LeBron James is on the most unprecedented run of NBA Finals appearances in history, having made it to the final round six consecutive years, with a seventh seeming like a near-certainty.
The last person to truly challenge LeBron in the East, Paul Pierce, doesn’t see that changing any time soon.
It’s pretty hard to find fault with Pierce’s comments. The Cavaliers are now 32-4 in the East (hat tip to ERaulli for that stat) since LeBron’s return to Cleveland, and the most meaningful challenge the team has faced was against the Bulls without Kevin Love, J.R. Smith for two games and a hobbled Kyrie Irving that was in and out of the lineup.
Pierce’s best road to contention? Wait out the Cavaliers until LeBron gets old.
"Whatever team in the East can stay together the longest gotta shot. If you've got a team that can stay together for the next five years, because you gotta figure LeBron's window is open for this year, maybe two more years."
This has long been a suggested strategy, though I think it’s a little silly to suggest that every team in the East should just rest on their laurels until LeBron starts to decline. The thing about a surprising upset or a fall from grace for a team is that it’s a surprise. You can’t always peer into your crystal ball and figure out when and how a team is going to fall off, so it’s very worth contending for the other teams in the East, even if it means an eventual demise against the Warriors in the Finals on the other end.
It was also interesting (and unsurprising) to see that Kevin Garnett didn’t like that other teams gave so much respect to James and the Cavaliers. DeMar DeRozan saying that if the team had LeBron James, they probably would have won too was not exactly what older NBA stars like to hear, and maybe there is a little too much reverence directed towards LeBron.
Nonetheless, James’ run has often felt like an inevitability for good reason. He’s one of the greatest players of all time, and it’ll take a herculean effort for another team out East to make an appearance in the Finals any time soon.