April 24, 2014

“I Say… We Let Him Go!” NOOOO!!!!

First and foremost, don’t misread my title. I just like making stupid movie quotes, and this gave me a chance to search Google Images for “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” Now that we have that housekeeping out of the way, here comes the bomb:

I’m not going to lose sleep if LeBron has decided he’s going to leave this summer.

I’m going to let that sit there so you can marinate in it for a moment. And then I’m going to ask you to get comfortable, because the word salad bar that’s about to follow might take you awhile. And then I’m going to say this early and often: I DON’T WANT HIM TO LEAVE!! But, hear me out for a moment or two. For those of you hanging around the open thread late last night, a lot of this will sound familiar.

I don’t know what there is to say, other than this team has no heart what-so-ever. You can break down X’s and O’s. Yes, Ray Allen killed them. Yes, Garnett played well. Yes, Pierce finally got going. Yes, they contained Rondo but only for a half. Yes, Glen Davis had a big game.

But, if the Cavs had any heart, they could have put a stop to it. And they didn’t. They basically looked like, “Welp, this game is over. Let’s move on.” Mike Fratello said that LeBron James wouldn’t get any sleep last night because this game would keep him up all night. I wish I believed that. I’m willing to bet that he slept just fine.

He clearly knew he had no jump shot early in this game, I would say from the first really badly missed three. But, he never made any consistent attempt to score in other ways. Yes, he got to the stripe a lot in the first half, but at some point you have to drive with a little more conviction. It was fitting that his first field goal was a cherry-picking dunk.

Again, don’t misread me: I DON’T WANT HIM TO LEAVE!! I’d like for him to stay and still think he is more than 50% going to. But, considering his demeanor these last two games, I could ALSO see him go to New York because deep down he knows there won’t be pressure to win early because that team is a slashed-and-burned wasteland. The fans there would worship him just like the fans here would, and he could totally get off on being the celebrithlete instead of doing what Kobe does and spending all of his time focusing on winning.

If that’s what LeBron wants, I’m not going to get upset if he takes it. But, if he decides that just being a mega-star isn’t enough and wants to stay here and actually give a crap about winning, I’m OK with that too.

What do I mean by that? Let’s just say that I saw LeBron give up the ball and defer last night more than any game in my memory. I remember a possession where Parker had the ball and tried to break Allen down on the dribble and LeBron just stood there on the wing and watched. Made no effort to go get the ball, made no move to the hoop. It was almost like he knew early he had no jumper, knew he’d have a bad game, and just decided he was OK with it. I can no longer convince myself that he has that “instinct” that guys like Kobe and Jordan have/had to just HATE to lose. LeBron always says he “loves to play the game of basketball” but I’ve never heard him say–other than maybe after losing to Orlando last summer–that he hated losing… certainly not on the level that Kobe/MJ do/did.

Now, I’ve never been a “one game can lose a series” guy, but this game shows me that this year’s team has NO fight in them, especially because they seem to take their cues from LeBron. The moment things go against them, they pack it in. Now, if LeBron was being a one-man crew and no one was stepping up (like last year’s ECF) I’d feel differently. But, I have no confidence that this team even gives a crap about losing last night’s game right now. They all had this “Oh well, we’ll get ‘em next time” look about them from midway through the third quarter on. Well there’s only so many next-times, as we now see. There was essentially NO ONE on the team last night who “brought it”. LeBron played badly, but he wasn’t the only one. NO ONE played defense; NO ONE hustled.

NO ONE on this team seems to have any heart.

It didn’t help that, when asked about the rest of this series in the post-game, LeBron said: “I’m not worried about it. … It’s a really good team we’re going against, and you would hope that you’d be up 3-2 at this point, but we’re not. … Our backs are against the wall, but we have room to breathe and we’ve won on their floor before.”

That worries me, honestly. I want the leader of my team to give a crap that he just got embarrassed on his home floor. I can’t say with any certainty that LeBron doesn’t care, but he certainly doesn’t seem to based on those comments (watch the video and tell me what you think…). There are some that are positing that he’s acting this way because in his mind he’s already decided he’s leaving this summer, and therefore it just doesn’t bother him that much. Not to single one of our commenters out, but I disagreed last night with the sentiment from one commenter that “Perhaps in LeBron’s mind, he had already decided to leave the team because the coaching and front office just couldn’t get it together to win him a championship.”

