LOS ANGELES: LeBron James may be the game’s greatest player but the manner in which his Cleveland Cavaliers were dispatched in the NBA Finals on Monday may have signalled that his championship window has been slammed shut.
Barring a major shake-up to James’ supporting cast or a move to another team, the three-times NBA champion may never find a way to solve a Golden State Warriors squad that just dominated the play-offs like no team ever before.
“Teams and franchises are going to be trying to figure out ways that they can put personnel together, the right group of guys together to be able to hopefully compete against this team,” James, 32, told reporters.
“They’re assembled as good as you can assemble, and I played against some really, really good teams that was assembled perfectly, and they’re right up there.”
James did all he could during the Finals but even with him averaging a triple-double, the Cavaliers, who lost the best-of-seven series in five games, were no match for a Warriors team with an embarrassment of riches.
James is in the latter stages of his career after 14 NBA seasons but is so dominant and playing at such a high level that he can turn any team into an instant contender.
He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 but no matter where James decides to play, it is unlikely he can steer clear of a Warriors team positioned for greatness.
“They’re going to be here for a while… Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down,” said James. “They’re built for — from my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”
James can hardly leave a game for fear of his team falling apart while he rests.
By contrast, NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who joined the Warriors last July, has a supporting cast that won a record-setting 73 regular season games last season.
But James did not want to weigh into the discussion about whether the necessary pieces needed to build a true challenger to the Warriors are out there.
“I don’t know. I’m not a – I’m not the GM of the team. I’m not in the front office, but I know our front office is going to continue to try to put our ball club, put our franchise in a position where we can compete for a championship year in and year out,” said James.
There is already talk that Cleveland could work out a trade for Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George, a 27-year-old four-time All-Star who offers more offensive prowess and a stronger defensive presence than Cavs forward Kevin Love.
Adding George alongside James and Kyrie Irving would be a definite improvement for a Cavaliers team that would likely also be seeking a rim protector and a playmaker off the bench.
But during the 2017 Finals, reports circulated saying James could head to California to join the Lakers or Clippers as a free agent in 2018.
Either way, the future of James in Cleveland will once again hang over the game’s greatest player.
He was vilified in 2010 when he left the Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat where he won two NBA titles before returning to Cleveland four years later and delivering the city their first NBA championship in 2016.
James was also asked how he views the Warriors when he considers his future in the NBA.
“Well, it’s a two-sided question because for me personally – I don’t know,” said James. “I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” said James.
“But as far as that team, they’re going to be here for a while. They’re going to be around for a while.”