LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Life without LeBron James won’t be easy for the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers, who are expected to take a significant step back after their native son’s departure to California.
After carrying the Cavs to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including a memorable first championship win in 2016, James joined the Los Angeles Lakers to create a gaping hole in the team he left behind.
Yet James’ former team-mates are adamant that they can step up to fill the void.
Kevin Love thinks Cleveland are going to surprise a lot of people.
‘‘Losing the best player in the world, we’re going to have a fresh start,’’ Love said. ‘‘We have first- and second-year guys who have to make an impact, and then veteran guys who have playoff experience under their belt.’’
Tristan Thompson also believes any team underestimating the Cavs will be making a mistake.
‘‘We’re a playoff team. That’s realistic,’’ Thompson said after Cleveland suffered a 129-110 loss to Detroit on Friday.
‘‘Everyone that says playoffs is overachieving doesn’t know our squad and doesn’t believe in our squad. For us, we’re a playoff team.
‘‘We just have to go out there, be ourself and prove the naysayers wrong, which we will.’’
Maybe James simply outgrew the Cavaliers when he left the first time. But this time around Cavaliers’ fans aren’t burning jerseys for taking his talents to Hollywood.
Who can fault someone who brought the city its first title in 52 years, took them to the finals four straight seasons and built a school for special needs youth that will serve as a big part of James’ legacy for years to come.
Last season Cleveland pushed their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs before meeting the Golden State Warriors in the final.
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