The hard work is only just beginning for James and the Cavs. The team underwent a major change Tuesday, and an adjustment period is to be expected after Cleveland traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round pick, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.
While the Cavs will have a new look, they got a strong return in the deal, especially considering that Irving requested to be traded, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported last month. The Cavs got a player to replace Irving's offensive role and output (Thomas), an excellent defender who should strengthen their second unit (Crowder) and two pieces for the future (Zizic and the Brooklyn pick) that should help transition the team into a rebuild if James departs the Cavaliers in free agency.
But for James—who has reached an incredible seven straight NBA Finals, winning three titles in that stretch—the grind is never over. The 32-year-old hasn't lost a step, averaging 26.4 points, 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds in the 2016-17 season, and remains the NBA's best player.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, seemingly remain the Eastern Conference's best team even after trading Irving. With the added depth and defense that Crowder brings, they may be in a better position to challenge the Golden State Warriors in next year's NBA Finals, assuming the two teams meet with a title on the line for the fourth straight season.
James may be working out under the assumption that will be the case. After a summer in which the Warriors kept all their major pieces in place, several Western Conference teams improved dramatically and Irving reportedly desired to leave James' shadow before being traded to Cleveland's main competition in the East, it would hardly be surprising if James has a chip on his shoulder.