LeBron James has an out in his contract during the summer of 2014 and the NBA is abuzz with LeBron’s next decision and whether or not he’ll come back to Cleveland. David Letterman needled him about it. Adrian Wojnarowski’s took the Memphis Grizzlies trading Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors and turned it into a column about LeBron coming back. Every interaction between LeBron and Kyrie Irving during the All-Star game will be scrutinized to the nth degree.
The greatest basketball player on the planet is a free agent in two summers and his home town franchise, his original team, has a boatload of capspace and 20 year old All-Star.
People are excited.
Even Browns cornerback Joe Haden can’t help himself.
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) January 27, 2013
Regardless of how you feel about LeBron James, these rumors aren’t going to go away and they’ll only be increasing. Plus, talking about LeBron allows Cleveland media personalities to discuss the Cavs without actually having to know anything about Cavs basketball. LeBron’s the best player on earth and he’s going to be connected to Cleveland until the day he retires.
We’re stuck with him.
Now, I’m not saying that these rumors are totally 100% true or that Cavs fans should bank on him returning. But if one was inclined to read the tea leaves, there’s enough smoke that one could be reasonably convinced that there’s fire.
Let’s review the smoke, eh?
In LeBron’s first post-Decision interview, he says this:
“If there was an opportunity for me to return and those fans welcome me back, that’d be a great story.”
You have the “Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving are buddies with LeBron” stuff, with my favorites being the “will those horrible, immature Cleveland fans accept someone who doesn’t hate LeBron with all of their soul” stories.
Last season, the one time LeBron came to town, he brought up playing in Cleveland again.
LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul hopes Gilbert and Bron-Bron can patch things up.
Brian Windhorst spoke about the LeBron rumors on KNR and believes there’s a chance he comes back, though maybe not in 2014 (Windhorst said similar things on the RealCavsFans.com podcast):
Tony Rizzo: Are you buying LeBron’s possible return to Cleveland?
Brian Windhorst: I’ve always thought LeBron’s coming back to Cleveland. I’m just not saying it’s in 2014. What I will say is, I don’t think that the Heat are gonna stay together in their current form. There’s a lot of different reasons for this. One of is the new CBA, which I’m not gonna get into all the points of it, but it makes it so impossible for the Heat to field a team around these three guys and it makes it so costly. Third thing is, I don’t think Chris Bosh is all that happy there and I think he may be looking for another opportunity. Dwyane Wade is 31 years old and in my opinion is still a great player but is past his prime. So I just don’t think that the Heat are going to remain in this form after 2014. Now maybe the Heat make a trade with Chris Bosh in the next year and do in such a way that entices LeBron to stay. But I think LeBron is going to opt out of his contract and look around at opportunities.
Now the Cavs have a lot of work to do. And they’re in the process of trying to set themselves up here. In my opinion, they need at least one other big time player to be next to Kyrie Irving. That’s what they’re doing right now, they’re assembling these assets. This trade yesterday, getting this draft pick, that’s a key piece.
If you look at what the Houston Rockets did and what the New Jersey, now Brooklyn, Nets did. They spent a couple of years gathering draft picks, assembling assets and trying to make big trades. The Nets ended up getting Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, now you can debate on whether those were good moves or not, but those were the guys they got. And Houston tried for a year and a half to make a big deal. They thought they had Gasol, they were in the mix on Dwight Howard and they finally make their deal for James Harden. The Cavs need to make that type of trade between now and 2014.
Look at what they’re doing. That’s what they’re gathering their assets to try to pull off. That’s what this trade yesterday was about. Was to get an attractive, potential lottery pick asset. they’re gonna try to do that. and if the Cavs are able to get another player and I think make the playoffs next year is pretty darn important, so that move would have to be made in the next year, before next year’s trade deadline.
