One of these two Cleveland Cavaliers is undoubtedly a superstar, a former MVP winner and well on the road to becoming one of the greatest of all time. The other is strictly a role player, someone whose main purpose is to come off the bench and fire away from long range. The first player’s surname is the same as the second player’s first name, and by now you probably know whom we’re referring to – LeBron James and his backup, James Jones. And they’re in the news now as the first players since Bill Russell and several Boston Celtics teammates from the 1960s to qualify for five straight NBA Finals.
There’s no need to tell you about how “King” James played a huge role in the Eastern Conference Finals, as he averaged close to a triple-double, leading the Cavs to a 4-0 sweep of the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Jones, as usual, came off the bench to shoot three-pointers, and as we’ve seen from the 12-year NBA veteran, that skill of his is more evident in the postseason. Both men were part of the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2014, as they qualified for the NBA Finals in all four seasons in that time span. But the operative word here is qualified – Jones, while part of the Heat’s roster for the 2010-11 season, did not play in the 2011 Finals.
“I am aware (that the feat is an important part of NBA history) but I just count myself blessed and lucky to be a part of great teams, great organizations with guys that sacrifice,” said Jones, speaking to Fox Sports. “One thing about all these teams, though…one thing we’ve always said is that we’re not looking back until it’s done.” Jones was signed as a free agent by the Cavaliers for the 2014-15 season, recommended by James as someone who could help the team as a reserve small forward. This season, he averaged only 11.7 minutes per game and scored just 4.4 points. But as a specialist, he shot 63-for-175 from the three-point line, with close to 90 percent of his field goal attempts in the regular season (201) coming from beyond the arc.
In a separate interview, James talked about how he hopes to lead Cleveland to this season’s NBA championship and attain the same success he achieved in the Finals with the Heat. This is important as Cleveland has not won a major sports championship since 1964, a good two decades before he was born. “I understood what these people were going through, the people here,” said James after Tuesday’s 118-88 drubbing of the Hawks. “Not only in Cleveland but Northeast Ohio and all over the world who love and bleed wine and gold. To be at this point tonight, it’s very emotional.”
All told, the five straight trips to the Finals are great for Jones and James, but none of that will matter unless the Cavaliers bring home the bacon for Cleveland and end a 51-year championship drought. The Cavs will be facing the winner of the Western Conference Finals, which the Golden State Warriors currently lead, 3-1, over the Houston Rockets.