LEBRON James was all praises for his four new Cleveland Cavaliers teammates for fitting in quick that led to a 121-99 statement win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday (Monday, Manila time).
“It was a good start. It’s almost like the new guys have been here,” James told reporters after the game, referring to the four players — Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood — the Cavs acquired three days ago just at the NBA trade deadline.
The four gave the Cavs a huge lift with a combined 49 points, but James was particularly impressed with how each of them contributed in the game especially in holding the Celtics to a poor shooting performance (40.4% FG, 26.3% from three-point distance).
"It started with George and his on-the-ball pressure and him just running the team. And then the three guys came off the bench. Jordan was - he's ready to score at any time, but his composure was great,” said James, who almost finished with his third straight triple-double as he had 24 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
“Rodney plays with so much poise, and Larry was just controlling the perimeter, setting great pick-and-rolls. Got him a lob, got him a dunk, so it was a good start for the new guys, a good start for all of us with our revamped team so far."
Clarkson was the most productive in offense out of the four who made their Cavs debut. The Fil-Am guard scored 17 on 7-of-11 shooting with two steals off the bench. His former Lakers teammate Nance who joined him in Cleveland said Clarkson’s fiery debut was no fluke.
"That's JC. That's Jordan Clarkson, get used to it. What you saw tonight is Jordan Clarkson. That was nothing outstanding, that's his norm. Be ready for it," said Nance.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue welcomed the shift in the team’s energy after struggling through on and off-court issues before the trade. Cleveland has now won three straight, its longest since a five-game win run in mid-December.
Hill, however, doesn’t want to dwell on the Cavs’ past turmoil.
‘"I'm a big believer that if you continue to look back at your past, you'll trip over the future that's ahead of you. I don't care what happened before. We're here to start something new,” said the veteran guard who had 12 points.
James echoed Hill’s sentiment about the Cavs moving on and looking ahead, especially with Cleveland over five games behind Boston for second place in the East.
"We've got some work to still do. We're just coming together; guys don't quite know what we want to do. ... So, we've got some catching up to do. Not only Boston, but Toronto and Philadelphia and a lot of other teams in the Eastern Conference and the rest of league,” said the four-time NBA MVP.
Right now, however, it’s undeniable, the fun is back in Cleveland. The Cavs are playing loose, just the way James wanted his new teammates to play in their impressive debut.
“That’s the way to hoop,” Clarkson shared of James’ post-game message to the team.