Many people may be writing off the Boston Celtics because they're without their two highest-profile stars, but their opponent isn't.
"I think they are one of the most well-coached teams in our league," the Cleveland Cavaliers icon said Friday, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "Obviously, you know what I've said about Brad Stevens before and his ability to get the most out of his guys, how great they are out of timeouts, late-clock situations as well. No matter who is on the floor or no matter who has played for them, he can put guys in position to succeed and get the most out of whoever has been in their lineup over the past few years. It's not just this year.
"I think it has been a little bit overblown this year because of the names that have been out. Obviously, with Kyrie and Gordon and the injuries with those two big guys, but he has gotten the most out of everybody he has ever put in his position since he's gotten to Boston.
"A lot of people are saying, 'How can they succeed like this without Gordon Hayward?' I've heard that. He's been out since the first quarter of Game 1, so it's like do we even know who they would have (become)? He's not even been on the team ... I get it with the Kyrie thing. He was obviously a teammate of mine for three years, and I know what he's capable of doing, but they got guys that are damn good no matter if they are young or not; they know how to play basketball and their coach has put them in position to succeed."
James pointed to players like Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier stepping up for the Celtics, who lost marquee free-agent pickup Hayward for the campaign on opening night against the Cavaliers, while Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery last month. Even without the All-Star duo, Stevens' men finished the regular season with the league's best defensive rating and the second-best record in the East.
As such, they have home-court advantage over the No. 4 Cavaliers and will host them in Game 1 on Sunday. Despite entering as the lower seed, James' Cavs are favored in the series. What's more, his teams have won the past six playoff games in Boston dating back to 2012.
Even with all that in mind, James knows better than to take the men in green lightly.