With Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors dominating seemingly every NBA headline – and deservedly so – LeBron James is having another LeBron James-like season. He’s averaging 24.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals for Cleveland (42-17), which is atop the East and the favorite to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight season.
Whether the Cavs actually bring home the hardware, though, has less to do with James and more to do with his teammates.
“(LeBron is) doing a good job,” NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show, “(but) everyone knows you really can’t do it by yourself. The other guys have to step up. The main guys that really need to step are Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.”
Love is averaging 15.9 points and a team-high 10.1 rebounds, while Irving is averaging 19.0 points and 4.4 assists. The Cavs (42-17) have won seven of 10 overall but have lost three of their last five.
“Right now, if you’re not playing as close to what Golden State is doing, you don’t have a shot,” O’Neal said. “We saw what Golden State did to them a few weeks ago. If they want to make it to that next level and get a ring, those two guys are going to definitely have to step up. Others are going to have to step up also. LeBron, yes, he has two championships and he did his thing and D-Wade did his thing, but it was the others that got them over the hump. Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, (Chris) Bosh – guys like that. Everyone’s going have to step up if they want to get to that next level. But right now if you’re not playing close to Golden State, you don’t have a shot.”
O’Neal was asked about another former teammate, Kobe Bryant, who plays his final NBA game at home against the Jazz on April 13. O’Neal, who is going to try to attend the game but may have a scheduling conflict, said that he and Bryant are on good terms.
“We’ve always been good,” said O’Neal, who won three titles with Bryant in the early 2000s. “What people don’t understand – whether it’s dealing with business, sports, marriage – it’s all about respect. You don’t always have to agree on certain things. You don’t always have to like what each other does. But it’s always about respect. He respected me enough in the Portland game, Game 7 (of the 2000 Western Conference Finals), to throw that lob. I respected him enough to kick it out to him (when I got double-teamed). A lot of people think when you’re on a championship team, you’ve got to have a lovey-dovey relaitonship. That’s false. I know it’s false because I’ve been on four teams where that’s never happened. So it’s about the respect. Respect is the key word. Respect is the key factor. So are we good? Yes, we’ve always been good. We’ve always respected each other.”