Pressure is on for LeBron, Cavaliers
By PAT RALPH
College Contributor Network
No team can match the incredible offseason of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Go back to late May when this team had just won its third NBA Draft Lottery in four years and was preparing for another rebuild under new head coach David Blatt and general manager David Griffin. Now, fast forward a few months later and the Cavaliers are NBA title contenders.
Although Cleveland traded away its long-term future in No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves, in return the Cavaliers created a team that could be one of the best in the NBA for at least the next five seasons.
The Cavs have arguably the best trio in the NBA now with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving -- one that many believe could be better than James' former "Big Three" with the Miami Heat. To support James, veteran Shawn Marion brings a desperately needed defensive edge, while veterans Mike Miller and James Jones add instant offense off the bench and championship experience to a rather young squad. And who knows, maybe Ray Allen will be joining up later this month.
But as we draw closer to the new NBA season, the Cavaliers' honeymoon is just about over and the real work begins for the newest target in the NBA. While Cleveland's rebirth is seen by many as a feel-good story thanks to James' return home to Northeast Ohio, the pressure the Cavaliers have to win will now be immense.
When James penned his "I'm Coming Home" letter, he acknowledged the fact that his patience would be tested and that it would take some time to bring the Cavaliers from the cellar to championship contention. However, based on the events of the last two months, you can pretty much toss those claims out the window.
As was noted back when the letter came out, James oddly forgot to mention Wiggins as a player he looked forward to working with in Cleveland and we've recently learned that Wiggins and Bennett may never have been part of the plan. They were simply a means to an end – with that end being the acquisition of Love.
During his introductory press conference, Love stated what many assumed: the plan for him to come to Cleveland with James had been in the cards for some time. This was further confirmed when Love admitted that he received a call from James immediately after the swing-man announced his decision to return to Cleveland. Sorry Mr. Wiggins, but it looked as if Cleveland was only a summer pit stop on the way to Minnesota.
Most do not doubt Love's superstar talent and the incredible impact (offensively, at least) he will have on the Cavaliers. However, Love is entering the fire of being on a contender for the first time in his young NBA career. The last time he faced this much pressure in his basketball career came nearly seven years ago, when he was the star freshman of a UCLA Bruins team that went to the 2008 Final Four. Love should do very well playing alongside James and Irving, but we are going to learn a lot more about the type of player he is when the playoffs begin and the lights shine brightest.
Whether the Cavaliers bring home a title or absolutely crash and burn, the bulk of the pressure will rest with James himself because he is the composer of this symphony -- it's no secret to anyone that he is calling most of the shots on how this team is being built. LeBron may say the Cavs aren't close to a championship, but the truth is the championship window is open for the Cleveland Cavaliers right now.
It's time to see if this squad can put it all together and win a championship.
Pat Ralph is a junior at Villanova University. He has a passion for Philadelphia sports, especially the Phillies and Eagles. Follow him on Twitter: @Pat_Ralph