CLEVELAND -- Following a three-month offseason that saw the roster get overhauled in a major way, the Cleveland Cavaliers returned to Cleveland Clinic Courts earlier this week for the start of training camp ahead of the 2017-2018 season.
And when the players and coaches returned, they found their leader, small forward LeBron James, excited and ready to have some fun with his teammates.
“I just missed playing ball,” James said.
“The opportunity I have to lead a franchise again and take guys to measures they haven’t been before and myself to places I haven’t been before, that’s why I’ve been training as much as I have the last three months, so I’m just enjoying life. It’s just a wonderful time. It’s 90 in September in Cleveland. How could you not be happy?”
And if James was happy before the start of training camp, the addition of free-agent guard Dwyane Wade, one of his closest friends, will help even more.
While teaming with Wade in Miami, James averaged 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. Additionally, James shot 54.3 percent from the field, 36.9 percent from three-point range and 75.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Although James’ average points, assists and blocks were lower with the Heat than the Cavaliers, alongside Wade, he raised his shooting percentages from the field, three-point range and free-throw line while playing less minutes per game during regular-season games.
“I think it’s just that whole honesty thing,” James said of their successes together, both individually and as a team. “When you can be honest with somebody, no matter what’s going on, and your games translate, it works very easily.
“It’s just a brotherhood that we have.”
The Cavaliers’ reign at the top of the NBA came to an end with a 129-120 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2017 Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, back in June.
That means for the second time in three years, the Cavaliers fell short of their goal of an NBA Championship against the Warriors, but despite Golden State having a younger roster with players in their primes, James felt the front office shaped the roster with the goal of competing for a title.
And reshape the roster the Cavaliers did, by granting the trade request of point guard Kyrie Irving and sending him to the very team they beat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics, in exchange for forward Jae Crowder, guard Isaiah Thomas, center Ante Zizic and a pair of picks, including an unprotected first-round selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Regardless of how training camp plays out, James is confident the team once again will be in a position to contend for the NBA Championship.
“After the front office and those guys decide what’s going to happen with the 15-man roster or whatever the case may be, these are going to be the guys that we’re going to have,” James said. “These are the guys. These are the guys that you’ll probably see all year. It allows us to jell.”