You’re sitting there with Kyrie Irving, who in my opinion who has a potential future at- or above- Derrick Rose, he’s better than any player that LeBron ever played with in Cleveland. And if you can get one more player, it doesn’t even have to be an All-NBA type player, it’s just got be a really good running mate. By the way, whether you get LeBron or not, you need to do that just for Kyrie. Forget about the LeBron portion of it. And that’s what the Cavs are working towards. They’re following the path that Houston and New Jersey went down and that’s the way they’re’ going try to get a running mate for Kyrie.
I have no idea what player it’s gonna be. they have no idea what player it’s gonna be. certainly a year a go the Houston rockets didn’t think they were gonna get James harden. the nets had no idea they were getting Deron Williams you have to see how things play out.
That’s what the Cavs have to do; make it attractive for LeBron to be interested. Here’s the thing: I completely agree that salary cap space is not that valuable at a place like Cleveland, because the Cavs are never getting a top free agent. Except for Lebron. That’s the guy that they can appeal to. And if 2014 comes and they’re able to get another player like Kyrie, or I’m sorry, not like Kyrie, that you can pair with Kyrie and you can have Tristan Thomson there, like said I, he’ll be your fourth best player, you should be attractive to other free agents as well. But your chance at getting a superstar is with LeBron in 2014.
I don’t think that’s gonna determine everything the franchise does, but it’s obviously out there and there’s a whole bunch of different reasons. 2014 is a key year because that’s your last year that you’ll have free agent money before you extend Kyrie and all these things like that. And Tristan and all these things like that. So that’s what the Cavs mandate is and that’s obviously what their road map is and lets see what happens.
Goldhammer: Brian, any update on Dan Gilbert’s relationship with LeBron is. I remember talking to you last year about working out in the facility in the offseason and some other things you brought up. Do you think Dan is continuing to soften on this issue?
Windhorst: I think time helps everything. Look, there was a lot of feelings hurt on what happened. Obviously, we all know about that. We don’t have to go over it again. I think LeBron has come forward and said look, he didn’t handle those few weeks the best. I think Dan has said that in certain ways. Everyone knows that happened. There would have to be a mending of fences but look, I don’t think it’s a major stumbling block. I think that relationship can be repaired.
If you look at some things Lebron is doing business wise. He’s changed agents. His agent just hired another Cleveland guy, Mark Termini a long time Cleveland agent, is now working in conjunction with Rich Paul. these guys are doing business out of Cleveland.
Rizzo: you know I am a Termini guy. I am windy. I love Termini. I think he’s a great dude. well documented.
Windhorst: That was a very minor thing that happened last week that probably nobody cares about fan-wise, but could end up being pretty important in this whole thing. Rich Paul is LeBron’s new agent, Rich Paul does not partner up with mark termani unless Lebron signs off on it. in fact i know for a fact that Lebron signed off on it.
So, there’s some things moving into place. the Cavs still have a lot of work to do. They’ve got to go get some more talent and that is priority number one. and that’s gotta happen. that’s gotta be their number one thing. and so once that happens, if that happens, if that works out, then we can move on and possibly get more serious about them a year from now. but it’s definitely out there as a possibility but i don’t it’s something anyone should count on and just assume it’s going to happen.
From Wojnarowksi’s column:
James has been thinking about a return to Cleveland for most of his time with the Heat, including the night of his cable TV special. He had second-guessed himself that night, but once Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert released that vitriolic letter, James understood: There was no turning back.
Rich Paul has stayed back in Cleveland to run his business and now represents Thompson, the Cavaliers’ young forward. As Yahoo! Sports reported last February, James’ associates had been feeling out members of the Cavaliers organization on a possible return in 2014.
Smell fire yet?
A little bit?
I’m not going to tell any Clevelander how to feel about LeBron James. I hate when out of town sports commentators tell Clevelanders to “let it g0” with regard to Art Modell or the Ravens.. I won’t deny anyone their right to hate LeBron or Modell.
