smoothly, but that the chances are slim of him being in the opening-night lineup against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 27. One source said he could very well be unavailable up until January….

The Cavaliers want to bring him back slowly without risking a setback, with the goal of being at full strength entering the playoffs.

This isn’t just the exact right approach to take, it’s the only sane one to take.

Last season, when Irving, Love and LeBron were on the court together the Cavaliers outscored opponents by 13.6 points per 48 minutes with an offensive rating of 113.5 points per 100 possessions. After the All-Star break, they were +14.7 per 48 and did that with a defensive rating of 99.2 (points per 100 possessions allowed).

As much as Irving will push to get back on the court, the Cavaliers can go without him for an extended period — Mo Williams was brought in as a backup point guard and Matthew Dellaveova has re-signed — and still comfortably be a top seed in the East. Likely the top seed.

What matters starts in mid-April. Cleveland’s success next season is not going to be judged on regular season wins, it’s all about the playoffs. If healthy, anything less than a return trip to the Finals is a disappointment (and for some, it will take winning a ring to make them happy). Pushing Irving back for a game in November, which could lead to a compensation issue and pain or an injury that follows him through the season, makes no sense.

What the Cavaliers want is to be 100 percent healthy around the All-Star break and then pick up momentum into the postseason. If they can do that, watch out.