LeBron James compares patience required to lead Cavaliers to patience necessary with his first child


When LeBron James called teaching the Cavaliers the biggest challenge of his career, it sounded haughty.

But wait until you get a load of this.

LeBron in an interview with Rachel Nichols of CNN that will air Saturday:

“You know, in Miami, it was myself and D. Wade.  We shared that leadership. And I knew coming here that I would have to be the sole leader. I knew one thing that I knew I had to work on — and I’m always working on every day—is my patience… So I almost had to go back to having my first child, and understanding, ‘Okay, this is a kid.  And they have to learn.  And you have to be patient with them.  And then at some point, they’ll start to get it.’”

LeBron is the Cavaliers’ leader. There’s nothing wrong with him drawing on his experiences in and out of basketball to better handle that role. It’s helpful.

But do his teammates really enjoy hearing this comparison?

Does Kyrie Irving, who already explained why LeBron wasn’t a father figure to him? Does Kevin Love, who seems to take himself pretty seriously (and, as might have heard, can become a free agent this summer)? Does anyone?

These guys aren’t as good as LeBron, but they’re all grown men. They’ve all put in a ton of work to get where they are today.

I doubt they like being publicly compared to children. I also doubt they’ll do anything about it. The task at hand in the NBA Finals is too great to address petty squabbles now, and when you can play with LeBron, the good outweighs the bad.

Remember how bad the Cavaliers were just a few months ago? No NBA champion was worse


The Cavaliers have been historically bad in the years preceding their run to the NBA Finals.

But even this season – once they had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – they got off to to a tumultuous start.

David Blatt ripped the team after an opening loss to the Knicks. As Cleveland continued to struggle, LeBron blamed others. He blamed himself. Blatt criticized LeBron. Outsiders criticized Blatt. The Cavs hit rock bottom. Questions emerged about Blatt’s job security.

It appeared unlikely Cleveland, which sunk to 19-20, could get on track quickly enough to do serious damage this season.

As late as Jan. 23, when they were 23-20, the Cavaliers had a worse record than any NBA champion through so many games.

Here’s how Cleveland’s win total (wine) compares with the worst record by an NBA champion through each game (gold):


Here are the NBA champions with the worst record through each game:

