Early on, the Cleveland Cavaliers are feeling the pressure of LeBron James’ obsession with bringing a title to the city of Cleveland.
His teammates might have thought they understood the magnitude of the city’s championship drought and what James’ return truly means, but they had no idea how much James would be in their ear in Year 2.
Based off last season’s performance, they probably felt they had a firm grasp of what it took to be an NBA champion. They came up two games short without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Despite the Cavs boasting an Eastern Conference-best record of 13-4, James has been extremely critical of his locker room mates. In the heat of competition, you’d see him scolding players for lackadaisical effort and casual slipups.
In mid-October James questioned the culture of the team, leading to internal changes when it came to professionalism and promptness. It was all addressed in a team meeting before the regular season tipped off.
Those Hoverboards some players cruised around on through the corridors of The Q during The Finals and during preseason play, the organization banned them from the arena, cleveland.com was informed.
Also, that meeting caused some players to spruce up their pregame and postgame attire. James, Tristan Thompson and Mo Williams consistently lead the charge in the fashion department. They take pride in what they wear while at work.
“I think it starts with how you dress off the court,” Thompson told cleveland.com. “This is a billion-dollar business. When the front-office people come to the games, they come in suits, or slacks, or dress shirt or nice-cut jeans. I think it’s the same way with us. Just because we’re the guys that put the jerseys on, doesn’t mean we can’t clean up nice. At the end of the day, you’re a professional and you have to represent yourself.
“It’s sad to say, but some judge a book by its cover,” Thompson continued. “So if you think about a prototypical athlete, you think about a guy that’s a jock. You think he doesn’t know much. He’s somebody who has God-given talent but doesn’t really know anything else. But we’re trying to change that whole culture, especially myself. I take that real personal. You don’t know whom you’re going to meet. If I meet a gentleman for the first time, he may not know much about me but that I play basketball. If I dress nice, dress maybe even better than him, it gets his attention that I’m serious.”
And that’s the message the Cavaliers are sending: They are serious.
In choosing to skip the starting lineup introductions and instead, standing at half court, waiting for the opposition to hit the floor says the Cavs are all business. Without saying a word, their stance is telling the opponent to hurry your little huddle along and come get some.
And with all this happening with the Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors are steamrolling through the competition. It’s fueling James’ fire even more. He’s not going to let off the gas. He’ll continue holding players accountable.
It will not be the last time Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith get an earful from James. The stakes are high. It’s go-time, regardless of who is healthy enough to play.
This season for Cleveland is about unfinished business. And the proper way to accomplish the ultimate feat is in a business-like, professional manner. You can see the off-court, on-court adjustments made. It’s a new culture and identity in Cleveland.
It’s “All In” or nothing.
Got the drop on Cleveland.com . . .