Amazing run for Cavs and their fearless leader likely to endure

BY foxsports • June 17, 2015

CLEVELAND -- David Blatt said it best.

"Not every story has a happy ending," the Cavaliers coach said. "It doesn't mean it's a bad story."

Blatt was speaking after the Cavs' season-ending 105-97 loss in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday. It was a loss that handed the visiting Golden State Warriors their first championship in 40 years.

So what a season it was for the Warriors. But what a season it was for the Cavs, too.

As Cavs star LeBron James said, it was a season "of many chapters."

James is this team's unquestioned leader and remains this league's brightest star. He served Cleveland proud in Year One of his return, and he knows what he's talking about. This was also Blatt's first season in the NBA at any level. He knows what he's talking about, too.

These are just two of the men who overcame a season of relentless rumors and excruciating injuries to key players. They were the men at the front. The men who were most scrutinized, and in Blatt's case, the man who was most often criticized.

But there's no reason for anyone in this organization to feel ashamed. Never has been. Not after the 19-20 start, not after falling behind 2-1 in the conference semifinals vs. Chicago, and certainly not now.

Just the opposite.

Not these Cavs. Not this season.

"They held back on nothing to give us the chance to be the best team we could be," Blatt said of his players, particularly the ones still in uniform at the end. "I thought our group answered that by carrying themselves in a great way, playing great basketball, and representing the city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio in the best possible manner."

Amen, say pro basketball fans across the globe.

It's true Cleveland hasn't won a title in any major pro sport in 51 years. It's true the Cavs have been around since 1970 -- and have never won a title, period. It's true Clevelanders are once again left to wonder what might have been following the postseason-ending injuries to Kevin Love (shoulder) and Kyrie Irving (knee).

But there's a difference between fumbling away the title and just being undermanned at the wrong time. All a city and fanbase can ask is that their team does them proud. Only one team gets to win the title. Everyone else is measured by effort.

If that's the case, the Cavs answered the call.

"We put ourselves back where this franchise needs to be -- being a contender," James said. "But we've still got a lot of work to do."

On to the next one

It was evident how badly James wanted to deliver a championship to his city. It's why he came back. It's why he was thrilled when Irving signed a contract extension in July (pre-return announcement) and when the Cavs traded for Love in August (post-return announcement).

It's also why James sat at his locker longer than usual following the season-ending loss, his head down, his eyes mostly shut.

"For me, it's never a success if you go out losing," he said.

But there are degrees of losing in this game, and while the Cavs aren't hoisting a trophy or reaching their ultimate goal, there is hope. And not just the hope of another high draft pick or another coaching change.

Instead, the role players on this team -- the ones who received extra time while filling in for Irving and Love -- now possess some meaningful experience. Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova all got to take center stage, to be relied upon when it meant the most.

The final result hurts now. But it counts for something down the road. It counts for something when you're a teammate of LeBron James. It counts for something when playing alongside a healthy Irving and Love. And it counts for something when other important pieces can still be added via trades, the draft and free agency.

All of those wheels toward bigger things are already in motion.

James gave perhaps the best individual effort the NBA Finals has even seen. He finished the six-game series with eye-popping averages of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists.

Now? Things should only get better. His load should only get easier, the Cavs around him should only be more motivated.

"I didn't win a championship," James said. "But I've done a lot of good things in this first year back, and hopefully, I can continue it."


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