The NBA’s painfully tedious regular season is finally over. The playoffs are here. It’s go time. It’s the money season. It’s that time of year when Cavs Nation turns its lonely eyes to the one Cavs player whose presence automatically makes them a favorite in almost any series they play.
But enough about Kendrick Perkins.
Starting Sunday, and for as long as the Cavs remain in the playoffs, this is officially The Season of LeBron. Talk about the potential for some legacy building, polishing and amplification.
It’s teed up for him like never before. The potential is there for the world’s greatest basketball player to be greater than ever. Great enough to put LeBron James on top of G.O.A.T. Mountain?
That we’re even talking about this is, of course, absurd. He’s 33 years old, with 15 years of NBA mileage on his body. Most NBA players his age are either winding down their careers or already retired. Yet he’s coming off one of the greatest seasons of his incomparable career.
It will be another MVP-less season, however, because voters don’t like to cast MVP votes for the best player in the world because that would be too easy. Too obvious. So, for the fifth consecutive year, the best player in the world won’t be voted the best player in the NBA.
But that’s OK.
LeBron is stalking bigger game than that. Starting Sunday at The Q, in Game 1 of the Cavs’ first-round playoff series against Indiana, LeBron begins his quest to complete what for him would be the mother of all seasons. His own personal hardcourt masterpiece.
The Cavs can come along for the ride, if they like … and they will. Even Kendrick Perkins. Because it could be quite a ride. What LeBron has a chance to do over the next two months hasn’t really been done before. Not in the context in which LeBron is attempting to do it.
Think about it. Half his team this season has been injured at one time or another, and the other half got traded at midseason. Only LeBron played in every game. Kevin Love, one of LeBron’s wingmen in the Cavs’ march to the championship in 2016, only played in 59 games this season.
LeBron’s other 2016 wingman, Kyrie Irving, doesn’t work here anymore.
So for most of this Cavs season it was LeBron against the world.
He responded by becoming a triple-double machine. By averaging career highs in rebounds and assists per game. By not getting hurt. By playing every game. By being LeBron James.
The Cavs go into the playoffs as a No. 4 seed, their lowest seeding in 10 years. But so what? That just makes the narrative even juicier. Without LeBron the Cavs might have been a lottery team. They probably won as many as 20 games this season that they would have lost if LeBron wasn’t on the team.
From Game 1 through Game 82 it was all LeBron all the time. He was the one constant. The one leader. The one runaway freight train nobody could stop.
Now he has to do it all over again, starting Sunday, against playoff teams, mostly on the road, because barring upsets, the Cavs will only have the homecourt advantage in one series. The first one.
In order to win playoff games on the road, your stars have to play like stars. LeBron is not only the Cavs’ biggest star, but the league’s biggest star. He’s probably going to have to be a triple-double machine in the playoffs as well.
He played every game of the regular season. He may have to play every minute of the postseason for the Cavs to go all the way.
That’s a lot to ask of a 33-year-old warrior with 15 years of NBA mileage on his tires. But LeBron is a lot of player.
He’s also the best player in the league at making all the players around him better. He’s going to have to do that, too. And he will. It’s what he does.
He is one of only four players left from the Cavs’ roster when they paraded through the streets of Cleveland before 1 million adoring fans on that sunny, surreal mid-June day in 2016.
The others are Love, still an available Robin to LeBron’s Batman, J.R. Smith (meh) and the artist formerly known as Tristan Thompson — let’s not even go there.
So this is going to be LeBron’s show again. Maybe more so than ever. Kyrie ain’t walking onto the floor to hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 53 seconds left in Game 7.
The game’s biggest star is about to take the game’s biggest stage, and, at age 33, attempt to be bigger and better and greater than he’s ever been before.
Don’t bet against him.
This could be his finest hour.
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