After a grueling and unexpected sweep of the NBA Finals in 2007, the Cavaliers will have a second shot at an NBA Championship. That’s due to the fact that Cleveland was able to sweep their way through the Atlanta Hawks with four consecutively convincing victories.
After the game, the Cavs ‘Big Three’ from Game 4 of LeBron James, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson, were called to the podium for their postgame press conference.
First off was James sounding off on what it felt like to reach another NBA Finals, this time with a city that hasn’t seen much success in Cleveland.
It’s very emotional to be back in this city. When I made my decision to come back here, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. It was going to be the toughest task for me to try to get this team back to the Finals. I knew I’d have to step up my leadership. I had to be very patient. Which, I’m not a very patient guy. But I’m glad to work on that. To be able to sit at one point in the season and see us at 19-20 and watch my team struggle with me sitting out two weeks. People saying I wanted Coach Blatt fired. Or that we needed another point guard. Or asking if LeBron and Kyrie would be able to play together. So many storylines were just happening at that point in time. For us to be sitting at this point today, being able to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals is special. It’s very special.
Things happen throughout the season and offseason that allowed us to acquire Kevin Love. And as the season started, Timofey Mzgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. It brought our team to a place where I felt we could compete. But I still thought I had to be very patient and lead the team. But we knew we had the pieces to compete. Where does it rank? It’s special because its today and tonight. To know how far we’ve come as a group and know how inexperienced we are as a group. Playing as a unit. Injuries here, transactions there, lineups here. It’s something we can be very proud of to this point.
LeBron continued talking about what this Finals appearance means for the city of Cleveland, especially after this video of David Blatt and LeBron James talking on the sideline:
“I’m a guy who believes in unfinished business. I understood what these people are going through. The people here, not only in Cleveland, but in Northeast Ohio and all over the world who love and bleed wine and gold. Also, I knew there were a couple of special guys here in Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving at the time, who could help me to get to where I’ve been before. But I knew I had to lead these guys. And if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place that they’ve never been before.
“Its a hard working city. If you work hard for the city, they work hard for you. They give everything back to you. We’re just trying to work hard for this city and they give it all back to us as you saw tonight with 20,000 plus fans.
“To Kyrie being out and banged up. We’ve had so many chapters that defined who we are. We haven’t got caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves. it doesn’t matter. As son as you’re out, next man up. When someone is not 100 percent, as a brother you pick that guy up. That’s what teamwork and trying to accomplish a dream is all about. Being able to sacrifice yourself and what you can do for the better of the team.”
Tristan Thompson spoke about his experience in his fourth year in the league, but his first in a winning season with the best player in the world in LeBron James.
“I was just happy to be a part of the team and have an opportunity to play with him. It just motivated me. The first thing I did was call the coach and get in the gym and get ready. Because I know how serious he is about being successful and doing something special here in Cleveland. All the guys are on the team wanted to get better. If you’re asking whether I thought we’d be here? It’s too far down the line. You approach it day by day and get better every day and put myself in a position to help this team be successful.”
J.R. Smith, the guy who was simply a throw-in in the Iman Shumpert trade in early January, has proved to be as valuable, if not more valuable than any wing player on the Cavs team not named LeBron james. He spoke about his rough journey in the NBA thus far and how the Cavs bench inspires him to play his best:
It’s great. Fortunately for me, in 11 years I’ve been every one of those guys. Somebody who never got in the game, somebody who’s come off the bench, somebody who started. Somebody who’s pretty much worn every hat on the court. For me, whenever I hit a shot and do what I do. When you see those guys cheering for us, it’s only right that we cheer for them. We always cheer for our teammates. We appreciate them because they come in every day and they make us better. To come in Every Day and see Brendan Haywood on the treadmill, see Joe and Delly in the gym getting shots up it makes you want to get better. If your 14th or 15th guys are like that, why can’t your first seven?
With the Cavs up 17, this was LeBron’s message to the Cavs at halftime:
“Get Joe Harris into the game. My message was to get Joe Harris into the game. And they answered the call.”
Late in the interview session, Smith was asked how much of a godsend it was to play with the team he’s with now.
“It’s unreal. I came out of the game and hugged coach and LeBron. Then I looked at Shump and I looked in his eyes. Seeing where we started from. My mom was on the court when all the confetti was coming down and she said “Talk about ‘started from the bottom and now we’re here.'” To be able to do this, it’s unreal. I’ve been in a worse situations. My prayers have been answered. I’m playing with the greatest player to ever play the game. And people that come in and enjoy what they do. They work hard at what they do, like Tristan and the rest of the guys. I’m in a great situation and I just want to take full advantage of everything I can at this point.”
LeBron James finished the postgame presser with what this victory and the possibility of a championship in Cleveland can do for a city that hadn’t seen a championship for over 51 years now.
“For myself, we all here know how long it’s been since a champion has been in this city. You can try to not focus on it. You can try to say it’s not about that. But we all know it. One thing we can guarantee as a team. Fifteen guys, the coaching staff, people that travel with us on the road whatever the case may be that work every day. We will give our best shot. no matter who comes out of the Western Conference. Golden State or Houston. We are going to give our best shot. The coaching staff is going to prepare us the best way we can. And I will as a leader have our guys ready. Win lose or draw, we will give our best shot. And that’s all I can ask of my teammates, that’s all I can ask out of my coaches. And I hope that everyone here understands that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to get to this point. It’s hard just to win an NBA game. The fact that we won three playoff series is very difficult. If you’ve never been in this situation, you don’t know how difficult it is when we talk about it. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt. If you never sweat or bled or been in an arena and had the dust go up on your face or been in battle, then you have no idea what it takes to be in the arena. For me as a leader, all I can do is lead these guys. Which I will do. The coaching staff will give us the greatest game plan we can to win against Houston or against Golden State. But as far as guarantees, I can not guarantee anything. I can’t guarantee a championship. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to lead. I will guarantee that we will play our asses off. From the first minute to minute 48 or if it’s overtime, 53. We will do that. And at the end of the night, that’s all I can ask for. It’s all we can give. But we will be in the Finals. I can guarantee that.”