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May 26, 2015

LeBron James

J.R. Smith

Tristan Thompson


Atlanta Hawks - 88
Cleveland Cavaliers - 118

Q. ¬†LeBron, when you came back, you said you had a plan, you had a mission.¬† Obviously, that's almost accomplished, but can you just talk to me about your emotions and what it's like to actually be in this position right now after‑‑ you know, even before you came here, you knew you had something going.
LeBRON JAMES:  My emotions, it's very emotional to be back in this city.  When I made my decision to come back here, I knew what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy.  It's going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, and it's going to be the toughest task for me to try to get this team back to The Finals.
I've had to step up my leadership.  I had to be very patient, which I'm not very patient.  I'm not a very patient guy, but I knew I had to work on that.
To be able to sit at one point during the season and see us at 19‑20 and watching my team struggle and me sitting out two weeks, they wanted Coach Blatt fired, saying we needed another point guard, will LeBron and Kyrie be able to play together?¬† So many story lines was just happening at that point in time.¬† For us to be sitting at this point today being able to represent the Eastern Conference in The Finals, this is special.¬† It's very special.

Q.¬† LeBron, you yourself, I think, had said last summer that you kind of tried to lower expectations and you couldn't expect a ton in year one, and obviously there were a lot of changes, too.¬† This was basically a brand new team on opening night.¬† Did you think you could do this this quickly?¬† And where does this accomplishment rank among‑‑ I mean, it's five straight Finals, obviously, but where does this one rank in relation to the rest?
LeBRON JAMES:  Obviously, from the time I decided to come back to now, it's a totally different team.  When I decided to come back, we had a No.1 pick, and we drafted Andrew Wiggins.  I understood that we were going to have a very, very young team, a very unexperienced team, and it's going to take a lot of patience and a lot of hard work to get to where I wanted to get this team back to.
Obviously, things happened throughout the season, throughout the off‑season, that allowed us to acquire Kevin Love, and as the season started, to acquire J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert that brought our team to a place where I felt that we could compete.
But I still thought we had to be very patient, I had to be very patient, being the leader of the team, but I knew we had the pieces that we can compete.
Where this ranks as far as my last four Finals appearances, I mean, it's special just because I think it's today, it's tonight, and to know how far we've come as a group, to know how unexperienced we are as a unit playing together, I think that's special in its own right.¬† No matter what happens from here on out, to see what we've accomplished being a first‑year team together that's had different changes throughout the course of the season, that's faced so many obstacles throughout the season‑‑ injuries here, transactions here, lineups here‑‑ it's something we can be very proud of to this point.

Q.¬† LeBron, when you made the decision to come back, how much did that 51‑year departure from a championship come to mind?¬† Do you think about that much?¬† Perhaps being a guy that finally can end that in this city.
LeBRON JAMES:  I'm a guy who believes in unfinished business, and I understood what these people were going through, the people here not only in Cleveland but in Northeast Ohio and all over the world who love and bleed wine and gold.
I also knew there were a couple of guys here that were very special, in Tristan Thompson here to my left and also in Kyrie Irving at the time, that could help me get to a point where I've been before.
So to be at this point tonight sitting up here talking to you guys, like I said, it's very emotional and very‑‑ just something‑‑ I don't know.¬† Could I foresee this?¬† At the beginning of the season, I couldn't.¬† I couldn't foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season because I just knew that we just had to get better and I just saw how young we were and how young‑minded we were at that point in time, but I knew I had to lead these guys, and if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place where they haven't been before.

Q.  What do you have to say about what the city's been through?
LeBRON JAMES:¬† It's a hard‑working city, and if you work hard for this city, they work hard for you.¬† They give everything back to you.¬† That's what J.R. Smith to my right, Tristan here to my left, and the rest of the 12 guys in the locker room, we're just trying to work hard for the city, and they give it all back to us, as you saw tonight with 20,000‑plus fans.

