CLEVELAND -- NBA on TNT commentator Charles Barkley recently said he expects the Cleveland Cavaliers to sweep their way through the Eastern Conference Playoffs on their way back to the NBA Finals for the second straight season.
Currently, the Cavaliers are one-third of the way to making Barkley’s words a reality, as they dispatched of the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, but as they prepare for the start of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, a team they swept in the East Finals last season, someone’s prediction is the last thing on the minds of the players.
“I hadn’t spoken to Barkley ever…in my life,” Cavaliers small forward Richard Jefferson said. “It means nothing. I’ve seen way too many guys get sensitive when Charles says something, so you can’t let him stroke your ego either.
“I’ve always thought it was funny when guys got upset when Shaq or Charles or Kenny (Smith) said something negative about them or said they weren’t playing good basketball or gave their opinion. You can’t take the good with the bad. We don’t pay attention to anything anybody says, what anybody writes, negative or positive. Thanks Charles, I appreciate that one.”
According to Jefferson, the Cavaliers do not talk about such predictions when preparing for an upcoming opponent.
“We don’t really discuss things that are said outside of our locker room,” Jefferson said. “There’s enough drama going on with everybody and everybody’s got their own personal issues, and we’re trying to win games.
“It does not help us on the floor because you could go to Atlanta right now, ask them and they could use it as motivation. If they’re using it as motivation and we’re using it to relax a little bit because people believe we’re playing at a high level, then it doesn’t do you any favors.”
Like Jefferson, fellow veteran small forward LeBron James does not pay any credence to opinions outside of the Cavaliers’ locker room, and knows his teammates better be prepared for a hard-fought series with the Hawks, especially after a closely contested battle with the Pistons.
“My only concern is how we can be well prepared for Monday night’s game,” James said. “That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if you can win 100 straight games versus somebody. If you lose four in a row, then you’re out of the playoffs. All of the things that happened in the past do not matter to our focus this week.
“Nothing is easy in the postseason. There’s too much work, both on the floor and mentally that you have to do to prepare for a playoff series. Understanding competition is going to be at its highest level, easy should never come into play when you talk about playoff basketball, or basketball in general at this level.”