Oddsmakers, however, seemed convinced, many Las Vegas sports books making the Cavs a 4-1 favorite to win the championship. It will be the fifth straight season James' team is the preseason NBA favorite, according to RJ Bell, founder of the website Pregame.com.
The other team with them is the Spurs, who got Duncan to return and re-signed coach Gregg Popovich and key players Boris Diaw and Patty Mills to multiyear deals. If they can get Pau Gasol, who tweeted Friday that he's close to deciding on a team, it's hard to envision much drop-off from last season's 62 victories.
But the Spurs are always a sure thing. Things are more uncertain for James and his new team.
He knew he was on an instant title contender when he went to Miami. Even he realizes that may not be the case heading home.
The road to the Eastern Conference championship may no longer go through Miami. The question is whether it still goes through James.
"LeBron's still in the East," new Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "It still makes my job difficult."