They're everywhere—in sports bars, home theaters, on mom's living-room couch, at viewing parties or just walking in the door from a vacation. They're screaming at their TVs, calmly predicting plays before they unfold, privately groaning at mistakes or not watching at all, either because their interest is too low or the tension is too much to bear.
They are former Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors who know what the combatants in Cavs-Warriors IV are experiencing because they were part of I, II and/or III. Here is what seven of them said about this year's Finals matchup—if they're watching, how they're watching, what they're looking for and who they have winning.
Richard Jefferson, Cavs F for II & III: I'm going to watch LeBron lose and pretty much feel bad about it. I don't watch a lot of games, because if I know people playing or want an outcome, I get frustrated. Honestly, I'm crazy. It's ridiculous, but I don't watch (University of) Arizona games, either. I just get updates or check scores on my phone. I don't care about the Cavs or Warriors; I just get frustrated when you know what's going to happen—and then it does.
Marreese Speights, Warriors F for I & II: I'm not really interested in watching [because] I feel like I already know the outcome. That and I'm around the game the whole year, so I like to get away from it once the season is over.
I watched the last five minutes of the third quarter of Game 2 at my mom's house with my mom, sister and brother. I'm not going to sit around and watch a whole game, but they had it on, so I came in and watched the end with them. I was calling out every play before it was happening. My mom was like, 'How do you do that?' I just know how the guys on the Warriors are feeling and thinking.
I wasn't going to watch Game 1 at all, but I saw a bunch of people tweeting about it, so I turned it on and watched the last 45 seconds of regulation. I had just got back from Jamaica. When they reversed the call and KD went to the free-throw line, I turned it off. That's all I needed to know how it was going to end. You can't really give the Warriors a first chance and you sure can't give them a second chance.
When I do watch, my heart rate goes up as if I was playing. I'm thinking about what I would be doing if I were out there or what I think needs to be done in situations. I've seen what everybody sees with the Warriors: The bench should be way better. Their bench is solid, it's just got a lot of mystery guys. You're just not sure what you're going to get from them every game. They might have a great game, but you just don't know. It's also different because they usually have a couple of starters in with them. When Coach [Steve Kerr] went to our bench, it might be five guys, a whole different unit. And sometimes, the bench was so solid in the third quarter that he wouldn't have to put back in the starters.
Even though I'm with the Magic and I played with the Clippers, winning a championship and doing all the good things we did with the Warriors created a brotherhood. My feelings about the fans and the city and the players is the same. Ain't no lost feelings. Maybe I'll even play there again someday.
Dahntay Jones, Cavs G/F for II & III: I watched Game 1 in an L.A. sports bar. That was a first. I'm usually at home with my sons, but a friend invited me out. It was kind of cool. I'm usually not around people cheering for the other team when I watch. The Warriors fans in the bar knew who I was and I had a few opinions coming at me, but I also had friends around me.
Whether I'm out or at home, I'm talking to the TV. I tend to pick apart a game naturally when I'm watching. Since I know the schemes and what the game plan was for the Cavs, I was immersed. I'm not watching on a surface level; I'm trying to dissect what's going on. I think it's going to be a seven-game series. It's all going to come down to competing on the defensive end for the Cavs. That and keeping the tempo where it is. They did a great job in Game 1 of stopping the Warriors' third-quarter runs.
The Warriors are vulnerable until they get Andre [Iguodala] back. People look at me crazy when I say it, but he's a big part of their defensive commitment as well. He gives them confidence on that end. Not having him to make sure the defensive focus is there puts a lot of stress on their scorers.
I was thinking of going to Cleveland for the games there. If not, I'll watch it with my sons. They're 12, six and seven months old. I'm holding the seven-month-old on my chest and the instant basketball comes on the TV screen, it catches his attention. He's not that way with anything else on TV, just basketball.
Channing Frye, Cavs F for II & III: I've been watching every game. No. 1, because I love basketball. No. 2, because I'm a free agent. I want to see what teams are doing and what they might need. I usually watch at my house in Portland, unless someone invites me out.
I have a routine. I like to watch the whole first quarter and then I'll get up and get something to eat when the second quarter starts. That's kind of the rest-all-your-main-guys stretch. That section is only important if one of the bench guys—[Kyle] Korver or Jeff Green, Nick Young or Andre Iguodala—gets hot. And then I'll watch the last half of the second quarter.