If LeBron can’t even get out of the second round of the playoffs with this roster, it’s just as much on HIM as anyone; it’s certainly not on the FO. Look at the roster that he took to the Finals in 2007, and look at how much work Ferry has done to improve it, from the standpoint of surrounding talent (common players from both teams excluded):

2007 2010
Larry Hughes Mo Williams
Sasha Pavlovic Anthony Parker / Delonte West
Drew Gooden Antawn Jamison
Damon Jones Shaq / JJ Hickson
Donyell Marshall Jamario Moon

Those are the depth/roster differences. You’re telling me LeBron got this team to 127 wins the last two seasons, but because they gagged in the playoffs its on the FO? I don’t buy that. And that’s what leads me to the premise of my article here:

If LeBron’s leaving, it’s because he wants to leave.

There’s no way he can pin this on the FO. For anyone–especially LeBron–to say that Danny Ferry hasn’t tried to move mountains to put a good enough team together to win a title is simply not fair. To get Jamison this year for NOTHING is GM-of-the-year kind of material. Now, is Mike Brown a championship coach? Probably not. But, if LeBron comes out and says he’s leaving because they just couldn’t get enough good players here, well to me that’s complete bull and he’s lying about it.

Another caveat: I’m not saying here that the poor play in this series is all on LBJ. Not at all. I’m not blasting LeBron for his overall play. I’m only saying that if LeBron uses the roster as an excuse to leave this summer, than he’s being disingenuous about his reasons for leaving. Because, honestly, coaches can be replaced. If that’s the only thing holding him back, who here honestly thinks Ferry will be loyal to Mike Brown over LeBron?

All I’m saying is that if LeBron leaves this summer, he can’t say it’s because they couldn’t put enough talent around him. Everyone that covers the NBA has been talking all season about how deep this team is, and yet we’re supposed to believe LeBron would leave because there’s no talent around him?

And thus, the head-scratching the followed after LeBron’s *other* post-game comments. “I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you’ve had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it’s easy to point that out. So you got to be better. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I’m not I feel bad for myself because I’m not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don’t hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that’s not the type of player or person I am.”

What about your team? What about your fans? I don’t want to hear excuses. I want to hear that it’s eating you up that this was a game you HAD to win, and it’s destroying you that you didn’t play well. I don’t want to be rapped on the nose for expecting you to play like you’re capable of in a game that matters more than any of the 91 that had preceded it this season. I don’t want to be made to feel that we shouldn’t boo a lackluster effort because you’ve earned the right to have a bad game. LeBron certainly has earned the right, but there’s a vast difference between killing yourself out there and having a bad game versus realizing early you were going to have a bad game and packing it in. And that’s what I saw.

And, with Chris Sheridan giving Cleveland fans a subtle “shame on you!” for booing the Cavs in his Daily Dime piece this morning, you can see the media dogs salivating at the notion of painting the Cleveland fans as the reason LeBron might go.

And so, we arrive at my conclusion. AND REMEMBER, I DON’T WANT HIM TO LEAVE!! But…

If LeBron leaves, it’s purely because he wants to go somewhere else just to go somewhere else.

And, if that’s the case, then…

I’m not going to lose sleep if LeBron has decided he’s going to leave this summer.

Let me rephrase what I mean: I want him to stay, yes. I do. I’m just going to take the approach of: if this is how he’s going to treat a fan-base that has done NOTHING but support him from the jump, and if he cares more about being a star than about winning games, then I’m not going to weep and gnash my teeth if he chooses to go somewhere else.

I’ve had to clarify my argument to my colleagues here at WFNY, even, so allow me to do that in this space as well. Don’t conflate my saying I won’t lose sleep over him leaving with me saying “I don’t care” if he leaves. Of course I care if he leaves. I’m just not going to act like it’s the end of the world. The late-90s Indians proved to me that athletes don’t give a rip about the cities they play in. If LeBron doesn’t care enough to ACTUALLY TRY in the biggest playoff game of the season to date, why should I get all worked up and cry and moan if he decides he’d rather go to a bigger city to have his ego stroked?

