After an iffy start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have hit their stride and appear to be favorites in the Eastern Conference, as they’ve gone 15-5 since the All-Star break with quality wins over the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
But things weren’t always peachy-keen in Cleveland, as there were reports of strife within the locker room and that the players had lost faith prior to the roster overhaul that included bringing in the likes of Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith earlier in the year.
Emotions were high after the Cavs were burned by the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward on a game-winning buzzer-beater in early November, and apparently LeBron James had lashed out at point guard Kyrie Irving for finishing the game with 34 points and zero assists.
“He came up to me and was like, ‘One, you can never have another game with no assists,’ ” Irving said, describing James’ words. ” ‘You can damn near have just one, two, three, but you can’t have zero.’ And I was like, ‘All right, cool, it won’t happen again.’ And it hasn’t happened since that game.”
“I don’t want to say it’s not been rocky at all,” Irving said. “Obviously, he sees the game one way, I see the game another way. What makes it great about being on the team is that we both can see it together in our own way.”
James, a player that has been celebrated throughout his career for his ability to develop strong chemistry with his teammates, also spoke to Vardon about his relationship with Irving and Cavs forward Kevin Love.
“Friends or no friends, at the end of the day we’re all here to do one thing, and that’s to win,” James said to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
“It’s very different, because myself, Chris, and D-Wade, we came up together,” James said. “We all was drafted in the same draft class, and even though we didn’t pair up until seven years into our careers, we were damn near the same age and we all had seen the league as it evolved and transformed in different ways. We all grew up together.”
“People get so infatuated with the best of friends, things of that nature,” James said. “First of all, I’ve got three very good friends in this league, and that’s Carmelo (Anthony), and that’s C.P. (Chris Paul), and that’s D-Wade. And after that I have a bunch of teammates. I have guys I ride for every day.
Much has been made about the friendship, or lack thereof, between James and Love, with reports surfacing that James has grown irritated with Love’s inability to “get with the program,” in Cleveland. Love recently came out and said that he acknowledge’s that he and James are not “best friends,” but that they maintain an evolving relationship that has translated to great team success on the basketball court.
Friendships in the NBA are overrated in my opinion. One may assume that these players are inclined to become best-buddies due to the fact that they see each other on a daily basis, but each one of these men are not only at different ages, but different phases in their life as well. It’s unfair to assume that crisis is inevitable just because some players don’t develop an intense relationship with their teammates, as some may be content with minimal communication outside of the workplace.