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):
|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.