My argument isn’t even about basketball. I know that if he leaves, the Cavs as a basketball team are literally done for the foreseeable future. I’m just saying that I found it extremely bush-league that he dogged it the ENTIRE game and then had the gall to play the “I just had a bad game” card—and to even go so far as calling us SPOILED, regardless of whether we are or not. What I saw last night wasn’t a star who just had a bad game. I saw a star who knew early on that part of his game wasn’t there (his jump-shot) and decided “[Forget] this” and didn’t try to take over the game in other ways like he’s capable. I mean, I love it when Anthony Parker is the focal point of our offense, too, but…

I’m saying that if LeBron wants to hold this franchise hostage while he himself isn’t willing to kill himself to win a championship this year, then I’ve got better things to do with my life than to worry all June about whether or not he’s going to resign. And, if he decides that he wants to go to New York so he can be famous while treating a large chunk of the playoffs (in four years from now…) like they’re just regular season games, then I’m not going to lose a ton of sleep over it.

It’s clearly so out of my control, and there are clearly so many potential factors that have NOTHING to do with basketball, that I’m done basing my entire future happiness as a sports fan on whether a guy living in his own world is going to take more money to play here, or to go somewhere else to be the savior.

Because, if he can’t be the savior here with a roster that I feel is good enough to win it all–and that is as good or better than 80% of the rosters in the league–how is he going to be the savior anywhere else? If it was truly about winning, wouldn’t he act like winning was important to him right now when he has a legitimate chance at winning a title??

————————-

It’s either all of this, or he’s the biggest drama queen ever and is trying to set the stage for some kind of crazy comeback to play the “HERO” card. At least, that’s the only way I can talk myself into thinking the Cavs have any shot on Thursday.

  • Clown Baby

    Nicely done DP. His performance last night and his subsequent “spoiled” comments shed a lot of light on exactly who he is. He doesn’t have the pathological desire to win nor the self awareness to recognize that he has a lot of growing to do before he is the G.O.A.T.. I would like to see him stay he and develop that, but if he doesn’t want to then fine. Go to NY, hold them hostage as they rebuild then skip town when the expectations become more then you can handle.

  • historycat

    July 2, 2010

    “We did as much as we could in Cleveland, and while Akron will always be m home, and Cleveland fans are great fans, I have outgrown that city and it’s time for me to move on.”

    With or without Lebron, I hope Ferry can get another star here. Hopefully one who is focused on winning now, rather than how big he can make himself in the future.

  • Ryan

    I agree that LeBron leaving doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of humanity. We’ll have a LOT of salary cap space, a GM with a brain, and a hell of a free agent market to work with.

    If we don’t make the finals (and especially if LeBron leaves), Mike Brown should be dismissed.

  • Jack

    Maybe we can draft that kid from Florida after next season…

  • Jack

    @Ryan – Hahahaha.

  • Gren

    I know this might be out there (or not) but… did anyone else think maybe Bron was out partying way too late Monday and he payed for it in the game ?

    It’s really the only explanation I can make for what I saw last night.

  • Majesty23

    I agree…Lebron leaving wouldn’t be the end of the world. Besides that, his ego and sense of entitlement are starting to (I think) become a cancer. Where is the effort and focus we saw from him a year ago? Besides Game 3, he has yet to impose his will in the playoffs. If this is the type of effort we get from our star player, then maybe he should seek greener pastures. Maybe we’ll get a star that actually cares about winning when it matters.

    The city of Cleveland, and it’s sports fans, deserve better than this. Period.

  • Clown Baby

    Gren – Cleveland is too small a fishbowl for that to happen. I’m sure we would have heard about it, but that is really besides the point isn’t it? Does being stupid enough to go out all night and party make his performance any more excusable then if he simply just didn’t care? I’m saying, it’s not the “why’s” that matter at this point because at this point winning is all that matters.

  • typo

    I hate how lebron has held this city hostage for so long. If he leaves I will be sad but a bit relieved. One day we will win a championship. Probably a super bowl. And oh, it will be sweet. Cavs in 7 btw

  • Vinny

    Well played. Great article and it really sums up what I’m feeling right now and I’m sure what the majority of Cleveland fans feel like.

