NBA Eastern Conference preview: Cleveland Cavaliers not satisfied
LeBron James helped the Cavaliers make history last year, twice. But that doesn’t mean the best player of his generation is going to exhale.
“We’re not satisfied,” James said. “We’re not satisfied with just winning one championship. We’re not satisfied with just being successful. We want to continue to get better.”
The Cavaliers remain the East’s best team by far, and are primed to defend their title now that the band is back together, and at a record salary.
Holdout and ex-Knick J.R. Smith signed a four-year, $57 million contract 10 days before opening night. The Cavaliers have the most expensive starting lineup in NBA history.
Kyrie Irving, Smith, James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson will make around $100 million or roughly $26 million more than the Warriors’ starting five with Kevin Durant.
Owner Dan Gilbert is willing to pay the luxury tax after Cleveland became the first NBA team to erase a 3-1 deficit in the Finals and win a championship, capturing the city’s first professional sports title since 1964.
But if the Cavs stumble at all, you can count on trade rumors involving Love to spark up — and it wouldn’t be surprising if Carmelo Anthony is on the other end of those rumors.
Brad Stevens proved you can make the jump successfully from college to NBA coach. He guided the Celtics to 48 wins last year, and has earned rave reviews for his coaching acumen, play calling and getting the most out of his team.
Now the Celtics are expected to make another jump.
They added four-time All-Star Al Horford, who can spread the floor with his mid-range shooting, to play with explosive All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, and drafted athletic forward Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics could be a 50-win team this season, and still have the assets to make moves for players who could help them take another step and narrow the gap with the Cavaliers.
I’m coming home
Following in James’ footsteps from two years ago, Dwyane Wade stunned everyone and went home, leaving Miami to sign with Chicago. Other players who came home were Atlanta’s Dwight Howard, who bolted Houston to play for his hometown Hawks, and Joakim Noah. The ex-Bull from Hell’s Kitchen signed with the Knicks.
They also were among current and former All-Stars who switched teams during a very busy offseason.
Chicago traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks. Horford bolted Atlanta for Boston. Jeff Teague was dealt from Atlanta to Indiana, which also signed big man Al Jefferson. The Bulls inked Rajon Rondo, and Charlotte signed Roy Hibbert, whose All-Star days are behind him.
One-third of the East’s teams have new head coaches: the Knicks (Jeff Hornacek), Nets (Kenny Atkinson), Magic (Frank Vogel), Pacers (Nate McMillan) and Wizards (Scott Brooks).
Jason Kidd (Bucks) and Brett Brown (Sixers) could be coaches on the hot seat this season.