(CLEVELAND, OH) – The Cleveland Cavaliers had an entire summer to dwell on their crushing loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals.
“I think last year is last year, and this year is this year,” Cavs head coach David Blatt said at the team’s media day on Monday. “We do have high expectations. Our goals are clear and are stated, but not guaranteed.

“It’s important for all of us to not overstate, but to overachieve.”

Blatt admitted he borrowed that last quote from Cavs general manager David Griffin, who never fails to reiterate the organization’s ultimate goal — Bring a championship to the title-starved city of Cleveland.

The elephant in the room can’t go unnoticed. The Cavs haven’t won an NBA title since the franchise came into existence, and the last time any professional team from Cleveland captured a championship was more than 50 years ago. Media day 2015 was simply the first event of what should be an undeniably eventful 2015-16 Cavs season.

Monday’s media day, which is held annually at the Cavaliers’ practice facility, was considerably subdued compared to the 2014 extravaganza. To be fair, the Cavs may never have another media day as wild as the 2014 version. LeBron James had recently announced his return to Cleveland and the Cavs traded for Kevin Love a little more than a month later, forming the NBA’s most recent ‘Big 3’ with dynamic point guard Kyrie Irving. Although Irving and Love continue to recover from injuries that forced their exits in the 2015 playoffs, the Cavs should be one of the favorites to win it all when both players reach optimal health.

As the 2015-16 NBA seasons nears, there’s only one albatross hanging over the team — Tristan Thompson’s contract conundrum. Thompson is a restricted free agent, and he has until Thursday to sign the Cavs’ one-year qualifying offer of $6.9 million that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016. If the Cavs and Thompson can’t agree on a long-term contract before Thursday’s deadline, he’ll have to either sign the qualifying offer or mutually agree with the team to extend the qualifying offer deadline and holdout into training camp.

Reports around the league say the Cavs and Thompson are roughly $14 million apart in extension talks. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Thompson’s agent Rich Paul is seeking a maximum contract of $94 million over five years, while the Cavs continue to hold firm to an offer of five years and $80 million. The strained talks have somewhat soured what should be one of the most anticipated Cavaliers seasons in franchise history.

“Obviously, we love Tristan Thompson and we want him to be a part of our future moving forward,” Griffin said. “I think everything in our actions and our offer indicate that. We also believe very strongly that Tristan loves this team, and he loves competing with these guys — We think everything in his actions to this point have demonstrated the same.

“We’re excited about moving forward with him into the future in whatever form that may take. I think we feel very good about where this is because of who Tristan is.”

While Griffin seems optimistic about Thompson’s future with the Cavs organization, the fact that a deal has yet to be reached between the two parties hints otherwise.

Thompson was a no-show at media day on Monday, and it’s unclear whether he’ll be on the floor with his teammates anytime soon. The Cavs begin practicing on Tuesday.

With or without Thompson, Cleveland’s roster is one of the most talented and deepest contingents in the NBA. Aside retaining most of its core this summer (outside of Thompson’s absence), the Cavs added veteran free agents Richard Jefferson and former Cavalier Mo Williams, who’s experiencing his second stint with the franchise. Cleveland also added another Russian big man, Sasha Kaun, to play behind fellow Russian Timofey Mozgov. Kaun, whom the Cavaliers drafted in 2008, has played overseas ever since. The seven-footer is familiar with Blatt, who coached Kaun on the Russian national team that won a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics.

While winning a bronze medal in the Olympics is no small feat, Blatt would probably rather hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy when the upcoming season comes to an end. Blatt and James haven’t forgotten the rotten feeling they felt when last season’s final horn sounded.

“I’ve been to the Finals six times,” James said. “I’ve lost four of them, and it gets worse and worse every single time.”

The Cavs were two wins away from an NBA title last season. James and the rest of the organization are on a mission to pick up those last two victories in June of 2016
POSTED 09/28/2015 19:09
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Lake County Sentinel
Cavaliers ready to put finals disappointment behind them and take the next step