I abhor the universal “nothing matters but a championship” mindset. There was great joy in this NBA season — Russell Westbrook‘s relentlessness, James Harden‘s passing, the 31 games we got of Joel Embiid, and so much more — and the fact those teams did not win a title does not make them failures. If you truly love the game, it’s more than just wins and losses.
However, for a handful of teams every season, it’s fair to think title or bust. This season, the defending champion Cavaliers were one of them.
They’re not going to win a title. Cleveland’s season probably ends on Friday night with the indignity of a sweep. Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson laid out what the loss means in harsh terms, speaking to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
“I still do not feel like we’ve reached our potential,” Jefferson said Friday, after the team’s shootaround at their practice facility. “We’ve said it all along — it doesn’t matter if we lose in Game 7, what happens with tonight: If we don’t win a championship, then the season was unsuccessful. That’s it. It’s the same for them.
“It’s probably the same for three teams in this league every single year. And it’s true. If we don’t win a championship, it’s unsuccessful. Nobody would be surprised at the end of the day if before this series you said the Cavs won. No one would be surprised if someone said San Antonio won a championship at the beginning of the season. No one would be, like, mind blown.
“So for the three, four teams that are in that position, regardless of how it ends or whatever, if you don’t raise that banner the next year, then it was unsuccessful.”
He’s not wrong, the Cavaliers were right to be thinking repeat this season.
What’s going to be interesting is to see how the Cavaliers adapt their roster this summer to match the threat the Warriors present. Also interesting, will Jefferson come back for one more season? He’s under contract for next season at $2.5 million, but he can choose to just step aside and retire (these Finals have shown he still has something in the tank, he’s been one of the better Cavs bench players).