LeBron James says last year's title run hasn't lifted burden: 'I still can't sleep'
BOSTON — LeBron James does not like it when reporters ask him if things are “easy” for him. While the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar routinely makes dominance look simple, he generally wants people to know the incredible amount of dedication that he has put into his craft. James is consumed by the work of winning titles and chasing Jordan, and bringing a championship to Cleveland last season has not changed his approach. At Friday’s shootaround before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, James rejected the notion that going through the playoffs is any different as the defending champs.
“I think it’s the same process,” James said. “Since we all came together and this team has been formed, we wanted to compete for a championship. And this has been no [different]. That’s just the word every day. But we want to always follow the process and understand that you can’t shortcut the process. But our ultimate goal is to compete for a championship, and we’ve been able to put ourselves in a position to do that for the three years that we’ve been together. So that’s been pretty constant.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, however, said that last year’s comeback in the NBA Finals has made them more confident. They have experience digging themselves out of what seemed like the deepest hole imaginable, and now they can lean on that. In these playoffs, they are still undefeated.
“I think from a year ago, I just think of doing everything to try to win a championship, and then when you finally win a championship, you have that confidence, that championship swag I guess they call it, that you can overcome a lot of things,” Lue said. “Especially the way we did it last year. We have that confidence when things get tough, when things get hard, that we can pull through. Just having that confidence factor is big for us.”
Informed of his coach’s comment, James went another direction entirely.
“Well, we’ve always been a confident bunch, and we knew, I think, this season, our main thing was health,” James said. “We couldn’t get healthy. So we couldn’t understand or see exactly what team we could become because we couldn’t get healthy, we couldn’t get the lineups out there on the court, we couldn’t get the rhythm and the camaraderie on the court because coach had to go with so many different lineups and couldn’t really fully see what the roster was all about because of injuries. So being healthy at this point in the season really helps a lot.”
If Cleveland appears to be better than ever, then, James believes it is simply because it is whole — not at all because a burden has lifted and the team is at ease.
“No,” James said. “You can ask somebody else that. But no, not for me. I still can’t sleep.”
Last season, Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins described a restless James watching the Golden State Warriors play late at night and seething himself to sleep during the regular season. After Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors last summer, Jenkins reported that James started waking up at 5 a.m. so he could start his workouts by 6. That second story ended with Lue saying he hoped the championship would take away some pressure and James countering that he will “have peace when I’m done.”
James, obviously, is not done yet.