INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James -- on the cusp of the 10th playoff appearance of his 12-year career -- is no stranger to the postseason.
James' coach, David Blatt, and two of his most productive teammates, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, are postseason neophytes, however. It will be the first taste of the NBA playoffs for all three of them as the Cavaliers host the Celtics in Game 1 of their first-round series on Sunday.
Despite that gap in experience, Blatt does not want to put too much responsibility on James' shoulders.
"I think that mentally and emotionally he'll lead the way," Blatt said of James after practice on Friday. "And certainly on the court his example is going to be felt and it's going to be followed. But this all can't be on LeBron. This is a team and a team effort and everyone here has to do his part. The good news is he's a guy that's done it, been there and led teams to the ultimate. He's certainly a guy that the other guys can look towards."
Blatt has coached in big games overseas, of course, but never in a seven-game playoff format. Love played in the Final Four in his lone season at UCLA and Irving is coming off a summer in which he led USA Basketball to a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup.
The playoffs are a different animal, however. Irving recalled watching Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers battling it out against Western Conference foes when he was a kid and dreaming of being out there himself. For Love, those playoff viewing memories revolve around Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
"This probably will be the biggest game I've played in," Irving said of Sunday's opener. "I played for my country. But the preparation that goes into this and just the attention, everyone is watching, and the elite 16-team group, all the hard work has come to fruition and now we lay it out on the line to get four wins in a playoff series."
Irving missed the playoffs his first three seasons in Cleveland. Love missed them his first six seasons in Minnesota. It's only added to their anticipation.
"I think they're excited and they're looking forward to their first time," James said of Love and Irving. "They are very excited. None of us know, the game is played on Sunday, but I think they're ready for it."
Irving said James' main advice revolved around preparation. Love said that not only James, but the other Cavs veterans with championship experience on their resume in Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, James Jones and Brendan Haywood, have preached about the physicality that the postseason brings.
James wants his team ready for what's to come without being swallowed by the moment.
"My leadership doesn't change no matter the magnitude of the game," he said. "I'm going to lead my guys and get them as prepared as they need to be on Sunday and they'll follow my lead and I'll put them in the best possible chance to win."
"There aren't many players in the playoffs right now that have his kind if experience and understanding of the moment, so I think we can depend on him to do the right thing," Blatt said.
Even with the Cavs' disparate mix of former champs and playoff newbies, they are the Las Vegas favorites to win it all at 9-4 odds, edging out Golden State (5-2) and San Antonio (4-1).
It's an expectation level that Cleveland is combating.
"It's not sensible and it's not correct to put the cart before the horse," Blatt said. "We've got a lot of tough basketball ahead of us to get anywhere. We're nowhere near what's going to be at the end. We're very much in the moment of the beginning of this process. ... That's why I think it's a little unfair for people to start claiming that we should do this and do that. We haven't done anything as a team yet at this stage. We all have to stay together and work very, very hard in trying to achieve our goal."
That goal begins with the Celtics.
"There will be no overlooking Boston, no matter what the records are," James said. "Everyone's 0-0 when you get to this point, so our whole game plan right now is giving ourselves a chance to win the game."
Added Irving: "We're not entitled to anything. We haven't won anything."