    I’m just waiting for a big Cleveland Browns announcement today for everyone to take their minds off of the Cavs.

  • Harv 21

    Probably worth asking: Does a $92M Nike contract at age 18 interfere with the development of a consuming will to win? Maybe it leads to a consuming desire for billionaire global icon status.

    I do think Dan Gilbert cares very much about whether he leaves. No one wants to see the value of their franchise sliced in half.

    Statements made last night will be retracted or “explained.” Tempers will cool. But I think the long 7 year honeymoon is ending and there will be some ambivalence now. The chalk throw already seems too precious, especially when leaving effort on the floor in the playoffs should be his higher priority.

  • MattyFos

    Irony-
    Majesty23 talking about LBJ’s ego and sense of entitlement.

    That’s gold, Jerry. Pure gold!

  • Clown Baby

    Harv 21 – Did you mean pretentious or in your comment or do you think the chalk toss is indeed adorable?

  • Majesty23

    MattyFos – Yeah…I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I chose my twitter nickname just how significant it would be. I wouldn’t change it, but sometimes it can be a pain…

  • http://twitter.com/Bbo13 B-bo

    I applaud LeBron for his “I’m not an excuse guy” attitude, I really do. But what I (and I think many of us) want are not excuses, but REASONS. What is going on that is producing this kind of performance–both individually and as a team? The sky is blue because of the way our atmosphere scatters light from the sun: that’s not an EXCUSE for why the sky is blue, it’s a REASON. Now maybe this seems like semantics, but I don’t believe it is. If it’s his elbow, if it’s some personal issue within the locker room, if it’s just being overwhelmed by pressure, any of these could be a legitimate REASON for what we are seeing–I just want someone on this team to own up to the reason(s).

  • MattyFos

    Majesty23- Lol, it’s just the mindset we have as Cavs fans. We anoint LBJ the greatest thing in the entire world, but when our Atlas can’t hold the globe up any longer we all start kicking and screaming.

  • Eric

    Wonderful article….very therapeutic, actually. Its strange, I felt so much worse last year when we lost in the ECF…at least then it seemed like LeBron wanted to win. After last night, it seemed as if

    A) He’s hurt much worse than he’s letting on, so there’s no chance we beat the Magic or the Lakers in the Finals this year anyway;

    B) He really is on his way out, and cares about the celebrity of being in a big market versus winning now

    C) He just doesn’t have the mental edge that guys like Kobe/MJ had

    Any of the three options are easier to swallow than last year, when we seemed to have the focus and heart and just hit a brick wall of match-up problems.

    And I’m trying to keep myself from believing that this is some elaborate ruse just so he can play the hero, if only to save myself the anguish on Thursday if we do get eliminated…

  • Harv 21

    Precious in the sarcastic sense of someone who thinks they are adorable.

  • Eric

    You people are really funny. Please explain how Lebron “has held the city of Cleveland hostage”? And now Lebron is a cancer! Instead comparing the 2007 and 2010 rosters, how about comparing the 2010 rosters to the teams that have won the last 5 nba championships and see how they stack up. That would explain alot of the lack of success in Cleveland. Or better yet compare your roster to the teams that knock the Casvs out of the playoffs.

  • Gren

    @ clown (from #8), I wasn’t trying to make excuses. Just trying to make some logic in the situation.

    That or maybe he did a little experiment to see if the Kings Court could win a game without him ?

  • b

    glad to see some people on this bandwagon finally, it’s been a lonely 2 years for me. When he only signed the short contract here last time around instead of the max deal he could have gotten, that was a signal that he’d try for a couple years, build himself up, then bolt.

    I know there are outside factors like the player’s union that would prevent this from happening, but why wouldn’t a guy like LeBron, who even in a max deal will earn about 1/10th of what he can and will make in endorsement deals, not play for a veteran’s minimum and allow a team to really bring in some big time free agents? Is that going to keep him from becoming a billionaire?

    He could lose 20 million a year in basketball money and easily make that up in sponsorships, TV & movies, if instead of just prima donna egomaniac player, he was a 9 time champion in the most star studded dynasty ever put together.

