The Cavs' remarkable season began almost a year ago. After firing head coach Mike Brown a few weeks after the Cavs finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Cavs interviewed and hired a then-unknown Euroleague coach, David Blatt. A few weeks later, LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland. He joined Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to form the Cavs' "big three."
The team started the season 19-20 and looked disorganized. But they regrouped and surged on to the playoffs. The "big three" is now the "big one," as Kyrie Irving has been battling injuries and Kevin Love is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Regardless of the path, Terry Pluto says the Cavs must seize the moment and win this NBA Finals. “You could say, ‘You’ve got LeBron;’ you think you’re going back. You don’t know."
Pluto thinks back to the 2007 NBA Finals – the only other time in franchise history that the Cavs went to finals. They were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games.
“But we all thought, ‘We’ve got LeBron for a few more years, we’ll go back.’ They didn’t.”
"I thought the Indians of the ‘90’s, remarkable teams, went to the World Series twice, lost both times. I thought they’d go a couple more times to the World Series. [They] never got back."
“Right now you’re relying on Matthew Dellavedova from Australia, and you’re relying Timofey Mozgov from Russia, and you’re relying on two guys that the Knicks just simply threw away – Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. And you’re relying on an older LeBron James at 30, and a coach from Israel. You got Kyrie Irving on one leg and you’ve got Anderson Varejao and Kevin Love in street clothes.
"It sounds like it never should have happened, but it also sounds like, there’s a little serendipity going on, so you better capitalize on this."
Pluto says the key for the Cavs will be to win at least one of the first two games of the series on the road in Oakland.
“The Warriors are favored; they should be favored. They’re the better team. The Warriors at home are 46-3 this season.”
While Golden State is favored and had the best record all season, the Cavs defied the odds to get to the finals, led by an experienced NBA champion LeBron James. And Pluto expects James to capitalize on the moment.
“LeBron also knows how tenuous this is and when the opportunity is there, you better do it. The nice thing about this LeBron James vs. the other LeBron James is he has a pretty good idea what it takes to win a title. He’s won two. I think that’s what he’s been helping the other players with.”
New ground for both teams
Pluto says an interesting statistic about Golden State is that they do not have a single player who has ever won an NBA championship. “There’s never been an NBA team to win an NBA title that didn’t have at least one player that had a championship ring, at least in the modern era.”
“The Cavaliers have several because you’ve got LeBron, you have James Jones and you have Shawn Marion. But really, LeBron is the only one that’s playing.”
And Pluto says if the Cavs win, they’ll be the first team to start the season 19-20 to ever go on to win a title.
“Usually if you’re 19-20, you’re even lucky to get into the playoffs. Very rarely are you able to bring in three key players at mid-season and everything mesh together. And I always thought the coach David Blatt didn’t get enough credit for that, because a lot of times when you turn your roster over like that mid-season, it doesn’t always work when you make these big trades."
Still a Browns town
It's been a week since the Cavs won the Eastern Conference Finals on their home court, dominating the Atlanta Hawks to complete the sweep. And, for a team that's on the brink of making history and possibly bringing Cleveland its first pro-sports crown since 1964, the fan reaction has been relatively tame.
“It’s still a Browns town," Pluto says. "I get these emails from fans, ‘I’d trade 10 Cavs titles for the Browns losing in the Super Bowl.’ People love the orange helmets. But at least we’d no longer have to hear the lament of, ‘Oh, we’ll never win another one again.’”
As for the series, Pluto says he picks the Cavs win it in six games "because, why not?” And he thinks it would be LeBron James’ greatest achievement as a pro basketball player because “no one saw it coming.”