Through games Team Record
82 1978 Washington Bullets 44-38
81 1978 Washington Bullets 43-38
80 1978 Washington Bullets 43-37
79 1978 Washington Bullets 42-37
78 1978 Washington Bullets 41-37
77 1978 Washington Bullets 41-36
76 1978 Washington Bullets 41-35
75 1978 Washington Bullets 40-35
74 1978 Washington Bullets 40-34
73 1978 Washington Bullets 40-33
72 1978 Washington Bullets 39-33
71 1978 Washington Bullets 38-33
70 1978 Washington Bullets 37-33
69 1978 Washington Bullets 36-33
68 1978 Washington Bullets 36-32
67 1978 Washington Bullets 36-31
66 1978 Washington Bullets 36-30
65 1978 Washington Bullets 35-30
64 1978 Washington Bullets 35-29
63 1978 Washington Bullets 34-29
62 1978 Washington Bullets 33-29
61 1978 Washington Bullets 32-29
60 1978 Washington Bullets 31-29
59 1978 Washington Bullets 31-28
58 1978 Washington Bullets 30-28
57 1978 Washington Bullets 29-28
56 1978 Washington Bullets 29-27
55 1978 Washington Bullets 28-27
54 1978 Washington Bullets 28-26
53 1978 Washington Bullets 27-26
52 1978 Washington Bullets 27-25
51 1978 Washington Bullets 27-24
50 1978 Washington Bullets 26-24
49 1955 Syracuse Nationals 26-23
49 1978 Washington Bullets 26-23
48 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-23
47 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-22
46 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-21
45 1978 Washington Bullets 25-20
45 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-20
44 1978 Washington Bullets 24-20
43 1955 Syracuse Nationals 24-19
43 1948 Baltimore Bullets 24-19
43 1978 Washington Bullets 24-19
42 1955 Syracuse Nationals 23-19
42 1948 Baltimore Bullets 23-19
41 1948 Baltimore Bullets 23-18
41 1955 Syracuse Nationals 23-18
40 1948 Baltimore Bullets 22-18
39 1948 Baltimore Bullets 21-18
38 1955 Syracuse Nationals 21-17
38 1948 Baltimore Bullets 21-17
37 1955 Syracuse Nationals 20-17
36 1955 Syracuse Nationals 19-17
35 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 19-16
35 1955 Syracuse Nationals 19-16
34 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 18-16
33 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 18-15
33 1955 Syracuse Nationals 18-15
33 1948 Baltimore Bullets 18-15
32 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 17-15
31 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 16-15
30 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 16-14
30 1948 Baltimore Bullets 16-14
29 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 15-14
28 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 15-13
28 1948 Baltimore Bullets 15-13
27 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-13
26 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-12
25 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-11
25 2006 Miami Heat 14-11
25 1955 Syracuse Nationals 14-11
24 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 13-11
23 2006 Miami Heat 13-10
23 1951 Rochester Royals 13-10
23 1990 Detroit Pistons 13-10
23 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 13-10
22 2006 Miami Heat 12-10
22 1951 Rochester Royals 12-10
21 2006 Miami Heat 11-10
20 2006 Miami Heat 10-10
19 2006 Miami Heat 10-9
18 1999 San Antonio Spurs 10-8
18 1951 Rochester Royals 10-8
18 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 10-8
18 2006 Miami Heat 10-8
17 1999 San Antonio Spurs 9-8
17 1951 Rochester Royals 9-8
17 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 9-8
16 1999 San Antonio Spurs 8-8
16 1951 Rochester Royals 8-8
15 1999 San Antonio Spurs 7-8
15 1951 Rochester Royals 7-8
14 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-8
13 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-7
13 1951 Rochester Royals 6-7
12 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-6
12 1991 Chicago Bulls 6-6
12 1978 Washington Bullets 6-6
12 1951 Rochester Royals 6-6
11 1978 Washington Bullets 5-6
11 1951 Rochester Royals 5-6
11 1999 San Antonio Spurs 5-6
11 1991 Chicago Bulls 5-6
10 1951 Rochester Royals 4-6
10 1978 Washington Bullets 4-6
9 1951 Rochester Royals 3-6
8 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 3-5
8 1978 Washington Bullets 3-5
8 1951 Rochester Royals 3-5
7 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 3-4
7 1978 Washington Bullets 3-4
7 1955 Syracuse Nationals 3-4
7 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 3-4
7 1951 Rochester Royals 3-4
7 1949 Minneapolis Lakers 3-4
7 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 3-4
6 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 2-4
6 1978 Washington Bullets 2-4
6 1955 Syracuse Nationals 2-4
5 1991 Chicago Bulls 2-3
5 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 2-3
5 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 2-3
5 1978 Washington Bullets 2-3
5 1958 St. Louis Hawks 2-3
5 2006 Miami Heat 2-3
5 1999 San Antonio Spurs 2-3
5 1966 Boston Celtics 2-3
5 1959 Boston Celtics 2-3
5 1955 Syracuse Nationals 2-3
5 1952 Minneapolis Lakers 2-3
4 1991 Chicago Bulls 1-3
4 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 1-3
4 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 1-3
4 1978 Washington Bullets 1-3
4 1958 St. Louis Hawks 1-3
3 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-3
2 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-2
2 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 0-2
2 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 0-2
2 1958 St. Louis Hawks 0-2
2 1955 Syracuse Nationals 0-2
2 1954 Minneapolis Lakers 0-2
1 2004 Detroit Pistons 0-1
1 1998 Chicago Bulls 0-1
1 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-1
1 1987 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1986 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1984 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1975 Golden State Warriors 0-1
1 1959 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1958 St. Louis Hawks 0-1
1 1956 Philadelphia Warriors 0-1
1 1955 Syracuse Nationals 0-1
1 1954 Minneapolis Lakers 0-1
1 1948 Baltimore Bullets 0-1

The Cavaliers transformed themselves by trading for Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.

Whether or not they win the title, it’s already been a heck of a turnaround.

PBT Finals prediction post, not all of us pick Golden State


Finally, the NBA Finals are about to tip off.

And we got the matchup most people wanted to see — Golden State vs. Cleveland. LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry. The best player vs. the best team.

It’s prediction time. Here are the calls from the PBT staff.

Kurt Helin: Warriors in six.

Maybe there is a path for the Cavaliers to the title, but their margin for error is gone. Their defense has been better these playoffs but no team has truly tested them and made them move laterally yet (the Hawks only did it for short spurts). That is about to change, and I’m not sure the Cavaliers pass that test. The key for Golden State is their depth — they can keep throwing fresh defenders at LeBron James in the form of Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and even Klay Thompson for short spurts. Nobody stops LeBron, but they will make him take more jumpers. Will he get enough help from a hobbled Kyrie Irving and friends? I don’t see it.

Brett Pollakoff: Cavaliers in six.

Cleveland is almost a 2-1 underdog to win the series in the eyes of oddsmakers, and with good reason. The Warriors have been dominant in the largest sample size possible, winning 67 games during the regular season, cruising through what was supposed to be a difficult Western Conference in the playoffs, and doing it with the league’s best defense and perhaps its greatest shooter of all time. But I really like the way the Cavaliers have come together this postseason. They seem to be peaking at just the right time, and I believe they have the personnel to challenge the Warriors in every way possible, with LeBron James ultimately being the difference.

