CLEVELAND -- Veteran point guard Deron Williams joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent in March with one thing on his mind, making a deep playoff run and getting the chance to compete for an NBA Championship.
And after 12 years of waiting, Williams will have that opportunity, as the Cavaliers will take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, which get underway with Game 1 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, tonight.
“It hit me a little bit out on the court, man,” Williams said after the Eastern Conference Finals. “It was just exciting. It was just exciting. It’s kind of surreal, a surreal feeling even though we kind of expected to be here, but now that it’s actually happened, it’s a great feeling.
“It means a lot, man. It’s my first time after 12 years in the league. It’s one of those things where you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen, and you don’t know if it’s going to happen again. I just want to make the most out of this opportunity, enjoy it, soak it in and try to win a ring.”
If the journey could be made even sweeter, it has been for Williams, as his former Utah Jazz teammate, Kyle Korver, is also a member of the Cavaliers.
“It’s good, man,” Williams said. “We talked about that earlier. Who would’ve thought? Eight years ago was the last time we played together, and we’d be teaming up here of all places and having a chance to compete for a championship.”
Although Williams and Korver are making their first trip to the championship series, the Cavaliers are set to make their third straight appearance in the NBA Finals.
By winning the Eastern Conference Championship with a 135-102 Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden last Thursday night, the Cavaliers earned the right to face the three-time defending Western Conference Champion Warriors for the NBA title for the third straight season.
The rubber match between the Cavaliers and Warriors marks the first time in NBA history that the same two teams will play each other in The Finals in three consecutive seasons. The Warriors claimed the title over an injury-ravaged Cavaliers team in 2015, and in 2016, Cleveland made history when it overcame a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series to claim its first-ever league championship.
And while most “experts” and analysts have the Cavaliers listed as underdogs despite being the reigning champions, Williams is not about to buy into that line of thinking, not when he is this close to his first-ever NBA Championship.
“We’re just playing good basketball, a good brand of basketball,” Williams said. “When we lock in defensively, and then, we get out and push the pace, push the tempo on offense, it’s hard to stop us. I think that’s what we did throughout these playoffs.”