It’s November – the time when the turkeys are carved, frost descends on the grass, and just about every NBA team at least thinks it has a shot at the title.
Some, however, have a better shot than others. Such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, who came oh-so-close to taking the crown last year even with two of its fabled “Big Three” injured.
But both of those stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, as well as the incomparable LeBron James, return along with the usual suspects to lead Cleveland on what they hope will be another Eastern Conference title.
This Cavs team possesses some notable new acquisitions, which injured shooting guard Iman Shumpert praised before the Cavs’ victory over Indiana last Sunday. “I think we’ve done a great job with adding some veterans, Mo Williams as well as Richard Jefferson,” said Shumpert.
Shumpert also spoke about other offseason improvements. “I think the biggest thing is that our ball movement has picked up,” he said. “We’re still very, very focused on the defensive end, which helps us win games, and we’re only going to continue to get better.”
Indeed, offense has not been a problem for the Cavs, who, at 8-2, have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Wine and Gold average 102.8 points per game, second in the league, and make on average 45.5% of their field goals.
Fifteen-year veteran Jefferson believes the Cavs’ greatest strength can’t be measured with numbers, though.
“I just think our hunger [is our greatest strength],” Jefferson said. “Our hunger is extremely high considering that we were really close to winning it last year, and now it’s that hunger because we know we can get back, it’s a matter of just doing things a little bit better, and improving every aspect of our game.”
“I believe that this team has proven that they can compete,” Jefferson continued. “Last year being up 2-1 in the [NBA Finals] without Kyrie, without Kevin, showed that they can compete and even win on that level.”
There is one team, though, that figures to stand in Cleveland’s way – the Golden State Warriors, who have started 11–0 and look nothing short of infallible. But guard Matthew Dellavedova says the Cavs’ aren’t worrying about Golden State and their Western Conference rivals.
“Right now, we’re not focusing on other teams,” Dellavedova said. “I think we just need to keep working defensively. I think we’re moving the ball well on offense, [and] there are a lot of things we need to work on, but I think we get better every day. I hope we’re good to go by the end of the season.”
If the Warriors continue playing the way they have, the Cavs had better be. A city that hasn’t won a title in any sport in 52 years is counting on them.
Photos: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images (Lebron), Elsa/Getty Images (Williams)