Dan Feldman: Warriors in six.

The Warriors have been the NBA’s best team all season. They play dominant defense, and they excel offensively. They’re the complete package. LeBron James is great, but not great enough for this challenge — especially with Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving hobbled.

Sean Highkin: Warriors in five.

Assuming Klay Thompson is good to go, the Warriors have a significant health advantage over the Cavaliers. They’re also one of a small handful of teams that actually has the personnel to effectively guard LeBron James. The Cavs have no idea whether Kyrie Irving is going to be healthy, and even if he is, who do they hide him on defensively? There isn’t a weak link in the Warriors’ starting five offensively, and it’s tough to see the Cavs’ defense keeping up its strong performance against an offensive attack this much better than anyone they played in the first three rounds.

How the Warriors and Cavaliers built championship contenders so quickly


Kyrie Irving reportedly wanted Harrison Barnes. So did many Cleveland fans. The Cavaliers leaked they did, too.

The Warriors indicated they wanted Dion Waiters.

The Cavaliers drafted Waiters – who shut down workouts (before visiting Cleveland) and then shot up draft boards – No. 4 in the 2012 NBA draft. They either played into Golden State’s gamesmanship or poached the player the Warriors really wanted. Golden State took Barnes No. 7.

Three years later, the Warriors and Cavaliers are no longer sparring in the lottery. They meet in the NBA Finals – hoping to become the first team in seven years to jump from outside the playoffs to a championship so quickly.

Cleveland had the worst-ever four years preceding a conference-finals appearance, let alone the worst lead-up to a conference – or even NBA – title. Before its turnaround that begun in 2012, Golden State made the playoffs just once in 18 years.

How did these downtrodden franchises change their fortunes?

The Warriors have made the most of their opportunities. The Cavaliers have made the most most opportunities.

For Cleveland, everything starts with LeBron James.

When the Cavaliers drafted him in 2003, he immediately set them on a track toward title contention. They never reached the pinnacle, and those hopes exploded in flames of burning jerseys when he left for the Heat in 2010.

But Cleveland immediately began preparing to maximize its next championship window – whenever that might be.

They signed-and-traded LeBron for two first-round picks, the right to swap another first-rounder with Miami and two second-rounders. They accepted Baron Davis’ burdensome contract in exchange for the Clippers’ unprotected first-round pick. They dealt J.J. Hickson to the Kings for Omri Casspi and another first-round pick. They traded Ramon Sessions to the Lakers for a first-rounder and the right to swap future fist-rounders. They helped the Grizzles escape the luxury tax by taking Marreese Speights – and yet another first-round pick as bounty.

Some of those picks have been squandered. The Sacramento pick (which still has not been conveyed) went to Chicago for Luol Deng, who didn’t help Cleveland get anywhere before bolting in free agency.

But others have proven instrumental. The Clippers’ pick won the lottery, sending Kyrie Irving to the Cavaliers. They also had their own pick after a poor season, which resulted in Tristan Thompson.

Infamously, that wasn’t the end of the Cavs’ lottery luck. They won again in 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2014 (Andrew Wiggins). In their lone non-lucky lottery since LeBron left, they picked up Waiters.

Essentially, the idea was accumulating assets while the team was bad and then cashing in on them when it became good. The lottery helped immensely, but the underlying plan was sound.

Paying Davis and Speights didn’t bother Cleveland at the time. Spending that money on better players wouldn’t have been enough to make the Cavaliers good, anyway.

Now, every roster upgrade matters, and the Cavaliers have shifted gears.

They sent away Tyler Zeller (acquired with accumulated draft picks in the first place) and another first-rounder to dump Jarrett Jack, clearing the cap space to sign LeBron. They dealt Wiggins, Bennett and a first-rounder acquired in the LeBron sign-and-trade to get Kevin Love. They used Waiters to acquire J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. That deal came with a Thunder first-round pick, which Cleveland packaged with that Memphis first-rounder to get Timofey Mozgov.

The Cavaliers have built a complete team very quickly because they and luck positioned them so strongly entering last summer. I’m sure LeBron wanted to return home, but I doubt he would have signed with Cleveland if its collection of assets weren’t so impressive.

The Cavaliers made plenty of missteps along the way, but they and lottery luck afforded themselves that imperfection.

The Warriors, on the other hand, didn’t have such room for error. They needed to – and did – operate much more shrewdly.

Golden State also relied on fortune – not of lottery luck, but health.

