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James makes Cavs better, now East more wide open

LeBron Speaks

NEW YORK (AP) - A word of caution to anyone anointing the Cleveland Cavaliers as the NBA favorites.

Yes, the Cavaliers are going to be good, no doubt. It's impossible not to be with the game's best player. But even LeBron James knows Cleveland has a lot of work to do.

"We're not ready right now. No way," he wrote in his first-person essay in Sports Illustrated.

Quite a different tone than when he arrived in Miami four years ago.

Quite a different situation, too.

While the player dominos continue to fall in place during free agency, James' decision has leveled the playing field even more in the up-for-grabs Eastern Conference.

And the battle should be very entertaining: James vs. the likes of Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Larry Bird.

Cleveland won't even be a sure thing within its own division where Bird's Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls have veteran squads that have played together for years.

And an NBA championship is surely no guarantee, not with the San Antonio Spurs possibly even stronger than the powerhouse that rolled through James and the Heat in the NBA Finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are potent, and the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers don't look far away.

So if Cleveland's a favorite, it may only be a sentimental one, for those wanting to see James lead his home team to a title that has eluded the city in all major sports for 50 years.

"We have to pull for the Cavaliers now," Charles Barkley said on NBA TV. "We have to pull for that team."

Some will, but it's going to be a challenge.

Toronto (Kyle Lowry) and Washington (Marcin Gortat) held on to key pieces from their up-and-coming squads. Brooklyn believes it has another year to contend if Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stick around, and the Knicks have been telling Carmelo Anthony they expect to be better if he returns.

Even James' old team could remain formidable with Chris Bosh sticking around and Dwyane Wade expected to do the same, setting up the potential for a wide-open Eastern Conference race that didn't exist while the Heat ruled it since 2011.

But in the hours after James announced he was trading Biscayne Bay for Lake Erie, it was hard not to get excited about the Cavs' possibilities.

"LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins have the potential to be a great 'Big 3,'" Hall of Famer Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.

His Lakers tussled with one of the best, the Celtics with Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Boston later had another championship trio with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and the Spurs' core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is the winningest postseason trio of them all.

It was those models that forced James to leave home in the first place, realizing he needed the help he found with Wade and Bosh. He boasted of "not two, not three, not four ..." titles upon his arrival, though he abandoned that chase to return to Ohio.

There's potential there. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star game last year, and Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Cavs' roster features a fourth No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, who struggled badly as a rookie last season but should benefit from a full offseason after he was sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery last summer.

But potential has gotten many coaches fired.

Oddsmakers, however, seemed convinced, many Las Vegas sports books making the Cavs a 4-1 favorite to win the championship. It will be the fifth straight season James' team is the preseason NBA favorite, according to RJ Bell, founder of the website Pregame.com.

The other team with them is the Spurs, who got Duncan to return and re-signed coach Gregg Popovich and key players Boris Diaw and Patty Mills to multiyear deals. If they can get Pau Gasol, who tweeted Friday that he's close to deciding on a team, it's hard to envision much drop-off from last season's 62 victories.

But the Spurs are always a sure thing. Things are more uncertain for James and his new team.

He knew he was on an instant title contender when he went to Miami. Even he realizes that may not be the case heading home.

The road to the Eastern Conference championship may no longer go through Miami. The question is whether it still goes through James.

"LeBron's still in the East," new Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "It still makes my job difficult."

Join the discussion

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jpetty831 July 12 2014 at 3:11 PM

Who cares? You would think he was important to the survival of the country. There are more compelling and important topics than LeBron James. Sorry.

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9 replies
arnold.smith2027 July 12 2014 at 6:28 PM

'Princess LeBron' is equal to that of Barry Obama, who cares. James doesn't even know how to teach his children college skills.

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4 replies
tbplayer44 July 12 2014 at 10:00 PM

I'm sorry, but it will take more than a Narcissist to bring the ring to Cleveland. He failed here before, and he will fail here again.

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2 replies
Eleanor tbplayer44 July 13 2014 at 10:20 AM


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Gary H Mayer tbplayer44 July 13 2014 at 7:07 PM

Also to bring Cleveland to the stature of much better cities, like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Omaha, Pittsburgh, etc. Cleveland is still a slum, except for the downtown area.

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R July 13 2014 at 2:29 PM

Am so tired of hearing about this guy. The numbers of people who don't care about him far out-number the ones who do.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
rwkwilliam July 13 2014 at 12:18 PM

Anybody that thinks James is the best has a screw lose.

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MAD_DAWG1 July 12 2014 at 3:10 PM


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1 reply
jdsept MAD_DAWG1 July 12 2014 at 4:48 PM

Odd that YOU never answered previous post that in every game in in the 2014 Finals, the refs NEVER called the Spurs for more fouls than they did the Heat but the refs favored the Heat? Cleveland is planning a parade for his return, are YOU going?

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1 reply
MAD_DAWG1 jdsept July 13 2014 at 11:57 AM


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itchy1958 July 13 2014 at 10:27 AM

The world is fire , and we are supposed to care about some overpaid ball player? Hey Lebron, why dont you and the rest of the overpaid, selfesh, self centered ,ball players, as well as all the overpaid, selfesf, self centered, members of the so called entertainment industry, get of your high horses for a change and put most of that money you dont deserve to good use for a change by contributing it back to the communities that need it most?

Put your man pants on for once in your lives and surender your egos long enough to create some real jobs for your people who are living in poverty and choose crime and drugs as a way out!

Do you bozos really need marble mansions and 10 sports cars and a truckload of hoes to make you happy? How about helping your fellow human beings who have so much less than you? Would that make you happy?

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1 reply
jdsept itchy1958 July 13 2014 at 3:14 PM

Lebron's job or any other jock or entertainer to create jobs? Lebron doesn't have any thing close to what Buffett and Gates have. There are many with way less than YOU but do we see YOU giving up YOUR computer and donating it the less fortunate? Don't care about YOUR fellow human beings? I love those that tell others what to do but don't themselves.

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shteinbe July 13 2014 at 2:46 PM

who cares about lebron james. 6.8 tall guy dunking a ball big deal who cares

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americanmusclen55 July 13 2014 at 3:39 PM

See I don't understand this. When he left they were mad at him, he left them, now he is coming back. This guy thinks he is the be all end all. I don't get this turnaround he left before.

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shalhoubalbert July 12 2014 at 2:22 PM

4 great years, but remember Happy wife Happy life. Good Luck Labron, except against the Heat.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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