  • MattyFos
  • Clown Baby

    Gren, no I know you weren’t making excuses. I’m just saying that LeBron going out all night and LeBron not caring anymore demonstrate immaturity/leadership deficiencies either way so it really doesn’t matter as to why. It seems like a bad time for experimentation and that would also fall in line with bad decision making that doesn’t happen with real winners.

  • Chi-hioan

    We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and be proactive…why not call up jay z and this hotshot Russian billionaire and offer bron up in a sign and trade instead of losing him for nothing? Say bron for their lotto pick (probably #1), brook lopez and Courtney lee for starters. If they balk, use that “lebron signing with Chicago” as leverage. Just a thought…

  • Steven

    Agreed.no killer instict.the rest of the cavs shouldn’t get off unscatehd though-Delonte is literally a nightmare out there-Mo is trying but has so little PG skills-Andy is getting outworked-Jamison is the nicest guy in the world but simply cannot guard anyone who has post up moves. NO DEFENSIVE ROTATIONS,NO ENERGY, NO HUNGER. Not even any depseration fights at the end of game 5.
    Celts are playing out of thier minds, but we are embarassing ourselves in a pitiful way.
    PS-Lebron it wouldn’t kill you to simply play and stop looking at the scoreboard every ten seconds.

  • saggy

    i believe the proper term is “athlebrity”

  • Roosevelt

    You said: I don’t care if he leaves. Good riddance. He was never any good anyway. They’ll be better without him.

    You meant: If he leaves, we can’t blame Ferry.

    Interesting bait and switch.

  • CavsFanInLA

    Thoughtful article, DP.

    “Perhaps in LeBron’s mind, he had already decided to leave the team because the coaching and front office just couldn’t get it together to win him a championship.”

    I’m not saying that this would be an accurate statement or belief from Lebron, but I was speculating as to what Lebron might be thinking, and why he might have looked so disinterested last night, and in one or two other games in this series.

    Yes, Ferry has improved the line-up from last year, and I believe that he has done his best.

    But an elite player like Lebron who expects a championship, and is satisfied with nothing less, he may feel that not enough was done.

    What other reason would he tell himself? In his press conference last night, he did not put the responsibility on himself, and say something like: “the buck stops with me. I did not play well. I know that I am the leader of the team, and I and everyone else has to play with intensity… etc….”

    Although I do believe that the Front Office has brought Lebron some good role players and FORMER All-Stars, they have not brought him another top caliber player. Shaq is one of the all-time great players, but not a Pippin for Lebron.

    Most importantly, I believe that the Front Office has not adequately evaluated the coaching skills of Mike Brown, and that has been one of the greatest mistakes of Ferry and Gilbert. In the selection of the coach, the FO has not delivered.

    Yes, the Cavs have had the winningest record during the past two years, but I believe that this was because of Lebron’s greatness, as well as the heartful effort of the other players – not the coaching.

    To win an championship, we need a coach who has the sharp-on-the-court-coaching and mental quickness in games.

    The Cavs might have some good role players (courtesy of the Front Office), but these players are not stepping up and getting it done in the playoffs, and perhaps Lebron is frustrated, disheartened and disappointed by this.

    I am a Cavs fan, and believe that if Lebron and the team play their guts out the next two games, then they can win.

    I hope they do.

    I think that 40% of a win during the next two games has to come from Lebron. If Lebron doesn’t show up for whatever reason, then that’s it.

    But, the Cavs CAN win these next two games – if they focus on giving their full effort one game at a time.

  • 5KMD

    If not including JJ in the Amare deal was because of Lebron, he can’t complain.

    If Lebron wanted to get Amare no matter what and DF got scared, then it’s Ferry’s fault.

    I never understood not trading for Amare because they didn’t want to lose a guy whose ceiling was…Amare.

    I have always thought the LBJ makes lesser talents better. But he also seems to bring greater talents down a bit. Mo and Jamison are playing scared and I cringe everytime those two put up a shot.

    Finally, Eric, go away.

  • JNeids

    funny this article mentions damon jones – i saw him in tower city last night on his way to the game. and like i always do, thinking of something great to do after the fact, i am still kicking myself for not asking him for a “3 on a platter” pic.

    also mentioned in the comments, the chalk toss – i actually think he even mailed that in. no joke.

