LeBron says Warriors are “stacked better than us”

Should James leave the Cavs this summer, he explained why Thursday

Daryl Ruiter
June 07, 2018 - 4:52 pm
Cavs forward LeBron James speaks with reporters during the 2018 NBA Finals on June 7, 2018

Daryl Ruiter-92.3 The Fan

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – With the Cleveland Cavaliers sitting in an 0-3 hole in these Finals, the focus has already shifted to whether LeBron James is going to stay, or will he take on a quest to take down the mighty Golden State Warriors elsewhere.

James is driven to win championships, not conference titles.

Once the Warriors do the inevitable and finish off the Cavs, most likely as soon as Friday night, it’ll mark 3 times in 4 years they’ve beaten James with Cleveland.

“We've had an opportunity to win two of these games in this three-game series so far, and we haven't come up with it,” James said Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, from a talent perspective, if you're looking at Golden State from their top five best players to our top five players, you would say they're stacked better than us. Let's just speak truth.”

James wasn’t done. He detailed the advantages Golden State enjoys, that he currently does not with the Cavs.

“You've got two guys with MVPs on their team,” James said. “And then you've got a guy in Klay who could easily be on a team and carry a team, score 40 in a quarter before. And then you have Draymond, who is arguably one of the best defenders and minds we have in our game. So you have that crew. Then you add on a Finals MVP coming off the bench, a number one pick in Livingston and an All-Star in David West and whatever the case may be. So they have a lot of talent.

“We have a lot of talent as well. We've been in a position where we could win two out of these three games. So what do we have to do? Do we have to make more shots? Is it we have to have our minds into it a little bit more? Is it if there is a ball on the ground we can't reach for it but you've got to dive for it?

“The room for error versus a team like this is slim to none. And I think I said last night it's like playing the Patriots. It's like playing San Antonio. The room for error is slim to none. When you make mistakes they make you pay, because they're already more talented than you are but they also have the minds behind it, too, and they also have the championship DNA.”

And that’s where we get to this summer when James will almost assuredly opt out of his $35 million player option and become a free agent again, but unlike the previous 2 times he’s done this since his return, there’s a real possibility he’s as good as gone.

James had been signing short-term contracts not out of a lack of commitment to the Cavs or Cleveland but to maximize his value and earnings under the current collective bargaining agreement with a ballooning salary cap thanks to new league revenue.  

The Warriors’ dominance with the addition of Durant now forces James, who had one of the best regular seasons of his career and an historic postseason run in his 15th year in the league, to rethink his basketball legacy, which will ultimately be defined by championships.

It’s why he left the Cavs in 2010 to begin with and it'll be why he leaves again, should that be what he decides next month. 

“I felt like my first stint here I just didn't have the level of talent to compete versus the best teams in the NBA, let alone just Boston,” James said. “When you looked at (Rajon) Rondo and KG and Paul (Pierce) and Ray, you knew they were great basketball players. But not only great basketball players, you could see their minds were in it, too, when you were playing them. They were calling out sets. Rondo was calling out sets every time you come down. It was like, OK, this is bigger than basketball.

“So not only do you have to have the talent, you have to have the minds as well. I knew that my talent level here in Cleveland couldn't succeed getting past a Boston, getting past the San Antonios of the league or whatever the case may be.”

In Miami, James exercised the title demons by winning 2 of the 4 Finals with the Heat and he explained Thursday that when putting a team together, it’s not just about physical talent either.

“I played with D-Wade, I played with Bosh in the Olympics. I knew D-Wade for years. I knew their minds. I knew how they thought the game, more than just playing the game,” James said. “Obviously, we all knew their talent, but I knew their minds as well. So I linked up with them. We went to Miami. Got some other great minds in Mike Miller; UD (Udonis Haslem) is a great mind but also a competitor. And guys that were talents. You build that talent. That's what you want to try to do.”

What sold him on joining the Heat is also what brought him back to Cleveland in 2014.

“I knew Kyrie, having the talent, I wanted to try to build his mind up to fast track his mind because I felt like in order to win you've got to have talent, but you've got to be very cerebral too,” James said. “Listen, we're all NBA players. Everybody knows how to put the ball in the hoop. But who can think throughout the course of the game?

“So we come back here and we get the minds and we build a championship team. And then Golden State, because of Steph's injuries early on in his career and his contract situation, and then them drafting Draymond and drafting Klay and them being under the contracts they were in, allowed their franchise to go out to get K.D.

“So they win a championship. Then we play them and we come back from 3-1 and we beat them. But that was the best regular season -- probably the best team I had ever played against. They go 73-9, and then you add one of the best players that the NBA has ever seen.”

James is now 48 minutes from another Finals defeat, the sixth in 9 tries in his career, which now has James at a crossroads because the talent gap between the Warriors and Cavs is obvious and there’s a legitimate concern Cleveland can’t close it this summer.

Owner Dan Gilbert and James have mended fences to the point they have been able to work together the last 4 years. If it weren’t for James, Gilbert could easily be compared to Jimmy Haslam because coaches and GMs come and go almost as frequently for the Cavs as they do the Browns.

Gilbert also traded Kyrie Irving, who wanted out, to their conference rival and basically got a banged up All-Star, some scraps and a draft pick in return, yet James was still able to carry the franchise back to the Finals despite the roster being rebuilt again at the trade deadline.

But as we're finding out in these Finals, there's a limit to the burden that even James is capable of bearing. To beat the Warriors, the roster needs rebuilt again, and James knows it.

“Now everyone is trying to figure that out. How do you put together a group of talent but also a group of minds to be able to compete with Golden State, to be able to compete for a championship,” James said.  

Gilbert and the Cavs better have an answer soon or Friday night could be the last time he wears 23 in Cleveland because winning championships is what matters most and he was not put in a position to do that this year.

For James, that just isn't acceptable.