LeBron James knows what it’s like to enter an NBA season coming off a championship. This ain’t his first rodeo. In fact, it’s his fourth. For his Cavaliers teammates, however, this is uncharted territory.
How difficult is it to keep momentum and maintain your hunger after winning an NBA title?
“Well, it is difficult in the sense that when you’re hunting versus being the hunted, there’s a level of anxiety and chase that you live with,” three-time NBA champion and NBA-TV analyst Rick Fox said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “(It’s) a hunger to become a champion versus now you are a champion and everyone is patting you on the back for the whole summer and singing your praises, yet everyone has been off plotting and planning how to dethrone you. So sometimes you’re rudely awakened to the reality of that when the season starts and you get a sense that everyone night in and night out really (comes) to make a name – individually and collectively as a team – against your group, and that’s going to be the case for the Cavs. Everyone has measured them as the champions, they want to knock them off, and that’s added pressure, and there’s no days or nights off.”
The Cavs certainly didn’t take opening night off, beating the Knicks 117-88 in Cleveland. James recorded a triple-double – 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds – while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 52 points.
Golden State’s season-opener against the Spurs, meanwhile, was slightly less memorable. The Warriors trailed by 11 after the first quarter, by 18 at halftime and ultimately lost 129-100.
It was only one game, but it seems that what Golden State gained in top-heavy talent, it lost in depth. How does this year’s roster compare to last year’s roster?
“I’d start with the MVP in Steph Curry,” Fox said. “That’s a good starting point. Then when they add Klay Thompson and Draymond Green alongside of him, I have to feel like that’s enough of a core. And with Iguodala there, the MVP of the Finals there the year they won it, that’s a nice, strong group of players, veteran players, that understand what it takes to prepare yourself through an 82-game regular season and then go forward throughout the playoffs to finish off (a championship). They’ve accomplished that, but they’ve also felt the sting of how fragile a series can turn and how nothing is guaranteed. So right now, I have to think they’re as hungry as they can be – probably as hungry as they were when they chased the first championship. I’m looking forward to see how they respond to whatever adversity comes their way out of the gates. I’m sure when you lose Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa – these are four key players that made the Golden State Warriors who they were the last few years. That was depth that I don’t think one player in Kevin Durant can replace. But we know what Kevin Durant brings to the equation as well. So where they’ve gotten stronger, they also have to find support in their bench with young players that have to improve.”