CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James had to talk quietly in his postgame press conference following Tuesday night’s 120-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and it was not because he was sick.
James was hoarse because of the constant communication on both ends of the floor in order to acclimate four new teammates -- guards George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, as well as forward Larry Nance Jr. -- who were playing in just their second game with the Cavaliers following last week’s trades with the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings.
“I’m just trying to fast-track it,” James said of the development. “I’m trying to fast-track it and just help the guys on the floor because some of the things that we’re doing, they’re not used to, offensively and defensively, so my voice has to be heard.
“Some of the things, we could do on the fly with the guys that we had to start the season or in the past because we knew the schemes. Right now, I’m trying to fast-track it and make sure that the new guys are always hearing me behind them on the defensive end or offensively, they know where to go. I’m just trying to do my part and lead them the best way I can.”
James’ communication plan seemingly worked as three of the Cavaliers’ four newest additions scored at least 13 points in the victory over the Thunder.
Clarkson and Hood each tallied 14 points, while Nance added 13 and nine rebounds, along with two assists and three blocked shots.
With the Cavaliers holding a 108-100 lead with just 3:23 to play in the fourth quarter, Nance hustled after and batted out an offensive rebound toward the three-point line, where Clarkson caught the ball, and in one motion, buried the triple.
Hood converted four of his eight looks from three-point range in the victory.
“I’m not surprised,” James said. “We’ve seen it from the first walk-through, the first shootaround that we had before the Boston game, how fast they were able to pick up on things, but when the communication is early, loud and continuous, it allows them to be able to know what’s going on behind them. And even if they make a mistake, when you’re communicating, you can fly around and make up for it. It’s not surprising.”
With the victory over the Thunder, the Cavaliers improved to 34-22 on the season, and have now won four straight games for the first time since early December, when the team rattled off five consecutive wins.
And with the team continuing to jell heading into the break for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, James is doing what he can as a leader to keep up the “very good spirits” of the players and execute the “great game plans the coaching staff has created every night” in order for the Cavaliers to get back to the task at hand: piquing at the right time as to compete for an NBA Championship.
“I’m the leader of this team, and these guys look for me to lead them every night,” James said. “With the group that came in, they want me to be who I am, and it’s up to me to go out and do it, and that’s what I’ve been able to do as of late.”