INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Whatever difficulties the Cleveland Cavaliers might have had closing out the regular season -- they went just 10-14 after March 1 and lost the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Boston Celtics -- LeBron James maintains belief in his team.
"We have a good chance to win it all," James said Thursday following the Cavs' first practice since learning the Indiana Pacers would be their first-round opponent (Game 1, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ABC).
"But it starts with baby steps first, and we understand that. It starts with our opponent in two days. We have to be very determined, but we also have to be very smart about our game plan and how we execute that game plan, execute that [for as close to] 48 minutes as possible starting with Game 1."
Practicing was a good start. It had been more than a month since the Cavs gathered at their facility at Cleveland Clinic Courts for a team workout with everyone healthy.
While their regular-season numbers weren't pretty -- they finished 20th in points allowed (107.2), 16th in opponent's field goal percentage (45.8) and 22nd in defensive efficiency (108 points allowed per 100 possessions) -- James said that beauty could be in store.
"I think through everything that went on with our team, we're in a position where we can do something special still," James said. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to harp on what happened in the regular season through injuries, through bad losses, through good wins, through whatever the case may be. We have a good club going into the postseason. That's all you can ask for."
What gives James so much confidence as he seeks to secure his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals?
"I've got the answer," James said. "I'm not giving it to you. But I've got the answer why I feel like we've got a great chance."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue had already started trying to figure out how he could get his team to stop the Pacers before the playoff seeding was set, locking into Indiana well before the regular season ended Wednesday.
"I figured it was going to be Indiana, just looking at their schedule, looking at the [Chicago] Bulls' schedule, I pretty much thought it was going to be them," Lue said. "And I've been putting it together for a while. So today I was able to go through some plays and try to take away some things."
One might think the first person the Cavs would try to limit would be Paul George, the Pacers' leading scorer at 23.7 points per game who put up 43 points, nine rebounds and nine assists the last time these two teams met in Cleveland's 135-130 double-overtime victory. However, Lue hinted it was the rest of the Indiana roster that worried him.
"We have to be very aware of him," Lue said about George. "We know he's going to score his points because he's a great player.
"But we have to do a good job of taking out all the other guys -- C.J. Miles, Monta [Ellis], Aaron Brooks and Lance Stephenson. We have to try and take those guys out of the game and out of the series because we know P.G. is capable of scoring 30 each night so we have to make it tough on him, show him different things, different schemes, throw different people at him and just try to take those other guys away."
The task might be a little harder for the Pacers. Try to take away James and there are still two All-Stars on the Cavs' roster in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. No matter what might have occurred in a disjointed regular season, the fact remains that the Cavs have never lost a playoff series when all three of those guys were healthy.
"It's been strange events this season, unfortunate events, some of them bad, some of them good, but at the end of the day I can't have my mind focused on the past now," James said.
"The present is the only thing that matters. Me preparing this group, me getting this group locked in and understanding what our opportunity is, I mean it is what it is. Let's get ready to go.
"We've got to have our mind sharp, our bodies as fresh as possible going into Game 1 on Saturday. You guys can harp on the regular season. I'm not one to do it, not with the postseason starting right now. You guys are trying to drain my energy. I just told you I feel great. Don't do that to me. I feel good. I'm not going backward."