NBA Finals Preview
For the fifth year in a row, LeBron James will be going back to the NBA finals, but this time as a member of his hometown, Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the first player since the 1960s to accomplish this feat, as he adds to his already great legacy. Last season James and the Miami Heat fell in five games to the San Antonio Spurs, who were led by second year man Kawhi Leonard, who took home Finals MVP honors.
A month later, LeBron announced he would return to Cleveland and play for his hometown and the team who originally drafted him in 2003, the Cavaliers. In his first year back in Cleveland, he has taken a team that didn't make the playoffs in the four years he was in Miami, to the NBA finals. It will take everything James, and the Cavs have to win a ring, as they are going up against the team with the best record in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, led by the reigning NBA MVP, Steph Curry.
The Warriors came into this season with high expectations, and managed to exceed them en route to one of the most historic years in NBA history. Golden State won 67 games, just five games shy of the best single-season record of all time, which is held by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. Ironically enough, the sixth-man of that Bulls team that went on to win the NBA title, is Golden State's head coach, Steve Kerr.
Kerr spent many years as a broadcaster for the NBA after he retired from the game, but prior to this season was hired by the Golden State Warriors, and has had a tremendous start to his coaching career. With a roster as loaded as the one he inherited, Kerr was expected to be successful right away, but not many people expected such domination over the rest of the league.
Golden State is one of the deepest teams in the league, with guys like former all-stars, Andre Iguodala and David Lee coming off their bench. They also have a stacked starting five, led by Curry and fellow "splash brother" Klay Thompson. Curry, a fifth year pro out of Davidson, is widely considered the best shooter in the league, and showed this year that he can do a lot more than just shoot from behind the arc.The 27-year-old averaged 23.8 points a game, along with 7.7 assists a game, on his way to his first MVP award.
Thompson, a 6'7" guard out of Washington State, had an incredible year as Curry's sidekick. The sharpshooter put up 21.7 points a game, and had games where he looked unstoppable. In January, against Sacramento, Thompson broke the record for points in a quarter, scoring 37 and making all 14 shots he took, including nine three-pointers. Thompson though, may be presented the toughest task he will face in his NBA career, stopping arguably the best player on earth, LeBron James.
James had another great year, which is something we have become accustomed to seeing from "the King." He averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 assists, and 6 rebounds this season for Cleveland. He was joined by all-star point guard, Kyrie Irving, who is coming into this finals pretty banged up. At the beginning of the year, the Cavs had noticeable growing pains, and at times seemed to not have the chemistry of a championship team.
At times when the team was gelling, it was clear that they would be scary come playoff time, and pretty much walked through the Eastern conference. After losing former Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love to a shoulder injury in the first round of the playoffs, one could argue the Cavaliers are playing better than they have all season, with guys like J.R. Smith, and Tristin Thompson stepping up and playing great the past few weeks.
The Cavaliers are also led by a first-year coach in David Blatt. He had great success coaching in Europe, and is now heading to an NBA finals in his first season as an NBA head coach. At many different instances during the season, it was clear that Blatt and James did not agree on certain issues, whether it was how much Blatt was playing LeBron or the play calling. Whatever the problem was between the two, they have clearly figured out how to coexist, as they are four wins away from a championship.
The fun starts Thursday in Golden State, at 8 p.m. for game one of the 2015 NBA finals. LeBron James looks to capture his third title in five years and his first in Cleveland, while Steph Curry searches for his first ring as a pro. Cleveland fans will be hoping to get a professional sports championship for the first time since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship (pre-Super Bowl era). Warriors fans hoping this is the start of many championships with the loaded roster they currently have. One of the best teams of all time going against one of the greatest players of all time; this series has all the makings of a great finish to a great NBA season.