And so just like that, the Cavaliers season is over. And the LeBron James era in Cleveland? Get ready for grueling months of speculation, baseless rumors, and an extreme NBA makeover.
After a shocking performance in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics, many people assume that LeBron’s mind–and heart–was starting to drift away from the area he grew up in. The phrase “one foot is already out the door” was trumpeted on ESPN by idiotic pundits ranging from Chris Broussard to Skip Bayless.
Ultimately, nobody knows what will happen at this point. Not even LeBron.
The LeBron free agent hype machine is overflowing with irony. For all the talk about LeBron’s pursuit of billionaire status, from his marketing ventures to his sponsorship deals, there is very little talk about the huge money awaiting the most coveted free agent in the history of the world.
LeBron James can get the most money if he chooses to stay in Cleveland. It’s just that simple.
What’s not so simple is what LeBron thinks about his chances of winning in various NBA locales. What’s not so simple is how much a 25 year-old values winning compared to fame and status.
LeBron is not an idiot. He is a smart, rich, powerful manchild with a ton of negotiating power. If he stays in Cleveland, you can bet there will be changes.
Mike Brown is clearly on the outs with the players after a playoff run filled with inconsistent strategy and substitution patterns. From a strategic standpoint, few coaches have displayed more ineptitude than Brown. He hasn’t shown the ability to make good adjustments at any point during his coaching career.
In the end, few coaches have done less with more than Brown.
Enter John Calipari, who has been rumored to be looking for a way out of college hoops. Several teams have interest in his services, and the fact that LeBron and Calipari share the same agent will serve as an interesting subplot to the LeBron sweepstakes. He sat courtside as a witness to LeBron’s stinker in Game 5 against the Celtics.
You can bet Mike Brown took notice.
From coaches to teammates, LeBron will choose who runs with him for years to come. He will hand-pick his court, from top to bottom.
The current cast of characters in Cleveland fell short of expectations. Antawn Jamison, thought to be the missing piece to a championship puzzle, was ineffective offensively and atrocious defensively. Mo Williams didn’t do enough on offense to make up for his poor defense. Inconsistent minutes led to inconsistent play from Delonte West, Anthony Parker, and J.J. Hickson. Big Z never really got a chance until it was too late.
Then there is the Big Aristotle.
The man who was supposed to take the pressure off the LeBron ended up doing more bad than good. Not able to run, jump, or finish around the basket like he used to, Shaq was horribly ineffective in the playoffs. He dictated the tempo, got burned on defense, and did very little besides foul.
Shaq won’t help deliver a title. Williams hasn’t translated strong regular season numbers into the postseason. Jamison can’t play power forward on a championship contender.
LeBron needs to make some changes to his game and surround himself with different pieces. He doesn’t need to leave Cleveland to win a title, regardless of what anyone says.
He just needs a little more time.