The Cleveland Cavaliers' road to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance was mired in uncertainty.
The roster underwent a slew of changes over the summer, and then again ahead of February's trade deadline. As the Cavaliers struggled to find any semblance of consistency, superstar LeBron James wondered whether a playoff berth was even in the cards.
"It was at points where, 'OK, will the Cavs even make the playoffs?'" James said during an exclusive interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Wednesday. "And I was like, 'OK, I am not settling for that conversation, now that is just ridiculous. Now I have got to get into the postseason.'"
Cleveland owned the seventh-best record in the Association on Feb. 6 at 30-22 but was losers of 13 of its last 20 games at the time - a stretch which included six defeats in seven outings from Jan. 8-23.
James' struggles were at the forefront, as he averaged 23.2 points and 4.8 turnovers while shooting 24.4 percent from 3-point range during that time, and he knew he had to get his act together.
"I was like, 'OK I am not quite sure what we are going to do with this ball club, we are not playing good basketball,' but you can't sell yourself short," James added. "You have so many people looking up to you, you have so many kids to inspire and you yourself you have always talked about be as great as you can be every day, so I kind of hit that switch before the trade deadline."
The Cavaliers essentially purged their team on Feb. 8, moving the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, and Iman Shumpert to acquire younger, fresher bodies like Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and Larry Nance Jr.
"We just had so many things going with our team, we shuffled in different lineups, we shuffled in different players, we made a trade at the deadline, and I can't sit here right now and say that The Finals was a part of my thinking," said James.
Cleveland ended the campaign with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference at 50-32, and while the Cavs barely escaped the first and third rounds by going the distance against both the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, they find themselves just four victories away from hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy once again.