Yeah, I'm one of those guys who will yell and scream at the TV. I still talk to LeBron and Kevin [Love] every day, or every other day. I have relationships with those guys, so I want to see them do well. I haven't been in the Golden State locker room, so I don't know what is expected or what they say to each other, but I know what Cleveland has to do to win. It comes down to this: Can you get by your man and get to the rack? That's realistically how you beat Golden State. The Warriors have by far the best backcourt, but they don't have [traditional] shot-blockers once you get to the rim. If they have to take the ball out, you can limit them and get physical with them. When you start shooting threes, especially when you haven't swung the ball back and forth, that's when you get in trouble.
It will be interesting to see what the Warriors are if they have to keep playing with only one point guard—and by that I mean Draymond. Steph [Curry] is really a 2-guard with great handles who can make a pass. When Andre and Draymond have the ball, you have two guys you know are trying to make a play more than trying to score.
More than anything, I want to see good basketball. This series should go seven, and regardless of what people say, Cleveland can figure out a way to win.
Festus Ezeli, Warriors C for I & II: I watch because it's all about learning. I envision myself being in that situation in the future again. My brother hasn't been on the floor, but he's been at the games with me when I was playing for the Warriors, so when something happens on the floor, we can talk about what I could have done in that situation.
The Warriors are still a really good team, we're just so used to seeing them blow teams out. The thing you have to give them credit for is they weather the storm. KD doesn't shoot well, they give up a bunch of offensive rebounds, LeBron scores 51 and they still win Game 1. Usually, you'd chalk that up as a loss. LeBron is playing at an all-time high, a force to be reckoned with, but the Cavs are relying on him to save them every night. The difference from when I played against them is how reliant they are on him.
To be honest, as a basketball fan, I want the series to go seven games. But the way it's going, that's hard to see. If the Cavs got Game 1, it would've given them momentum and confidence. That was a heartbreaker. Now they're fighting against themselves. I feel like it can steamroll a team. Look at what happened to us: 3-1 lead, [Andrew] Bogut gets injured, I get injured, Draymond gets suspended. The momentum turned on us. You never want to let momentum get away from you.
Brendan Haywood, Cavs C for I: I'll be watching every game in my theater room at my house in Charlotte, N.C. I've got my snacks lined up and I watch everything, from the pregame show on. This is the last bit of good basketball we're going to see, so I don't want to miss a minute of it.
I'll invite a couple of my friends over and I'll have snacks for them—chips and gummy bears and I'll order a pizza if they want one—but then I have my snacks. I just started eating Vegan; I'm getting married in August. My snacks are veggies and I'll have my chef make vegetable lasagna or black beans and kale.
I'm chill when I'm watching because I don't have a vested interest. Richard [Jefferson] probably still feels like he's part of the Cavs. I'm so far removed from it, I don't feel that anymore. I watch from a fan perspective and so I can form my opinion for when I'm doing TV or radio.
First thing I wanted to see is if Ty Lue had LeBron playing below the free-throw line. LeBron is a better post player now than he was. Playing fast is a recipe for getting your ass busted by the Warriors. Then every game it's: Who do the Warriors start on LeBron—Draymond or KD? I'd love to see more of KD vs. LeBron. That's what we all want to see. I've got the Warriors winning in five games.
Matt Barnes, Warriors G/F for III: I'm still a huge fan. I normally watch with my twins or friends, but Baron Davis had a viewing party for Game 1, so I went to that. I still talk to Draymond and KD all the time, too. I've been talking to them throughout the playoffs. Even when they were struggling, losing by 30, I kept telling them, "Just remember the big picture. You're going to be playing until June."
They know what they're capable of, but at times they get antsy. I saw them out of character for the first time against the Rockets. The ball was sticking with certain players. I talked to KD after he struggled. He said, "I've got to come out and play great." I told him the strength of this team is you can just be KD. You don't have to be a superhero.
This would've been a perfect year for me to be there, in hindsight. They could have used some veteran help defensively off the bench. But I don't get hyped watching; I've been able to separate myself. If I see certain things, like I could've made that steal or that play, then I think, Damn, I wish I was out there, but that's about it. When they don't close out a game, I know the internal reasons why—loss of focus or whatever.
That said, their toughest test is behind them. To be honest, with all due respect, I think they're going to sweep Cleveland. The Cavs were playing at a higher level last year, and I thought that should've been a sweep. One reason is I've never seen a single person have to do as much for a team as LeBron does. Sometimes, I almost feel bad for him. Every single play, he has to do something. Offensively, he has to work so hard and he's had to fight through young, athletic teams this year. I've never seen him this gassed. He's literally carrying this team on his back. Seeing him get tired against these other teams, I knew it was going to be too much to ask against the Warriors. He did an amazing job getting them to the Finals, but I think I speak for a lot of people in saying if the Cavs somehow pulled this off, it would be the biggest upset in sports history.