8. J.R. Smith, Reborn
When the Cavs traded for JR, not many people knew which kind of JR they were going to get. In the last few years on the Knicks, JR had become known for his inability to play defense and his lack of smart offensive playmaking. He was forced onto the Cavs by the Knicks, who required any team that wanted Iman Shumpert to also take on JR as part of the deal. The Cavs really wanted Shump, so they also nabbed JR. The Cavs hoped that playing under LeBron would enable JR to become a smarter player and play at a higher level. The gamble paid off, as JR was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and he played at a very high level. He became arguably the best 3 point shooter on the team, and had quite a few games where he just could not miss. He also stepped up his defensive efforts, overall showing that he deserves a spot on the team. The emergence of JR was definitely a surprise, as the Cavs expected Shump to contribute much more than JR.
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7. Identify Yourself
Literally from the moment the Cavs traded for JR, Mozgov, and Shump, the team’s identity suddenly changed. Coach Blatt immediately inserted JR and Mozgov into the starting lineup, and they played very well with LeBron, Kyrie, and KLove. There was instant chemistry with Mozgov and the big 3, as he knew where to expect passes in the paint and understood his role from day 1. JR returned to his roots as a deadly shooter, and the expert passing of the big 3 allowed him to get open more easily. This Cavs starting lineup went 40-5 in the second half of the regular season, which is insane. This was following a 19-20 start to the regular season, in which the team struggled mightily.
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6. Kyrie Production
With the return of LeBron, it was assumed that Kyrie’s efficiency would go up, with LeBron as the main facilitator. This was not the case at all, as Kyrie shot the ball at a very high level. He scored left and right, driving to the basket with ease. Kyrie played like a seasoned veteran, despite being only 22 years old. Kyrie twice scored more than 50 points, both times against playoff caliber teams in the Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs. It was not expected of him to score over 20 points per game, and it was not needed from him, but Kyrie delivered at a level that not many expected from him. This made the season all that much sweeter for fans.
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LeBron had sat out 7 games in a row due to rest, and during that time, the Cavs struggled. The Cavs also struggled prior to his rest, but the Cavs were struggling more than ever. Determined to get the Cavs back on track, LeBron returned, and the Cavs suddenly were winning games left and right. The trades that netted the Cavs JR, Shump, and Mozgov also contributed, as the Cavs had suddenly added 3 starting-caliber players to their roster. The Cavs went on a huge streak to end the season, 40-5, including a great 14-2 in the postseason prior to facing the Warriors in the Finals. The Cavs didn’t give up much (Dion Waiters, 2 first round picks), but got a lot in return. This is why the Cavs winning stretch was such a pleasant surprise.
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4. LeBron’s Will To Win
LeBron approached his return to Cleveland with a mentality that his patience would be tested. He would be playing with young guys, guys that had never played a playoff game. He understood that he was starting over from scratch, and that it would be difficult to make it deep into the playoffs. Despite this, he led the team throughout the season, never once with a sense of skepticism. Cavs fans hadn’t seen this side of LeBron before, and they loved it. This mainly came from his 4 years in Miami, in which LeBron became a more serious basketball player who strived for greatness. He learned how to put his foot down and play with a passion, which allowed him to win. He brought this back to the Cavs with the hopes of a championship for Northeast Ohio. Cavs fans could not be more excited.
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3. Baller/Rapper Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert has a very interesting hobby. He likes to rap. I’m sure most people have heard his song by now, “The Offs”, in which he sings about the Cavs playoff run. It’s a very straightforward song with just one verse, but he manages to mention every Cavs player in the verse, and it sounds pretty darn good. Shump played excellently on the court throughout the season, and his rapping was just another one of the plenty surprises he brought with him to Cleveland.
If you haven’t heard it yet, click below to listen to “The Offs” by Iman Shumpert.
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Rexwell Villas ·
2. Do It For the ‘Gram
LeBron and TT first began posting post-workout pictures on instagram and facebook in the summer of 2014, right after LeBron had announced his return. When the season started, these pictures grew to include Kyrie, Dion, KLove and later-on Shump and JR. In the playoffs, LeBron, TT, and Shump took multiple post-game pictures together, in which they purposely matched their outfits.
J.R. also posted many pictures in which he hashtagged #GreatTeamWin and #OnToTheNext. Also, after winning the East and advancing to the Playoffs, both Shump and JR posted videos of themselves with LeBron and Kyrie in the Jaccuzzi with Champagne, clearly celebrating their win. These videos were a nice surprise in addition to their play on the court, as it showed that the players had a special chemistry that existed both on and off the court.
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1. LeBron Ditching The Headband
It was just another ordinary game, this time in Dallas to face the Mavericks. Except it wasn’t. James donned the headband for 99.9% of his career up until that point. The Mavs game was the first where James decided not to wear the headband, and that trend continued until the playoffs. Fans around the world witnessed a change that was talked about for weeks with LeBron not playing with the headband. It would make a brief return in the playoffs when the Cavs faced the Bulls, but quickly disappeared for the rest of the season. Will LeBron bring it back next year?