When the Cavaliers win a playoff series, LeBron James’ policy is to address the media following that game, then not speak again until Cleveland’s next playoff opponent is known.
James last spoke May 7, when the Cavs completed their second straight four-game sweep, this one over the Toronto Raptors.
The four-time league MVP and three-time NBA champion is expected to take questions this afternoon following practice in Independence, because the Cavs finally learned their Eastern Conference finals opponent Monday night when Boston downed Washington in Game 7 of their East semifinal series.
In the interim, the Cavs’ public relations department trotted out Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the media to interview, with reserve shooting guard Iman Shumpert politely taking his turn Monday.
Poor coach Tyronn Lue, meanwhile, had to field questions after every practice, and he eventually had as difficult a time coming up with interesting responses as reporters did devising worthwhile queries.
“I’m ready to get going,” Lue said Monday. “I’m ready to start playing. The rest has been great, though. (We) had a chance to work on a few things, get up to step offensively, get up to step defensively.”
When the Cavs take to the practice floor today, they will finally know their conference final opponent, not to mention where they will play.
Boston won Monday night, so Cleveland will open on the road Wednesday in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
“It will be good to figure it out and start preparing for one team,” Lue said. “With this time off, we’ve been able to focus on us and prepare to get better ourselves. Whoever we play, we play.”
After taking May 8 and 9 off, the Cavs have done primarily conditioning and shooting drills since returning to work.
Cleveland players also have gone over what Lue calls “game actions” that apply to both Washington and Boston, but the coach didn’t put in specific X’s and O’s for exact plays run by either team because he didn’t want to create confusion.
“I don’t want our team having 15 play calls — eight for Boston and seven for Washington,” the coach said.
The Cavs also haven’t done any full-court, full-scale scrimmaging because of the risk of injury, but they’ve gone through plenty of conditioning work to stay in shape.
“After a while, they had to stop letting us play pickup before anybody gets hurt,” Shumpert said. “It gets pretty competitive. You don’t want to totally get rid of your mean streak while you’re waiting for the next round.”
Cleveland also has been preparing mentally. Virtually all Cavs players and coaches have watched all the other playoff games, partly as a fan and partly as a scouting mechanism.
“I’m a basketball junkie,” Lue said. “I watch all games. That’s my life. I don’t have another job. That’s my job, to watch basketball, and I love it.”
Added Shumpert: “You’ve got to do your homework. You’ve got to study.”
For Shumpert, that has meant taking mental notes on Boston point guard Isaiah Thomas and Washington floor general John Wall.
J.R. Smith will likely open against one of the point guards — Kyrie Irving will probably draw the assignment on shooting guard Avery Bradley (Boston) or Bradley Beal (Washington) — with Shumpert taking over off the bench.
That means Shumpert and Smith will have gone from defending a small forward in the first round (Indiana’s Paul George) to a shooting guard in the second (Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan) to a point guard beginning Wednesday.
“It’s a familiar place for me,” said Shumpert, who played primarily point guard in high school. “It’s just a little flip-flop.”
After being benched for the first game and a half of the postseason, a revitalized and more driven Shumpert took advantage of a minor injury to Smith and has been in the Cavs’ rotation ever since, his primary responsibility being to defend the opponent’s top perimeter player.
“You’ve got to get stops,” Shumpert said. “The only way to win in the playoffs is to get stops. Everybody can score.”
Of course, given that the Cavs will have gone more than 10 days without a game when they take the floor Wednesday night, the eclectic Shumpert also has had time to go over the individual handshakes he has designed for many Cleveland players.
It’s not going to help the Cavs win any games, but it has helped them overcome some of the boredom that comes with such a long layoff, particularly when the opponent was not known.
“It’s something organic,” Shumpert said of his ability to devise the complicated routines. “It organically happens. ... There’s a story behind every handshake. A story comes with it. I think it’s good for team chemistry.”
From a basketball standpoint, the chemistry, intensity and focus will pick up considerably today when the Cavs set their sights on a particular opponent and zero in on Game 1.
“We’ll be ready,” Lue said.
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