Q.  LeBron, how did the journey of the season prep you to get here?  As you mentioned, if you guys didn't lose games early, maybe you don't make radical trades.  If you guys don't have injuries throughout the course of the season, maybe you don't realize the potential of all the guys on your roster.  What about the path to where you are?  How has that steeled you for these Finals?
LeBRON JAMES:¬† I don't know how many chapters we have in the book as far as this season, but there's at least five.¬† Just from the start of the season to us making the transaction to acquire this guy to my right and then Shump and then Timofey, to us having injuries, to us getting to the postseason, to Kevin Love being out for the postseason, to Kyrie getting banged up and being out for playoff games‑‑ we have so many different chapters to this season that's defined who we are.
But one thing we haven't got caught up in is feeling sorry for ourselves.  It doesn't matter.  If someone is out, the next man up.  If someone is not 100 percent, then as a brother, you pick that guy up.  That's what it's about.  That's what it's about.  That's what teamwork and trying to accomplish a dream is all about, being able to sacrifice yourself and what you can do for the better of the team.  That's what's got us to this point.
Don't ask me another question until you ask one of these guys a question too, by the way.
J.R. SMITH:  I'm out.  I'm done.
LeBRON JAMES:¬† Don't say, hey, LeBron, I'm from channel‑‑ don't ask me a question.¬† Ask these guys.¬† Give me a break.
J.R. SMITH:  I could have stayed in the back.
LeBRON JAMES:  But you look good.  You fit.
J.R. SMITH:  I've never worn one of these before.

Q.  I actually had one teed up for Tristan, but it starts with the word "LeBron", so if you'll allow.  When LeBron came home, as has already been mentioned, he was talking patience.  But when you heard he was coming back, is this what you thought of immediately, and did you think it could be this year?
TRISTAN THOMPSON:  I was just happy to be part of the team, just to have an opportunity to play with a great player like Bron.  It just motivated me.  Once he decided to come back, the first thing I did was call the coach and get in the gym and get ready because I know how serious he is about being successful and doing something special here in Cleveland.  It just motivated myself, and I think it motivated all the guys that were on the team to just get better.
If you're asking did we think we were going to be here, it's too far down the line.  I approached it day by day, just to get better every day and put myself in a position to help this team be successful.

Q.¬† Tristan, if you go back to Game 4 against Chicago, the moment that LeBron hit that game‑winning shot, you guys haven't lost since then.¬† Can you put into words what that shot meant and what happened in that moment besides just winning a game on the road?
TRISTAN THOMPSON:¬† It was an unreal moment.¬† I was just hoping that I didn't put him to sleep with my choke hold.¬† But it was definitely huge for us in that series, and I've been riding on the momentum and just getting better every day.¬† This series here, everyone locked in and understood what it takes to beat the Hawks.¬† Every guy came in there.¬† Guys stepped up at different points of the series‑‑ J.R., Delly, LeBron, myself.¬† It's just what we have to do every night.

Q.  Are you guys ready (laughter)?
This is actually for all three of you guys.  Could you describe the last couple of minutes when Perk and Mike and all those guys were out there.  It was great to watch you guys excited, jumping up and down, enjoying and soaking in the whole moment.  Can you talk to everybody about what that was like.
LeBRON JAMES:  Youngest to oldest?
TRISTAN THOMPSON:¬† Sure, beauty before age.¬† Guys came in and Big Perk always staying ready, Joe coming in and playing well.¬† All the guys that checked in and did their part and just staying ready.¬† You're happy to see those guys out there and going to work.¬† Perk with that right hand hook, me and him going one‑on‑one every day in practice.¬† For him to come out and make it happen, I'm just happy for those guys, for them to be a part of something special.
Swish, your turn.
J.R. SMITH:  I mean, it's great.  Fortunately for me, in my 11 years, I've been able to be pretty much every one of those guys, somebody who never got in the game, somebody who came off the bench, somebody who started, somebody who pretty much wore every hat on the court.  So for me, whenever I hit a shot, whenever I do what I do, as well as these other two guys, when we see those guys cheering for us, it's only right that we cheer for them.
Even if it's at the end of the game and we're up by 30, whatever the case may be, we always cheer for our teammates, and we appreciate them because they come in every day and make us better.  I come in every day and see Brendan Haywood on the treadmill, see Joe and Delly in the gym getting shots up, it makes you want to be better.  If your 14th or 15th guy's like that, why couldn't the first five, six, seven guys be like that?  That's why I do it.
LeBRON JAMES:¬† My message at halftime‑‑ I think we were up 17.¬† My message to the guys at halftime was my mission was to get Joe Harris into the game.¬† That's what I told the guys at halftime.¬† I said, our motivation for the second half is to get Joe Harris in the game, and they answered the call.

Q.  J.R., you guys hit threes all series at a very high rate.  Could you talk about that and also about having Kyrie back.
J.R. SMITH:  It was great.  First of all, having Kyrie back is one of the most important factors because he's a huge piece to this big puzzle that we have.  I mean, it's great to see him out there physically moving the way he wants to move and do the things that he wants to do.
But as far as hitting shots, that's the type of team we are.  We've got arguably one of the greatest players ever to play the game, and to penetrate and attack and do the things he does, all we've got to do is make open shots, and I think that's one of the easiest things in basketball to do is to make an open shot.  So it's only right.

