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The View Beyond Pluto: The LeBron James Roadblock is Finally Lifted for Toronto

Without LeBron James in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors have made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history
Adam Lazzarato
Wikimedia Commons
Without LeBron James in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors have made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history

For the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors have made it to the NBA Finals. The team's biggest roadblock: LeBron James. The Cavs with James had beaten Toronto in the playoffs three straight years, including a sweep last year. But the door opened when James left the Eastern Conference to play for the L.A. Lakers. Now, The Raptors will take on the depfending champion Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Our commentator Terry Pluto says the Raptors are no longer "the little team that could."

Pluto says for many years, the Cavs had one big advantage over the Raptors: LeBron James. Even last season, when the Raptors had 2018 coach of the year Dwayne Casey, they were swept in four games by James and the Cavs. Casey ended up being fired.  

Wayne Embry and Kawhi Leonard

Pluto says he's happy for NBA great Wayne Embry, who is a consultant for the Raptors. From 1985 to 1992, Embry was vice president and general manager of the Cavs, and became the first African American team president with the Cavaliers in 1994. 

But during Embry's time with the Cavs, the team ran into a roadblock of its own: Michael Jordan and The Bulls. 

"The (Eastern Conference) trophy never got in Cleveland because I mean it was the same exact thing: They had such a nice team and good coaching ... (but) we would run into too much greatness. That was always Wayne's line — too much greatness on the, you know, what's being one guy," Pluto says. 

Pluto says the Raptors also decided to go big in the offseason last year, getting Kawhi Leonard in a trade with the Spurs. Leonard has emerged as one of the best players in the NBA. 

"(Leonard's) not as good as LeBron in his prime, but he's really good and there was no LeBron on the other side," Pluto says. 

Leonard becomes a free agent after this season. 


Pluto says the Raptor's rise reminds him of the Cavs upsetting the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. 

"In fact, they lost the first two games in Detroit," Pluto says. "This is much like what Toronto did, and they won the next four. So now they go into the finals and they face San Antonio and it was foreign out. It wasn't very close, but the feeling here was probably like it was in 2007 in Toronto — almost like you won the championship already because that was the first time the cats had ever gone to the NBA Finals."

Beating Golden State

When Pluto is asked if the Raptors have a chance against the reigning champions, he said "No" without a hesitation.

"You would have to have, just like how Kevin Durant got hurt, somebody else would have to get hurt or something like that," Pluto says. 

The Raptors take on Golden State beginning Thursday night. 

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.