Here’s how you know it’s the Eastern Conference finals and the world’s most famous player is on one of the teams: At 10:20 a.m. — more than 10 hours before Game 1 was set to tip — camera crews were jockeying for position to record the epic moment when LeBron James …
Walked down the hall.
The gaggle in the Cavaliers’ locker room for pre-shootaround LeBron access was like Super Bowl Media Day. (OK, Super Bowl Media Day for an offensive lineman. Nothing trumps that monstrosity for excess.) Standing on the periphery, here’s what I gleaned.
LeBron said, “I’m ready to play.”
LeBron also said, “The guys are ready to play.”
For LeBron, who’s Ready To Play in his seventh Eastern finals, this is the oldest hat on the dustiest shelf. For the Atlanta Hawks, this is all new. But it’s not so new they’re apt to be fazed by the bright lights. They’ve played on TV before. They’ve played against LeBron before. The setting is new. The sport is not. It’s still basketball.
Once, when the Heat (with LeBron) came to town, I asked Al Horford if he got a tiny bit nervous before such a game. He nearly laughed out loud. Pro athletes might get excited, but they rarely get nervous. This is their job. They do this all the time.
This was Cavs coach David Blatt, speaking of the difference in styles between his team and the Hawks: “What works is what’s right. Both teams are in the Eastern Conference finals, so what we’ve done must be working. I hope we’ll continue to do what we do — and do it just a little bit better than them.”
Blatt’s ready. LeBron’s ready. I’m ready. You’re ready. Let’s play. First team to wins four gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Oakland.
Further reading: 5 (of 14) ESPN experts pick the Hawks over the Cavs.
Still further: Who’s more miserable — Atlanta or Cleveland?
Further still: A few more reasons why the Hawks will beat the Cavs.
Even further: Even against LeBron, it’ll be the Hawks in 7.
One more: From Cleveland.com, here’s an intriguing look at the Cavs, the Hawks and the series from the esteemed Bill Livingston. (Warning: I’m mentioned a time or two.)