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LeBron: Struggles have made us stronger

LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers' recent successes have been a result of early-season struggles.
LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers' recent successes have been a result of early-season struggles.

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James is not much for talk. He is a man focused on actions, both on and off the court.

When the Chicago Bulls lost point guard Derrick Rose to a torn meniscus in his knee, the same one he injured last year, and the Miami Heat lost Chris Bosh for the balance of the year because of blood clots in his lungs, former Los Angeles Lakers point guard and National Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson tweeted his belief that the Cavaliers would be the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Although respectful of Johnson's contributions to the game, James knows there is much more work to be done before the Cavaliers can worry about making it to the NBA Finals.

"It means nothing, really," James said. "As a team, we have to go out and play. Words can only take you so far, no matter who they come from. You have to go out and produce. You have to go out and play. You have to focus on the details, and you have to work your habits every day.

"I never cared about what everybody thinks. It's not about what everybody else thinks. I don't watch sports talk or TV that talks about our team. Every time I see it, I turn it off. It means absolutely nothing. Once you're in-between those lines, all the talk doesn't matter.

"It's about who can go out, execute at a high level and win ballgames. I don't get involved with it. Some of the other guys are learning it, and hopefully, they can steer away from it too, but I don't really care about it too much."

Although others may believe Rose's injury opened the door for the Cavaliers, who recently pulled to within a half-game of the Bulls for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, James is more focused on his team, as well as the health of a competitor.

"My concern is heartfelt and hurt-felt for Derrick," James said. "To go through another injury like that, a guy that's worked extremely hard to get back to where he was this year, to see him when we played them before the break, that was the Derrick Rose of old that I know, the guy that attacked in transition who dunked the basketball on a backdoor cut in the first quarter, who was ultra-aggressive, and to know that his season has been taken away again because of injury, it doesn't help our game as a whole. What it does to the landscape of the East is not my concern."

The Cavaliers entered Friday's game at the Indiana Pacers winners of 18 of their previous 20 games, and those victories came after an early-January week where the team acquired shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks, as well as center Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets, James believes the recent success of the team stems from something different.

The Cavaliers suffered through a 19-20 start to the season and had to battle their way through the East, where they are now a top-four team and closing fast on the Bulls for the second spot in the conference.

"I don't think it was as quick as you guys believe it to be," James said. "I think the process over the first few months of us struggling had everything to do with us and how we're playing today. Obviously, the additions that we've had with Timofey, J.R. and Shump, and now Perk (Kendrick Perkins), will help us, but I think everything that we went through the first few months have put in a position to succeed at this point. Those guys have ­helped as well. They've come in with the right mindset. We've changed our mindset to understand how important each game is, and guys are learning that were already here before."