The Cleveland Cavaliers are headed back to the playoffs, which is somewhat of a foregone conclusion when you have LeBron James on your team. But the path to the postseason for the Cavs has been anything but ordinary.
Cleveland clinched the Central Division title with a 123-109 win over the New York Knicks on Monday, getting another 50-win season in the process. With one game left in the regular season and everything but a seed decided for Cleveland, the team reflected on the accomplishment after the win.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue called it “very special” considering how difficult a season it was for many players on the team. And James himself admitted he’s been “hypocritical” about not celebrating accomplishments like division titles in his career. But J.R. Smith had no time for celebration on Monday night.
Smith told ESPN after the game that there’s only one reason he and the Cavaliers are playing, and it ain’t a banner that says “division” on it.
“I’ve won the championship already, and I feel I know how that feels. It’s no knock to the division championship, but we don’t play for those,” he said. “We play for that gold, boss. To the younger guys, congratulations, but we still got work to do.”
Dave McMenamin used the quote as the kicker to his story because it’s amazing. But it’s the highlight of the mood for the Cavaliers this season. The regular season, as tumultuous as it was for many reasons, is nearly over. And the Cavaliers have a healthy LeBron, a mostly in-tact roster and coaching staff.
The focus for the team has always been the postseason. And maybe Smith is just the only person willing to say it like it is. Even if it sounds like Marshawn Lynch is in the backcourt in Cleveland.