LeBron James: Cavaliers 'Could Easily Get Bounced Early in the Playoffs'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James sits on the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James believes his team is in danger of an early postseason exit if it continues its current struggles.

"Playoffs? We can't even start thinking about that, not the way we're playing right now," he said after the Cavaliers' 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. "We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven't even began thinking about the postseason."

It was Cleveland's ninth loss in its last 12 games.

"I can't break," James added. "I'm the last one that can break at this point. I'm the leader of this team. Hopefully we can get some wins, and that definitely helps, but I'm going to stay as positive as I can be. You guys know me—patience has not always been a thing for me—but knowing the rough patch that we're in right now, that's what I'm going to give to this team. Just stay positive."

At 27-18, the Cavaliers still have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. And the team has had regular-season drama before only to flip a switch and roll through the postseason en route to three straight trips to the NBA Finals and a title in the 2015-16 season.

The Cavaliers had more turnover this offseason than in any of those years, however, with Kyrie Irving traded and players such as Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose coming in. Thomas' early-season hip injury also kept him off the court, costing him and his teammates valuable time to build on-court chemistry.

Hanging over everything is James' future. He will be a free agent after the season and has yet to offer any assurances that he plans to return to Cleveland. Thomas is also a free agent, and the Cavs could be facing an exodus this summer.

So too is the fact that the Golden State Warriors remain arguably the greatest collection of talent in NBA history and the prohibitive favorites to win the title this year. Even if the Cavaliers figure things out, it may not be enough to get past Golden State should they meet in the Finals.

Regardless, James wasn't ready to start pointing fingers, and he and his teammates defended head coach Tyronn Lue.

"We're in a tough spot right now, but we will get better," he said. "It could be worse. We could be 15th in the East or out of the playoff picture. We still got to get back to what we do, and we will figure it out. I'm not here to look for pity on what we're trying to do. No one is going to feel sorry for us. I don't feel sorry for us, either. I want us to get better."

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