Okay, here's your '2 for 1' special from me. Before I go to bed, I need to put to bed this whole "LeBron Needs Cleveland" thing once and for all. I was initially going to wait on writing this until after the Finals (and more notably, until the coaching situation settled itself but since I'm fairly certain that Izzo's going to give credence to everything I type...)let me just get it out the way now.
For the uninitiated, I've spent the last 9 years in Ohio watching the Cavs. The last 7 of course, watching LeBronamania running wild. Now don't get me wrong, he's insanely talented. But I need to be brutally honest and shall we say, Barkley Blunt on this matter once and for all.
The Cavaliers are NOT "that far away" from winning a championship.
In case you've either been living under a mountain, rock or boulder...
In case you've been too busy being a "Witness" (which I'm convinced involves drinking some really "sweet" Kool-Aid that deadens the part of the brain which registers and processes logical thought)...
The Cavaliers have not been back to the NBA Finals since 2007. The Cavs are the first team since the Bucks in the 70s to win 60 games in back to back seasons, but not reach the NBA Finals. Only thing excusing the Bucks is that they actually won a title just before pulling this feat off. The Cavs, since going to the NBA Finals in 2007 on an improbable run that defied all logic, have done the following...
A) They gutted the bulk of that 2007 team, sending Gooden and Hughes more notably abroad for Grandfather Clock Ben Wallace, former Miami University standout Wally Szcerbiak and some guy named Delonte West whom ironically enough...THEY'RE GETTING FEELERS FOR IN AN ATTEMPT TO SEND HIM PACKING THIS SUMMER!!!
But no, that wasn't enough as that "flurry of movement" got them a 7 game TKO at the hands of the Boston Celtics in 2008. So in the Summer when their attempts to get Michael Redd off of Milwaukee's hands failed, they were content with Plan B in the form of Maurice Williams. In the draft, rather than go for a Courtney Lee or even Kosta Koufos (a BUCKEYE NO LESS!!!), they go for J.J. Hickson. Some freshman from N.C. State I couldn't pick out of a lineup even if he were holding a nameplate with his name in bright neon. All I kept hearing about him was...
"He can help the Cavs in two to three years..."
My response to that was...
"You don't need a "later" player, you need someone who can contribute RIGHT NOW."
Of course that fell on deaf ears. How ironic though that Orlando snatches up Courtney Lee and make a run towards the Finals that sends them through...you guessed it, Cleveland. Which leads me to Point...
B) At the All-Star Break, rumors were running rampant that the Cavs were close to getting Shaquille O'Neal away from Phoenix for the lint sitting the trap hold of your dryer. For some reason unbeknownst to most (myself not withstanding, I knew they were buying all the hype folks were feeding them and figured they could stand pat and run the table), they didn't do it. They stood pat and ran roughshod over Detroit (Dead Team Walking) and Atlanta (DTW 2), before being run by the forgotten team in the East besides Boston and Cleveland that year...the Magic.
Come to find out that Orlando not only had a good team, but Cleveland couldn't win a game in which the score got out of the 80s range. Oh and that whole "they play D like the Spurs" thing didn't work too well either. They couldn't close out on the Magic's sharp shooters and as such, they were torched like a burger on a grill. Series over in 6, thanks for playing.
C) So in spite of being a few months too late, Cleveland makes the move to get Shaq away from Phoenix just weeks after their humiliating Game 6 defeat. The Big Aristotle claims he's The Big Witness Protection for "Prince" James and this is their year. Sounds great in theory, but as always, the execution turned out to be the problem. They won 60 plus games again, stormed past Chicago and were expected to roll an old and exceedingly decrepit Boston team that was running on empty.
Well, after embarrassing Boston in Game 3, I guess the old timers got tired of hearing how old they were and how Cleveland was going to roll them into the grave. For after that, Boston woke up in a hurry. They took Games 5 and 6 so decisively, you'd swear LeBron just threw in the towel. Come to think of it, he did. (I'll get more in depth with this in a bit.)
