Cavs look to defend their NBA Championship

The Cavaliers begin their quest to defend their NBA Championship against the New York Knicks Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena

CLEVELAND--Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the hunters.

This year, they are the hunted.

"There's going to be a lot of teams fighting to get where we are," Kevin Love said. "We know we have a lot of work to do. We know we are going to be hunted because we are the top dog. We expect to be up there again."

Then again, with the Golden State Warriors adding former NBA 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, the Warriors are still the talk of the NBA.

"We still have a chip on our shoulders," J.R. Smith said. "Everybody else has gotten better. Believe it or not, we're still not the talk of the town."

Four time MVP LeBron James said nothing has changed for the Cavs, despite winning the title.

"It's the same mindset, 'Let's win a championship,'"  James said. "We just want to be able to put ourselves in position to do that. We have the ability, we have the personnel, but we have to work now."

Smith said winning the championship last year took some of the pressure off, but the Cavs start all over at 0-0 Tuesday night against the New York Knicks.

"(Winning the championship) is a weight off our shoulders," Smith said. "At the same time, we want to repeat. That's our goal."

Between now and defending their championship is an 82 game regular season schedule and then winning 16 games in the playoffs.

"We have a professional group of guys who understand what we want," Tyronn Lue said. "You've got to be tough and you've got to be willing to play hard."

Lue said the Cavs are extremely confident as they head into the 2016-17 season. 

"When you win a championship and make it to the mountaintop, you have confidence going into next season," Lue said. "Our team is very confident. We're ready to get the regular season started."

The primary goal of the regular season is to qualify for the playoffs by being one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, as well as gaining the number one seed overall in the conference or in the NBA to retain home court advantage in the playoffs. Last year, the Cavs finished with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but Golden State had the overall best record. However, the Cavaliers won Game 7 in Oakland. 

The Cavaliers were 57-25 in the regular season last year, but with it being all about the post season, they might not be as worried about their regular season record, resting players may be even more than they did last year.

Lue said there is one thing more important to him than home court advantage.

"As long as we're healthy, I don't care," Lue said. "Give me health over anything."

Wine & Gold Report Predictions

Record: 60-22

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Pacers

Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Spurs

NBA Finals: Warriors over Cavaliers 

5 Reasons Cavaliers will repeat...

1. They're still the top team in the Eastern Conference--Boston added Al Horford, but they lost Jared Sullinger. Toronto is still tough and made it to the Conference Finals last season but they lost Bismack Biyombo and added Sullinger. You have to win the conference to get to the Finals and the Cavs still have the firepower to get there for the third-straight season. The Pacers were strong last season and could be the team the Cavs have to get past to get to the Finals.

2. The Big Three--The Cavs Big 3 of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving return with confidence and a nearly two seasons of playing together.

3. Irving is Emerging--Erving demonstrated in the NBA Finals that he is on his way to super star status and could be the face of the franchise going forward. Irving's final shot in Game 7 will give him the confidence to be the Cavs closer in the final moments of games. 

4. They still want to repeat--The Cavaliers don't want to be one and done. With Kevin Durant joining the powerful Warriors, the Cavs don't want to concede anything. They relish the under dog role and though they might not be greatly motivated in the regular season, they are a veteran team that knows what needs to be done in the playoffs.

5. They still have LeBron--James is still in the prime of his career and the NBA GM's voted James to win the MVP this season for the fifth time in his career.

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