LeBron James: ‘We’ve got a long way to go’

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Last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t match the Spurs’ level of execution in the fourth quarter and lost. Monday, it wasn’t even that close when the Golden State Warriors came to Cleveland and made the last three games of the 2015 Finals look competitive.

Games in January do not give us 100 percent clarity on games in June. Teams evolve. Rosters change. Things happen.

But while preaching calm after Monday’s ugly loss, LeBron James also admitted his Cleveland Cavaliers have a long way to go if they are going to win an NBA title this season. Here are his quotes, via Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today.

“Against the top teams you want to play well, and we haven’t done that,” James said. “We’re 0-3 versus the top two teams in the West. We’re 0-1 against the Bulls so far. We’ve got to play better basketball.

“We’ve got a long way to go. Tonight was an example of how far we’ve got to go to get to a championship level, and we’ve just got to continue to get better.”

These January games are just benchmarks — albeit very sobering ones for the Cavaliers. LeBron is doing the right thing to preach calm.

“It’s never as bad and it’s never as good as it may seem when you’re going through it,” James said. “Obviously, you want to play well and especially on a stage like this versus the defending champions. But for me as a leader of this ball club over the last six or seven years, I’ve always been even-keeled about wins and losses, especially at this juncture of the season.”

The Cavaliers are the third or fourth best team in the NBA (the latest PBT Power Rankings have them third, but if you have the Thunder ahead of them I can see that argument). They win games against the East because they are more talented — there is no team in the East that has shown an ability to challenge or push the Cavaliers. Teams such as Chicago and Toronto look good on paper but can’t stay healthy and can’t play well consistently enough to be a genuine threat.

Meaning the Cavaliers are destined for the NBA Finals (barring major injuries). If they’re in that dance, they have a chance. Yes, I’m telling you there’s a chance. But the past week showed it’s a slim one right now and unless the Cavaliers figure out how to better defend the pick-and-roll, put Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in better positions to succeed, improve their bench play, and a few other things, it’s hard to be optimistic about Cleveland getting a title this year. In terms of system and execution, the Warriors and Spurs are far ahead of the Cavs.

LeBron is right, the Cavaliers have work to do.