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NBA Finals: Cavs, LeBron James left wondering about next year

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks at a

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks at a news conference after Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship. Credit: AP / Ben Margot

OAKLAND, Calif. — He was the first man to ever average a triple-double in the NBA Finals. In his 14th season at the age of 32, LeBron James averaged 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game, and all it got him was a Game 4 victory in a 4-1 series loss to the Warriors Monday night at Oracle Arena.

Any other season, those would have been Finals MVP numbers, and James likely would have added his fourth title in his eighth Finals appearance. But Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors’ All-Star cast as a free agent this season gave them the dose of kryptonite they needed to combat James’ super powers.

A year ago, James led the Cavs’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors for the title, but following Game 1, James said the Warriors are a different beast with Durant. After Durant topped the 30-point mark for the fifth time in the series to earn Finals MVP honors, all James could do was accept the loss gracefully and acknowledge Golden State as one of the greatest teams he’s seen.

“I have no reason to put my head down,” James said. “I have no reason to look back at what I could have done or shouldn’t have done or what I could have done better for the team. I left everything I had out on the floor every single game for five games in the Finals, and you come up short.

“Golden State is a worthy opponent, obviously the best team in our league the last three years, the best team this year, and they showcased that throughout (their 16-1) postseason. We were another opponent in their way.”

James described Durant as “one of the best players that this league has ever seen” and basically admitted that he’s going into the offseason wondering how the Cavaliers can combat these Warriors. Even if they meet for a fourth straight time in the Finals, will the Cavs have enough to compete?

“I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” James said. Speaking of the Warriors, he added “As far as that team, they’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. . . . From my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

James praised his teammates for overcoming an injury-plagued season and being able to “hit the switch” in time for the playoffs. They went 12-1 through the first three rounds.

While the confetti still was fresh, NBA pundits began speculating about who the Cavaliers might go after in free agency to catch up to the Warriors. One potential target is Pacers shooting guard Paul George.

Asked if he feels the necessary pieces are available on the market, James said, “I’m not in the front office, but I know our front office is going to try to put our franchise in a position where we can compete for a championship year in and year out.

“Teams and franchises are going to be trying to figure out ways that they can put personnel together to hopefully compete against this team. They’re assembled as good as you can assemble.”

Given James’ move from Cleveland earlier in his career to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to win his first two NBA titles before returning to the Cavs to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for his third, he was asked if he’s a fan of the “super team” concept. Interestingly, James said, “I don’t believe I’ve played for a super team.”

But from the sound of it, James seemed pretty certain he had just faced a “super team” and didn’t enjoy the experience.


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