Maybe two to three weeks after this monumental upset in Cavalier history, former Coach of the Year Mike Brown is wished well in his future endeavors by owner Dan Gilbert. Two weeks or so after this, Danny Ferry quits. Or resigns, whichever you prefer. Chris Grant slides up to the big chair in the front office and word starts breaking that the Cavs are interested in getting Tom Izzo from Michigan State to coach this team. As I type this, Izzy hasn't made up his mind but I'm imploring Tom to pretend it's drugs and JUST SAY NO!!!
So let me see if I've got this right...
A franchise that's gone in reverse the last two years is LeBron's best chance at getting a ring?
A franchise that for the last THREE PLUS YEARS (since Boozer left for Utah) has been searching for a viable second option to LeBron, still hasn't found it? You mean to tell me that Shaq, Mo and Antwan Jamison didn't work out as planned? Dangit!
A franchise that may be coached by a first timer fresh from a college campus is LeBron's best chance at winning a title? Really? REALLY?!!!!!
Let me break it to ya like so...he's not coming back. Here's why...
2007, Game 4 of the NBA Finals post-game press conference: LeBron states that his game has to improve. Says absolutely NOTHING about the roster around him, which leads me to believe he was truly happy with the team and was excited about the progress they could make once his game rounded into form.
One year later, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals: LeBron states in no uncertain terms, the roster must change. Moves must be made to get better, a stark contrast from a year ago when nothing was said about the roster, yes no?
Last season, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals: LeBron says...NOTHING. Nothing to the other team, nothing to the press, NOTHING TO HIS OWN TEAMMATES!!! (At least not for a week or so...on both the press and teammate front.) He simply walked off the floor, got showered, dressed and walked out of the arena. My Daddy always told me, "you can show me better than you can tell me". LeBron showed me right there, his patience was nearing the red and going beyond the point of no return. He was sick of having to carry a team through an 82 game regular season and then going 1 on 5 against relevant competition in the playoffs when it counts.
This year, he spoke on how well Boston gameplanned and spoke to the gameplan that he and his personal team has towards this upcoming July's free agent bonanza. You may as well say that this press conference was the Kiss of Death for Mike Brown as a Cleveland head coach.
Understand, I speak this not because I'm "hating" on Cleveland or wish to see them fail. They're doing a perfectly fine job of that on their own without me wishing it on them, if ya ask me. They're making inquiries around the league about the value of Delonte West and Mo Williams, two of the supposed "upgrades" that were supposed to help LeBron gets over the hump but have not done that. During the Washington fire sale, somehow the Cavs end up with the booby prize (Jamison) over the grand prize (Butler, Stevenson and Haywood) which went to Dallas as they had more tradeable assets. Cleveland with all their helter skelter dealings over the last two years put them in position to be incapable of doing much of anything.
I mean, what do you sell a free agent on as far as coming to Cleveland? Rock and Roll Hall N' Fame? The Flats? LeBron couldn't talk anyone into coming last year and I don't see him doing it if he says this Summer. Right now, the Cavs have a definitive #1 and a whole bunch of 3s, 4s and so on. Three years after their improbable Finals run, there's still no #2 in sight and it's not looking like he'll be joined by one if he stays. LeBron best heed the advice given to him by KG after their series in that press conference. Even if LBJ signs a short term extension, that's still three years of his prime gone that he CANNOT get back. Think KG would rather be younger playing for his 2nd title in 3 years? Of course he would.
Loyalty's something that sounds great in theory, but when the franchise isn't loyal to you...why bother? Cleveland's treated LeBron like a huge cash cow, something they can use to get money time and time again, without fail. Ratings are up, the Cavs actually matter on a grand scale for the first time since the late 80s/early 90s. Take LeBron away from the Cavs and all of it goes. No more TV, no more fans, no more money. It'll end just as quickly as the Commish let it begin in 2003...only it'll end without the one thing Clevelanders expected but did not receive (big shock). A championship.