INDEPENDENCE: Returning to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year allowed Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving to reflect on the good — winning last year — and the bad.
For those who forgot in the championship euphoria the Cavs and Northeast Ohio experienced last year, the team also had a legitimate shot in 2015 to win a championship before injuries took two humongous bites out of its roster.
The first came in the first round of the playoffs when the Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk yanked Kevin Love’s shoulder out of its socket. The second came in Game 1 of the Finals when Irving’s left knee collided with Klay Thompson and fractured.
Irving had been in and out of the lineup after being diagnosed with tendinitis in the knee.
“I was as ready as I could be for Game 1 of the 2015 Finals,” Irving said. “I did everything possible to put myself in a position to feel at least as close to 80 percent, or as close to 90 percent as I could going into that game, knowing the possibility that I could further injure my knee.”
In an interview after the injury, Irving said the knee wasn’t susceptible to further injury.
“My knee in terms of the stability was great,” he said. “Obviously there was a risk going out there playing anyway, no matter what. But in terms of everything that was inside of my knee stability-wise, everything was fine.”
Irving said what happened then doesn’t matter much now with the defending champion Cavs already in possession of a championship.
“I was living those odds,” he said. “It’s a decision that I would not take back at all because of what we learned from that and how we are and how we responded.”
Irving scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists in Game 1 of the 2015 Finals before his injury, but admitted he was in awe of the stage. That experience helped him learn something important, he said.
“I was happy to just be there,” he said. “To be on the court with my teammates, coming off the injury that I had. I never take these moments for granted.”
Not too impressed
Considering what reportedly was said when LeBron James left Miami to return to Cleveland in 2014, he certainly isn’t waiting for a good luck text from Heat president Pat Riley as he prepares to play in his seventh consecutive NBA Finals.
Riley was given the opportunity to wish James well on Saturday, and his message was lukewarm at best.
Caught on camera by TMZ.com when Riley was in Malibu, Calif., on Saturday, Riley was asked if he was rooting for James against the Golden State Warriors. The series opens Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Golden State owner Peter Guber, who walked Riley to his sports car, told Riley, “Don’t answer that question.”
James delivered two NBA championships in his four seasons in Miami. With the Cavs seeking to defend their title, this will be James’ eighth Finals appearance in his 14-year career.
Riley did answer, but with a twist, as the hall of famer made reference to the Los Angeles Lakers teams he coached.
“The Lakers with Magic Johnson went to the Finals during ‘Showtime’ nine times in 12 years,” Riley told TMZ.com.
Pressed on if he was rooting for James, Riley said: “I’d like to see a great Finals. I’m about a great Finals, and I think it’s going to be one of the best ever. But I love LeBron, we all do, he was part of our team for four years.”
The Cavs held their last intense practice Monday afternoon. They’ll travel Tuesday and do some minor work on Wednesday that will allow them to do some shooting and go over other things, coach Tyronn Lue said.
Despite the hype and the presence of national media, Lue said it can be productive.
“You can put some finishing touches on things,” he said. “We pretty much have everything we want to do in right now. Once Wednesday comes we get a chance to fine tune everything and go from there.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.