Cavs prepare for season after finals loss


The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James heads to the bench with seconds remaining in the game against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The Warriors won, 105-97, to clinch the championship.

Initially, LeBron James was crushed. Now, he’s starting to get angry.

When the injury-plagued Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games in June, James openly questioned whether it was worth it to advance to the NBA Finals and fall short.

With a 2-4 record in championship series — Michael Jordan was 6-0 — the four-time league MVP reflected on those feelings Monday during the Cavs’ annual media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“Every year that you lose in the finals, it gets worse and worse to get over,” James said.

“Like I asked myself last year during the postseason, ‘Would I rather not even make the playoffs or would I rather lose in the finals?’This is a very valid question to myself. You get all the way back there and you lose?

“It’s like, ‘OK, I’d like to have those two months back. I could have been laying out, helping my body get better.’ It gets worse and worse every time. But for me, I will take all the pain that comes with competing for a championship.”

With Kevin Love (shoulder) and Anderson Varejao (Achilles) healthy and Kyrie Irving (knee) getting close — the three combined to play one game in the 2015 NBA Finals — James is now channeling his pain and disappointment into anger.

That’s what he did in Miami after the Heat lost the 2011 NBA Finals, and the result was back-to-back championships.

“When we came back (after losing in 2011), we were angry,” the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder said. “We were very, very, very angry. Everybody that we went against knew it when we came back.

“That whole year it was like there was no wait process,” he added. “We were like, ‘OK, we messed around and lost that one. But right now, don’t think about it. Let’s go out and play to the highest of our ability every single night.’”

The Cavs, who have seven exhibition games, 82 regular-season games and three playoff series to survive before they get back to the finals, plan on adopting a similar approach, regardless of who plays or doesn’t play.

After all, they have James, who has appeared in the last five NBA Finals.

“It all starts with the big guy, No. 23,” Love said.

Though Tristan Thompson is not yet in camp, the Cavs re-signed Love, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and James Jones while adding veterans Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson to an already powerful team.

On top of that, Varejao and Love are ready to go physically and Irving, who has been running for three weeks, is getting close, making Cleveland the class of the Eastern Conference.

“We made it to Game 6 of the finals last year with two of our five starters not out there,” Love said of himself and Irving. “We’re excited to get on the floor together.

“We’re a very, very close team,” he added. “That brotherhood, especially when we get on the floor (today), is going to take us to the next level.”

Asked if this season was championship or bust for the Cavs, a slimmer Love, sporting curly hair, a beard and mustache, said, “Whether we say it or not, a lot of people are going to say it.

“A championship is ideally going to be our goal,” he added. “We have all the pieces and the mentality, characteristics, whatever you want to call it.”

It will be up to second-year NBA coach David Blatt, as well as team trainers and doctors, to develop a plan that gives the Cavs a healthy opportunity to achieve that goal.

The 30-year-old James said he will be less “hard-headed” and accept playing fewer regular-season minutes as he prepares for his 13th year in the NBA, while Love, Irving and Varejao vowed to listen to their bodies and team trainers.

“I feel really good,” said Love, who dislocated his left shoulder in Game 4 of Cleveland’s first-round playoff series with Boston. “I’ll basically go off what the trainers and doctors tell me.”

Like Love, the oft-injured Varejao will likely be held out of some practices early. For that matter, the Cavs could adopt the San AntonioSpurs’ philosophy and hold some key players out of regular-season games.

“I’m able to go full-go from the beginning,” Varejao said. “Of course, we’re going to be smart and not overdo it.

“I wanted to be part of what was going on last year,” he added. “It was tough, but it’s a new season. All I can ask for is no more injuries.”

Irving, who had knee surgery after going down in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, probably won’t practice early in camp, but he’s been running for three weeks.

“I’m definitely progressing the way I want to,” the 23-year-old said. “There’s no set timetable or date I’m shooting for.”

Like Love and Varejao, Irving has a lengthy injury history. The fifth-year pro plans to play with more intelligence and cut down on unnecessary risks, but won’t stop aggressively driving to the basket when the opportunity is there.

“My finishing is what makes me who I am,” he said.

Irving, however, doesn’t plan on grinning after a successful foray to the hoop. He, James and the rest of the Cavs are out to complete a mission that fell one step short last season.

“There will be a lot more rage going out there,” Irving said. “There won’t be a lot of smiling.”