Q.  Tristan, since the postseason, people have just raved about you and what you've been able to produce.  What is it, what has it been about this stage that's allowed you to shine?
TRISTAN THOMPSON:  Just doing what I'm doing every night, just play hard and just outwork the guy that's in front of me, whoever I'm guarding; just don't have him beat me.  I think also give a lot of credit to my teammates for putting me in position or letting me grab offensive rebounds.
LeBRON JAMES:  Steal offensive rebounds.
J.R. SMITH:  Sure.
TRISTAN THOMPSON:  We can be greedy with rebounds.  That's okay.  Just doing my job, [laughter].
LeBRON JAMES:  That's J.R. for you.
TRISTAN THOMPSON:  Just doing my job every night and just playing hard.  Giving 100 percent, punching the clock, doing the little things.
J.R. SMITH:  @teamswish on Instagram, if you ever want to follow.  Trying to get 2 million or so.  Trying to catch up with LeBron.

Q.  This isn't for you, LeBron.
LeBRON JAMES:  I was just looking in the right direction.

Q.  J.R., the way where you were to start the season, obviously, coming here, I mean, how much of a godsend has it been to play with these guys for you?
J.R. SMITH:  It's unreal almost.  I came out of the game, and I gave Coach a hug, gave Bron a hug, and all these guys.  Then I look at Shump, and I just look in his eyes and see where we came, where we started from.
My mom was on the court when all the confetti and stuff, all that was coming down.  She's like, talk about starting from the bottom, and now we here.  So to be able to do this, I mean, it's unreal to be in this situation and this position.  I could have been in a worse situation, but my prayers have been answered.  I'm playing, like I said before, with arguably the greatest player to ever play the game.  People that come in every day and enjoy what they do and work hard at what they do, like Tristan and the rest of the guys.
I'm in a great situation, and I just want to take full advantage of everything I can at this point.

Q.¬† LeBron, from now until when The Finals start, the championship drought, it's going to come up again and again.¬† It's such a weighty issue here in Cleveland, of course, 50 years.¬† When you wrote the letter, of course, you kind of tried to connect back to the people here, and your Nike commercial connected you to everybody.¬† Now that you're here, do you embrace kind of that 50‑year drought?¬† Do you use that to fuel what you guys all need to do or do you have to separate yourself from that pressure to be able to win?
LeBRON JAMES:  For myself, I think we all here know how long it's been since a champion has been in this city.  I mean, you can try and not focus on it.  You can try to say, okay, well, it's not about that.  But we all know it.
The one thing that we can guarantee as a team, as a group, 15 guys, our coaching staff, people that travel with us on the road, whatever the case may be, that work every day, is we will give our best shot.  No matter who comes out of the Western Conference, either Golden State or Houston, we're going to give it our best shot.  Our coaching staff will prepare us the best way they can, and I will as a leader have our guys ready for it.
Win, lose, or draw, because you can't predict the future, you don't know what's going to happen, we will give our best shot.¬† That's all from myself.¬† That's all I can ask of my teammates.¬† That's all I can ask of the coaches.¬† And I hope everyone here understands that it's not easy.¬† It's not easy to even get to this point.¬† It's so hard just to win an NBA game, and the fact that we've won three playoff series so far, it is very, very difficult, and if you've never been in this situation, you don't know how difficult it is.¬† The only people who can talk about it‑‑ one of my best quotes or favorite quotes of all time is Theodore Roosevelt.¬† It's called the Man in the Arena.¬† I suggest everyone read it.
It's basically about, if you've never sweat or bled or been in an arena and having the dust go up in your face and never battled, you have no idea what it takes to be in the arena.  So for me as a leader, all I can do is lead these guys, which I will do.  The coaching staff will give us the greatest game plan they can to win against Houston, to win against Golden State, but as far as guarantees, I cannot guarantee anyone.  I can't guarantee the championship.  That's not what I'm here for.  I'm here to lead.  But I will guarantee that we will play our asses off.  We will, from the first minute to minute 48, or if it's overtime, 53.  We will do that.
At the end of the day, that's all I can ask for.  That's all we can give.  But we will be in The Finals, I can guarantee that.  Appreciate it.
J.R. SMITH:  By the way, that Nike commercial, I wasn't in it.  They can add me in or something.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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