Published: Tue, May 29, 2018
Sports | By Phillip Butler

Brad Stevens on defending LeBron James: 'It's a joke'

Brad Stevens on defending LeBron James: 'It's a joke'

Nothing the Cleveland Cavaliers have done in the 2017-18 season has been.

Kyrie Irving was not on the bench for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night.

When LeBron James sank a buzzer-beater to flip the Bulls-Cavaliers second-round playoff series in 2015, then-coach Tom Thibodeau summarized the degree of difficulty from James' game-winner over Jimmy Butler.

It was the fifth time in James' postseason career that he played all 48 minutes in what was his 235th playoff game.

James was asked during the 2015 NBA Finals what's the most minutes he could see himself playing in a game with the championship on the line. James, though, has been up-and-down in the three games played in Boston. He finished with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting with 15 rebounds and 9 assists.

And they haven't even come close to being fully actualized. He also had eight rebounds, more than anyone in a Boston uniform. Still, when things were going poorly, they could have folded, given into exhaustion or strayed from the game plan. And for that, these ragtag and fresh-faced Celtics get my undying respect and appreciation for a run that probably went a round and a half longer than it should have. Our defense was really solid.

With a roster chalked full of underachievers seemingly unable to do anything without Papa Bron's help, James' unsurprising admission that the ability to win championships is his top priority in his free agency decision and the chaos that constantly surrounds the organization, a move to Philadelphia didn't seem out of the question. "This was a complete team effort".

Some Cavs fans lamented on Twitter that James appeared to be carrying the team single-handed at times without forward Kevin Love, who missed Game 7 with a concussion. "Emotionally draining. All the stuff that's gone on, all the storylines - and that was just in the regular season". You know, I mean, I talk, but [Sunday] was just one of those days where my voice needed to be heard. And this year, you didn't at all. You can't go out and try to look pretty. That's why James wanted to huddle with one of Boston's burgeoning young stars when it was over, and why no around here would object if training camp started tomorrow. There have been thorns in the roses.

MJ debate won't disappear with James still going strong in Year 15, but it's hard to inject anything of substance into the discussion with all of the angles being beaten into the ground by analysts each day. In the postseason, they have not exactly transformed into a typical title contender, but they have papered over their flaws and persevered.

"Jeff Green was huge the last few games, just played tremendous", Stevens said. "I love what he's doing. He's just built for stardom", James said of Tatum after the game.

Brad Stevens says that "it's an absolute blast" to prepare for Game 7, especially up against a "tremendous individual player" in LeBron James.

All in all, this was this team's first postseason run together, and having the NBA's best player on the ropes no matter his supporting cast is an impressive feat. I think they're going to be really excited to get back with it. They are more versatile and much more athletic. Both players have one flaw that tends to drive fans insane, that is also central to why they're such good players. He even tweeted at him as a kid and begged him for a follow. "I think we've played now until May 25 and May 27 the last two years, and we started on September 25". "I am seeing first hand what it is to be great". It's unbelievable. His abilities give the rest of us confidence.

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