Stephen Curry on LeBron James, Lakers: 'You've Still Got to Beat Us'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is defended by Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry in the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Despite LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is far from ready to give up his perch atop the Western Conference.

In an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Curry made it clear that LeBron and the Lakers' path to the NBA Finals goes through Golden State:

"There's a lot that's been made about the competition in the West and his eight straight Finals appearances and all that, but that just makes everybody raise the antenna up a little bit—including us. It's going to be fun for fans, playing [more] in the regular season and who knows in the playoffs. So the West obviously got stronger with LeBron but you've still got to beat us."

With Curry leading the way, Golden State has reached the NBA Finals in four straight seasons and won three of the past four championships.

Curry added that while he isn't sure how the Lakers will look after making so many changes this offseason, the pieces are in place for something special:

"I don't know what they're going to be as a team, because obviously it's brand new and they don't have their identity. But at the end of the day they'll come together with LeBron leading the charge. At the end of the day, he's in a great market, he's in a great city, he's around a great organization that has had a history of winning, he's with [Lakers president of basketball operations] Magic [Johnson]. It's interesting for him to make a move."

In addition to signing James, the Lakers have added guards Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson as well as center JaVale McGee this offseason.

L.A. also has a talented, young core that includes Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball.

Although the Lakers haven't reached the playoffs since 2012-13, they went from 17-65 in 2015-16 to 26-56 in 2016-17 to 35-47 last season.

LeBron figures to accelerate their rate of improvement significantly since he has played in the NBA Finals in each of the past eight seasons (four with the Miami Heat and four with the Cleveland Cavaliers).

James only managed to beat the Warriors once in four Finals attempts as a member of the Cavs, but there is no denying the future Hall of Famer's status as a difference-maker.

The season prior to James returning to Cleveland, the Cavs went 33-49. In 2014-15, LeBron led the team to a 53-29 mark in the regular season.

Cleveland's road to the Finals over the past four seasons wasn't as difficult as what the Lakers will face next season, but with James in the mix, they figure to be part of an elite group of teams in the Western Conference that includes the Warriors and Houston Rockets.