LeBron James is concerned about his Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff inexperience.
James, who made four consecutive NBA Finals trips with the Miami Heat from 2011-14, made his sentiments known to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin in an exclusive interview on April 19.
Expect a shrewd move like this by James to fire up his team.
McMenamin points out half of Cleveland’s main eight-man rotation “has zero playoff experience” as the team goes into its first-round series against the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics.
However, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving scored 30 points as the Cavaliers won Game 1, 113-100 on Sunday.
Don’t count on a Game 1 victory to quell all of James’ anxieties.
This is a long series. Anything can still happen. The Celtics are an inexperienced bunch themselves—their starting lineup (composed of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller) has combined for exactly 100 playoff appearances prior to Game 1 against Cleveland, per ESPN.com.
The only notable veteran on Boston’s roster is 13-year swingman Gerald Wallace, who is not expected to play extended minutes against the Cavaliers.
In sharp contrast, Cleveland has seven active players (LeBron James, Brendan Haywood, James Jones, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins and J.R. Smith) in its playoff roster who have at least 10 years of experience, per RealGM.com.
On paper, the Big 3 of James, Irving and Kevin Love seem to have the upper hand against Boston. They do. The second-seeded Cavaliers didn’t finish the regular season with a 53-29 (.646) win-loss record for nothing.
James told McMenamin he’s concerned about how his Cavaliers will gel come playoff time. Even if they have the advantage in terms of experience, they better be on their A-game if they want to get past the Celtics.
Once they do, James can heave a sigh of relief.
LeBron James Tells ESPN He’s Scared Of How The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Come Together In The Playoffs
LeBron James went straight to the point when he spoke with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on April 19.
He’s scared of how the 2014-15 version of the Cleveland Cavaliers will respond in the postseason.
However, James also told McMenamin he’s just as excited:
I think from top to bottom, we’re just a very balanced team and we have experience with youth, and I think that’s a great combination in the postseason.
One thing that scares me a little bit is just us coming together for the first time, our experience.
We have guys that have played experienced basketball, but then we have guys that we have to rely on a lot that haven’t played experienced basketball, and that’s Kevin Love, that’s Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson. So, that kind of scares me a little bit.
But at the same time it scares me, [there is a feeling] of excitement as well, and not much of failure.
I don’t fear failure in my teammates, but I fear just them never been a part of it. You can talk about the postseason. You can clip it. You can watch film.
But until you actually get there, that’s the only way you can really understand what it’s about it.
James also made no bones about Kevin Love being an integral part of the Cavaliers’ playoff success. He told ESPN “Kevin Love has to play at a high level” for Cleveland to advance in the postseason.
Love had yet to play in his first playoff game entering Game 1 against Boston. James told McMenamin he’s happy to be a part of Love’s first taste of the big stage in the NBA.
McMenamin then asked LBJ to comment on the Sports Illustrated essay he co-authored with Lee Jenkins in July 2014. In it, James says his return to the Cavaliers “will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010.”
James said the journey toward the Cavaliers’ first NBA title “is still going to be a long process” from the perspective of the playoff team they are now, per ESPN:
I’m very excited with the position that we’re in. I’m never pleased. I can never be pleased until the end result. And I’m never satisfied.
I demand excellence out of myself. I demand excellence out of the people around me. And so, I think the process is still going to be a a long process even though we’re in the position that we’re in today.
So, the expectations are a little bit changed now because we’ve played better basketball, but we’re still a first-year team coming together.
I wouldn’t put all the expectations on us on a first-year team that’s still learning each other every day—both on and off the floor. But it’s the postseason and we have a chance. And that’s all you can ask.
The Parting Shot
LeBron James sure is a humble superstar.
Based on his ESPN interview, he’s not one to say he can carry a team in the playoffs all by himself (although with his 28.0 points-per-game average in the postseason and two NBA championship rings with the Miami Heat, we all know he definitely could).
Instead, he says he’s concerned about how his Cleveland Cavaliers will come together as a unit in the playoffs.
As well as the Cavaliers did during the regular season, the playoffs are a much different experience. No easy baskets. Lots of physical play. Jawing, jawing and more jawing.
Of course James has to be concerned.
This is a much different Cavaliers squad from last year. There are a lot of new additions (Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones). Love and Irving are two inexperienced players in the postseason.
Their playoff chemistry remains largely untested. In the playoffs, expect to be tested every possible way.
However, this unit has what it takes to represent the East in the NBA Finals. James is correct when his team has the right blend of youth and experience. They also have a deep bench. The only major concern is if first-year Cavaliers head coach David Blatt will push the right buttons in the playoffs.
For now, Clevland’s 113-100 win over Boston on April 19 is a step in the right direction. In that game, the Big 3 of James, Irving and Love combined for 69 points.
As a parting shot, you can be sure James’ sit-down interview with McMenamin had an ulterior motive: Fire up the Cavaliers for the playoffs.
Based on the Game 1 outcome, maybe James’ teammates did watch the interview.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of April 20 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.