I just wouldn’t mind if the greater Cleveland area didn’t hate the greatest basketball on the planet (who was born and raised in Akron and is the Cavs’ All-Time leading scorer). I’m sick of grudges and the constant negativity that surrounds the Cleveland sports culture. The Decision was a stupid mistake made by a coddled millionaire who has since apologized for it. I maintain that, while the Decision was gut wrenching, I refuse to let it ruin LeBron’s entire time as a Cavalier. Those years were fun. Cheer for who you want to cheer for. All I can do is explain my point of view.
Would I take LeBron back? Yes. Because I like basketball. Nay, I love basketball. Especially NBA basketball. Especially the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So if the best player in the NBA wants to come play for my team, I’m in. And even if I told myself I’ll still hate the guy, there’s no way I’m not watching. I know myself better than that. You’re telling me you’ll watch and cheer LeBron James for seven years, Kyrie Irving for three years and then won’t watch if they’d team up? Really?
I also have a theory that ‘true Cavs fans’ feel differently about LeBron than the average Cleveland fan.2 For most Cleveland sports fans, the Cavs are a distant third behind the Browns and the Tribe. And I feel that these people are more bitter about LeBron and the Decision than your average Cavs fan3.
While I hated the Decision, I wasn’t exactly shocked that LeBron chose to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh rather than Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams. Nor can I fault him for it. I can fault him for going on TV and kicking Northeast Ohio square in the junk, but that bit him in the ass, no? The Heat blew the Finals and everyone blamed LeBron. He took a beating after the Dallas series. Did you really need any more LeBron schadenfreude? Everyone on TV was calling him a choker and wondering if he had what it took to play in the big moments. LeBron acted like an ass and paid for his hubris. The price was paid.
I feel that most Cleveland fans see a Cavs team that has been well below .500 in each post-LeBron season. That’s it. They see a bad basketball team. End of story. Full stop.
As a Cavs fan, I see a team that had to rebuild and start over completely. This time, the Cavs are doing it the right way, through the draft (unlike the LeBron years). And the thing is, this rebuild really can’t be going any better. Cleveland’s first pick in the post-LeBron era was Kyrie Irving. That’s your best case scenario: you follow the LeBron era by picking Kyrie Irving. You literally cannot ask for anything more than that.
Because Kyrie Irving is great. He is special.
— Ben Cox (@WFNYBen) January 29, 2013
Kyrie Irving: 7th game this season with 25 pts, 5 ast, 5 reb. Those with more? LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden & Russell Westbrook
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 10, 2013
That there are rumors that LeBron could return to the wine and gold in 2014 is solely because of the greatness of Kyrie Irving. Look at those lists in the above tweets. The Cavs have a 20-year old All-Star point guard, a ton of picks and a super flexible roster. So while I’d be down for a Irving-James team up, it isn’t necessary. Unlike from 2003-2010, the Cavs will be fine with or without LeBron.
And that’s the key. The Cavs aren’t in desperation mode. Would LeBron James help the Cavaliers? Dur. Of course he would, there’s no denying that. But like Windhorst said, the moves the Cavs would make to entice LeBron are pretty much the same moves you’d make to build a team around Kyrie Irving. You collect assets and try to flip them for a star.
If LeBron wants to come home and finish what he started, so be it. I’m in. I can’t not be. I love basketball too much.
And if LeBron toys with the emotions of the greater Cleveland area and proceeds to jump ship to the Lakers… if nothing else, we’ll have definitivelyanswered the question: “The Decision: stupid or malicious?”.
- I personally feel that LeBron wants to be able to walk around Akron and go to Ohio State games when he’s 50 without any controversy. Playing for the Cavs again would allow him to do that. [↩]
- and by ‘true Cavs fan’ I mean those rare Cleveland fans for who the Cavs are their top sports team, not the Browns or Tribe [↩]
- @WayneEmbrysKids is the exception that proves the rule [↩]