  • Lars

    Spot on DP

  • Brad in ATL

    On the road traveling a lot for my job and was sitting at the bar watching a the game with an Orlando fan. He said something to me that I think was spot on. LBJ is nothing but a rich mans Vince Carter with a better marketing department. Think about VC’s first 5 years or so in the league, sort of like LeBrons right?

    When everything is handed to you on a silver platter without winning a darn thing usually translates to not having the mental make up to rise to the occasion when truly called. To sum it up, LBJ is soft.

    Great post DP.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I can’t believe we are talking about the same player who single handedly destroyed the Pistons in Game 5 in 2007. The killer instinct was there that night. The “greatness” was there that night. He put that team on his back and effectively ended the mid 2000′s Pistons as we knew them.

    “It” was there once…where did it go? This is as baffling of a sports mystery as I can remember.

  • Jeff

    Speculation gets us no where. We can’t “pack it up” on Lebron with out really knowing all the details. This article should be titled “Step up to the ledge Cleveland fans”. All of what you said about the team is correct. No heart, no fight, etc. I also do agree that how Lebron plays the team plays. He needs to lead, and we’ll be fine. Haven’t we realized yet that he is known for his own spoiled attitude? Yes he has played his heart out in other games and yes there was something very wrong with how he handled a mad Mike Brown after the blow out loss at home, but I think we all need to re-evaluate what kind of fans we are. The Cavs are in bad shape, but they’re still our team. Lebron is the best player in the NBA (when he wants to be). Maybe something great will happen these next two games…who knows? It’s just basketball.

  • MattC

    Want to know where the “killer instinct of 2007″ has gone? It was never really there in any appreciable degree. The guy simply had no pressure then, and any one with talent like his could pull that off with no pressure… there were simply no expectations that the horrendously bad roster could beat conference final stalwarts like the Pistons.

    Any appreciable killer instinct that WAS there has been soaked up by the ego-inflating events of the last couple years (MVP, rising fame, increased notoriety among commentators/fans/experts, more and more global exposure, books, films). The guy was a certifiable egomaniac before that. Now, his narcissism rivals Patrick Bateman’s (Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho).

    Whatever happens the rest of these playoffs, I have a lot of faith in Ferry and Gilbert until they prove me wrong. If LeBron leaves, it may take a year, but we’ll put together a good team again. Get rid of Brown and some of the dead weight like Mo. I’d love to see us put together a workhorse team like the classic Pistons. Maybe that type of workhorse team is what this city needs, rather than an entitled kid and his lackeys who are too afraid of him who thinks he won all there was to win 6 years ago.

    Also, getting lost in all this hubbub about LeBron – I think Andy’s back is in terrible shape and I truly believe that is the X factor in these playoffs.

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  • http://www.lakeeriesoldiers.wordpress.com ErieSoldierD

    I was literally saying this same thing to my brother during game 5. It will suck, yeah but it happens. Maybe we should’ve tried to trade him for Durant, and Ibaka at the deadline instead of going for Jamison!

  • Illmatic8

    I literally cannot believe what I am reading with this post and these comments. Not going to lose any sleep if he leaves? Will you lose sleep when the franchise is moved out of Ohio? LeBron James has a legitimate shot to be one of the top 5 players in the history of the NBA. He’s 25 years old. We always have a good chance to win with him in the lineup. Blaming him and a lack of a killer instinct for the Cavs’ failures is hilarious. I do agree that Game 5 was awful and should not be understated. But Game 6 is tonight, and I wouldn’t count out a virtuoso performance from James. I for one, will be devastated if he leaves. We will be a lottery team.

  • Cynthia

    Congratulations to Boston. They deserved to win. Any team that plays has hard and intense as they do has my kudos. They play as a team. When one is not hitting, others step up. Unfortunately, LeBron has been a one man show. It was so clear all season. Sure occassionally others contributed, but consistently. Everyone is not a LeBron, but the others could have showed some heart, fought, got emotional, something, anything to let us know it mattered. Perhaps the Mo’s, Jamison, Shaq would have played with heart if their big paychecks depended on it. How about a fee for service payment system. No service, no pay. Before I did not think LeBron would leave, but after the jersey toss last night, it appears to be evident that he will. We hope you don’t LeBron, but if you do, I wish you well. A loyal fan forever.