LeBron, Cavs begin road to possible championship

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James threw his right arm around Kevin Love and rested the other on Kyrie Irving's shoulder.

They laughed, smiled and posed for photos — together.

And that's how they plan to win an NBA championship.

The trio of All-Stars, aligned this summer to bring a title to title-deprived Cleveland, took their first steps as new teammates Friday as the Cavs held their media day to tip off a season they hope ends with the city's first pro sports championship since 1964, when the Browns ruled the NFL.

Wearing a No. 23 wine-and-goal Cavs uniform again, a subdued James, much more mature and business-like than the player who left for Miami four years ago, talked about his focus in trying to add a third title to the two he won with the Heat.

And while the Cavs instantly became title favorites when James announced he was coming back in July, the four-time MVP understands there will be immense pressure on him to deliver — and that nothing is guaranteed.

"I still have a lot to prove because of expectations I put on myself," James said. "I ask more of myself than anybody can ever ask of me. My expectations are still high, but I am more patient now than I was four years ago. I understand what it takes to win a championship. I understand winning a championship is the hardest thing you could ever do. I've been two up and two down in four years.

"I went from crying tears of joy to tears of frustration. I know it all. I know what it takes."

The Cavs credentialed more than 300 media members for the first public appearance of Cleveland's "Big 3" and TV crews from Germany, Japan and Brazil were among the throng that invaded the team's training facility. The team set up an outdoor tent to accommodate the overflow of reporters.

If Day One was any indication, the Cavs are in for quite a ride.

Photographers swarmed around James everywhere he went and when he Irving and Love united for group shots, cameras whirred like the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

"It's definitely a surreal experience," Irving said of having James and Love as teammates.

James was the first to be interviewed, and he barely cracked a smile as he discussed his plans for the season ahead. Only when he spoke about his two sons, and the influence they had on his return to Northeast Ohio did James' mood lighten.

As it turns out, LeBron James Jr. and Bryce James paved the way for their dad's return.

"I asked them first," James said. "I didn't explain it to them; they explained it to me. I was like, 'What do you think about daddy going back home to play? "They were like, 'Home? You're talking about Cleveland?' I was like, 'Yeah.'"

James didn't realize his boys had it all figured out.

"It was like, 'OK, you get to play with Kyrie Irving?' I was like, yeah," James said. "They were like, 'We getting to go back home to our house and getting back to my old school and my old friends?' I was like, yeah. They were like, 'OK, you can do it.' And that's how it went."

James also explained his recent weight loss — he went on a strict two-month diet — was a personal challenge.

"It had nothing to do with basketball," he said. "I'm 29 years old, and I can still fly above the rim. I don't need to lose weight to do that."

James is returning to a Cavs team that went only 33-49 last season, and missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. Not only does he need to adjust to new teammates, but James will play for David Blatt, a successful international coach whose first job in North America is to take this talent-laden squad to the finals.

"Let's get it on," Blatt said. "Let's go. I want to get it started."

Blatt has already learned that nothing will be the same for the Cavs on or off the court. They've been transformed from irrelevant to the hottest ticket in the NBA. Blatt arrived at work Friday and realized everything had changed.

"I couldn't find a parking place," he joked.

One of Blatt's first objectives will be getting his team to mesh, and he knows it will take time. Patience was the buzz word of the day.

Blatt, too, understands having James makes things easier.

"It's an enormous advantage when your best player and arguably the best player in the world is your best example," Blatt said. "When he comes to work every day, you know you're going to get his maximum effort and maximum performance. When he walks into the gym, he lifts everyone up."

For James, his homecoming with the Cavs is a chance to finish what he started. He carried Cleveland to its only finals appearance in 2007, but now the stakes are higher.

This time, a championship isn't just a goal, it's expected.

"I'm a guy that my expectations are still high because I believe in this team and what we can ultimately get to," James said. "But I also understand it won't be easy and we can't try to play November and get to June or May right now. We have to go November to December and the rest of the calendar year to even have a chance."

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