TORONTO: For all he has accomplished in a glistening career — two championships, four Most Valuable Player awards and two NBA Finals MVP trophies — there is one elusive milestone LeBron James has yet to grasp.
The best regular-season finish in his career was 66 wins, which he accomplished once with the Cavs and once with the Miami Heat. He’d like to make a run at 70 wins, which has only been done once. With the Golden State Warriors off to a historic start and the topic of 70 surfacing, James conceded he’d like to make a run at it, too.
“You’ve got to have talent, man. You gotta have talent. You gotta have talent. That’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “No matter if you’ve got the greatest system in the world, you gotta have talent to be able to equalize that and execute that. But I don’t know. It’d have been great to be on a team to win 70 games, it’s just another feat in your career.”
The Cavs certainly have talent, but a lot of it is currently wounded. If it sounds as if James has already punted on the idea of winning 70 games this season, it’s because he likely has. James has been irritated by the Cavs’ uneven start to the season and held a players-only meeting after Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, ESPN reported.
The loss dropped the Cavs to 11-4, still the best mark in the East, but they’re “only” on pace to win 60 games. Seventy already seems out of the question, which illustrates how difficult it is to do and why only the Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, were able to get there.
But the Warriors’ 16-0 start seems to be weighing heavily on other contenders around the league. James has already referenced once how the Warriors seem hungrier than the Cavs despite already winning a title. His good friend Chris Paul was equally frustrated Wednesday after his Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Utah Jazz, dropping the Clippers to 7-8 and the eighth seed in the West — although clearly it’s too early to start worrying about playoff rankings.
“We’re better than this. We haven’t ever been like this,” Paul said Wednesday. “We’ve got to fix it.”
That sounded similar to a frustrated James, who 2,500 miles away was lamenting the Cavs’ lack of physicality following the loss to the Raptors. Asked if they can fix it as a group, James said, “We have to. We’re not going to reach our goals until we do.”
Cavs players were unhappy with their defensive effort against the Raptors. David Blatt blamed fatigue on this injury-depleted roster, but James rejected that notion. They might possess the best record in the East while playing without three starters, but James has already gone to the whip before the holiday season even arrived.
Perhaps the Warriors have something to do with it, perhaps it’s simply his drive to win another championship. Perhaps it’s both.
The Warriors continue to dismantle the league as talk of 70 wins intensifies, but that lofty mark is already moot in Cleveland — frankly it was never really viable for a team with this many injuries. But the victories that matter most come in June.
“We’re a pretty good team, well coached,” James said. “We just have to continue to do better. It’s early in the season, but we’ll be all right.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.