The Warriors traded Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut in 2012 – a highly controversial deal at the time – and Bogut didn’t play the rest of that season. Curry was also done for the year due to an ankle injury.

Golden State was essentially building around two injured players.

And it couldn’t have worked any better.

Bogut and Curry got healthy, but not before the Warriors tanked their way into keeping their top-seven protected 2012 first-rounder and Curry agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract extension.

Barnes became that pick, and Curry’s bargain extension gave Golden State a ton of flexibility to upgrade the rest of the roster. So did the team’s best 2012 draft pick – second-rounder Draymond Green, who like most second-rounders, signed for near the minimum.

The Warriors used some of that flexibility (necessarily furthered by a salary dump on the Jazz) to sign Andre Iguodala in 2013 and add Shaun Livingston last year.

They also took a huge risk – firing Mark Jackson, who’d helped the team escape its decades-long rut, and hiring first-time coach Steve Kerr. Of course, it has worked beautifully. Green, Barnes and Klay Thompson have blossomed this season, and the team is clicking on both ends of the court.

This is the culmination of Golden State’s plan, but the road gets more difficult from here.

Green becomes a restricted free agent this summer, and he’ll surely command a max contract. That would take the Warriors into the luxury tax, so they’ll have to pay big to keep this group together.

Likewise, the Cavaliers are running out of future assets to trade in for immediate help. They also have the urgent task of keeping Love, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Both franchises face difficult decisions in the years ahead.

But title windows are difficult to crack ajar, let alone prop open for extend periods of time.

Golden State and Cleveland have done both. Whatever happens in the Finals, these teams should remain in contention for the next few years.

And to think, not long ago, they were trying to misdirect each other about selecting Dion Waiters high in the draft.

Why Tristan Thompson has worked so well for Cavaliers during run to NBA Finals


Tristan Thompson had been a fine member of the reserve unit for the Cavaliers all season long, providing a steady amount of defense and rebounding anytime his number was called.

But since being inserted into the starting lineup during the playoffs, he’s turbocharged a Cleveland team that absolutely tore through the Eastern Conference on their way to the NBA Finals.

Once Kevin Love was ruled out for the season after the injury he suffered in Game 4 of the first round matchup with the Celtics, Thompson was immediately given a starter’s share of the minutes. He brings a very different dynamic to the team than Love does, and it’s why Cleveland has looked so dominant since Thompson was pressed into providing a heavier level of service.

From NBA.com’s SportVU Finals preview:

Offensive rebounding has been huge for the Cavaliers this postseason, as they’ve averaged 12.1 offensive rebounds per game this postseason, compared to 11.1 in the regular season. Tristan Thompson has been huge in generating these second chance opportunities, as he’s averaged 4.0 offensive rebounds per game this post season.


The reason Thompson has been so impactful is because of just how much focus he puts into rebounding on seemingly every possession, and the numbers above show just how involved he’s been with such a high number of his team’s overall rebounding chances. As for his abilities on the offensive glass specifically, take a look at this play from Cleveland’s Game 3 win over the Hawks:

Notice how Thompson’s natural inclination, before the offense is even initiated, is to lurk along the baseline. Love is more relied upon for his offense, and is rarely if ever just hanging around under the basket, looking to secure rebounding position as things begin to develop.

The same is true as Thompson comes up to set a screen for Kyrie Irving. When Love does this, he pops out the majority of the time, in order to be in position for a jumper or three-point shot in the event the ball-handler decides to pass. Thompson will almost always roll toward the basket — sometimes, that can result in his being able to convert an alley-oop pass, but what’s more important is his getting closer to the rim to give himself the best chance of rebounding in the event of a missed shot.

Once the shot goes up, watch the way Thompson relentlessly battles Mike Muscala for the rebound, even though he doesn’t have the inside position. This is what Thompson does so well, and has been doing so consistently in these playoffs: Offensive rebounding is what Thompson is looking to do on every one of his team’s possessions.

When you go back through Love’s offensive rebounds, the fight is something that’s rarely seen, and most of them come to him on friendly bounces, or when he’s in a favorable position to be able to follow his own shot. It’s just not something that’s regularly on his mind.

This is not meant to slander Love’s ability, or his relative level of importance to the Cavaliers when he was healthy. Thompson simply provides a different skill set than Love does, but it’s arguably one that’s better-suited to his team’s overall needs.

Thompson has averaged 11.44 rebounds per game in nine appearances since replacing Love as a starter, and the Cavaliers are 8-1 in those contests. LeBron James, of course, has plenty to do with the team’s success during that span. But the way Thompson has elevated his game has made a huge difference, and the style Cleveland is playing at this very moment has the team primed for success in its matchup against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.