Cavs' LeBron James: I understand that teams get together to try to beat me
He's not wrong about this
LeBron James isn't just arguably the best player in the NBA. He is also one of the smartest players the league has ever seen. He can recall specific moments in games from years ago. He calls out other teams' plays. He is also completely aware of his own place in history, and he knows he has had a proverbial target on his back for a long time. In an interview with cleveland.com's Joe Vardon, James said that he knows other teams are constructed with the goal of taking him down:
"I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me," James told cleveland.com, in a candid discussion about the upcoming year and his place in the sport at age 31, in this his 14th season. "It's never just about me, but I always hear them saying, 'We gotta beat LeBron.' It's not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me."
James is not wrong. The most recent example: Indiana Pacers forward Paul George said a month ago that he's ready to take on James and his team is ready for Cleveland. The Pacers played James' Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, but have since completely overhauled their roster, altered their style of play and changed their coach. The same thing has happened with the Chicago Bulls, who were eliminated by James' teams in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015 under Tom Thibodeau.
Earlier in the summer, Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder said that he wasn't worried about the Toronto Raptors this season -- he saw the Cavs as the class of the East and wanted to challenge them. This is nothing particularly new.
Only two starters remain from the Atlanta Hawks team that won 60 games two years ago, after two consecutive conference finals losses to Cleveland. Back in 2012, James' Heat eliminated the Celtics in a brutal-seven game series, in what turned out to be Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen's last year together. James has made the NBA Finals six straight times, and his dominance has changed the course of several franchises trying to catch him. This doesn't just extend to the East, either -- as you're surely aware, Kevin Durant said recently that, if not for James leading a heroic comeback last June, he would "damn sure" not have joined the Golden State Warriors.
None of this, though, is unnatural. In the NBA, teams and players are always gunning for whoever is on top. Back in 2010, when James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, he was coming off a heartbreaking loss to Boston, the same franchise that had eliminated his Cavs two years earlier. At that time, everybody was measuring themselves against the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the 2009 and 2010 championships. And when James captured his first title in 2012, the Lakers added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to try to dethrone the newest superteam.
All this is to say that, yes, front offices build rosters with specific teams and players in mind. Every contender needs a big, strong, quick defender to compete with James defensively. They also need perimeter players who can chase the Warriors' shooters around. This is how the league works, and James would be doing the same thing if he was a general manager. Don't be surprised if he becomes one after he retires, by the way.
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