CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James knew what might happen when Kevin Durant merged with the Warriors, a 73-win team out for revenge.
James understood the potential of this Golden State goliath with more firepower than perhaps anything the NBA has seen before.
And although he’s on the cusp of being swept in the Finals — for the second time — by a team unequalled in today’s game, James isn’t envious of the Warriors for building a super power in sneakers.
He’d do it, too.
One day after Cleveland plunged into a 3-0 hole following a demoralizing 118-113 loss in Game 3, James said he didn’t have a problem with Durant tilting the balance of power by joining forces with a star-studded that already had Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
“It’s part of the rules,” James said Thursday. “Is it fair? I don’t care. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, who am I to say if it’s fair or not?”
James paved the way for Durant by leaving Cleveland as a free agent in 2010 to play with All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami, where the trio won back-to-back titles sandwiched between four straight Finals. James doesn’t begrudge the Warriors, he even pointed out the NBA isn’t the only league where dynasties have been built by owners throwing around money.
James, who has expressed a desire to own a team one day, cited the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s as examples of teams that spent for success.
“I’m not one to judge and say if it’s fair or not if guys are adding players to their team,” he said. “It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it.
“Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”
With that, James walked off the dais, ending a news conference in which he addressed the dawn of Golden State’s dynasty, his future and criticism for a play late in Wednesday’s loss.
It would have been understandable if James had been dour given that his hopes to win a fourth title and second straight with Cleveland evaporated in the closing minutes of Game 3. The Warriors outscored the Cavs 11-0 down the stretch to run their postseason record to 15-0, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t close out the series on Friday night.
But except for an exaggerated yawn before taking the first question, James was upbeat, satisfied that he has done everything within his power to slow the Warriors, who have toyed with the field for weeks.
James made his first Finals appearance 10 years ago, when he and the Cavs were swept by San Antonio, which captured its third Larry O’Brien Trophy in a five-year span. At that time, it felt like a title was far away for James. Now, a fourth one seems nearly as distant with the scary-good Warriors just getting started.
“I think it’s just part of my calling to just go against teams in the midst of a dynasty,” James said. “This has been the best team in our league the last three years. They won a championship, and last year it was the greatest regular-season team we had played, probably one of the best postseason teams that everybody’s ever seen as well, but we were just able to overcome that.
“And they’re playing like one of the best teams once again, and obviously this team is built to be able to do that with the talent that they have. Obviously you never know what’s going to happen, but as it stands right now, they look pretty good, as far as the future.”
As for his own future, James, who is averaging 32 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the Finals, said he hasn’t decided how much longer he’ll play.
“I definitely want to compete,” he said. “I want to compete for championships every year, and so we’ll see what happens.”
And James has once again been criticized for not being more aggressive late in Game 3, when he made a pass to Kyle Korver. The sharpshooter missed a potential game-sealing 3-pointer with 50 seconds left. Durant then came down and made his go-ahead 3.
James broke down the play, highlighting every detail — Green with five fouls, Durant collapsing, Curry guarding Kevin Love and Korver being open in the short corner — before delivering his own counter punch.
“I would do the same exact thing,” he said.