I know, “breaking news”, right? However, for some reason, the feelings of LeBron James keep ending up in the news, like it matters:
LeBron James needs help, and he’s unhappy about not getting it.
Saturday’s Mike Bibby trade, in which Sacramento sent him to Atlanta for four players, coupled with New Jersey still trying to move Jason Kidd to Dallas reportedly has James fuming.
They have been trying and trying to make a deal happen, but they’ve been stuck on the sidelines while Mike Bibby and now, it appears, Jason Kidd, have moved to other teams. Meanwhile, LeBron James stews.
What I want to know: If LeBron looked so glum when he found out his buddy Jason Kidd likely was headed to Dallas, how’s he going to take it when he hears that Kidd and Bibby might be unavailable now?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are getting worse and worse. The rest of the NBA is getting better and better. The Cavs’ front office has screwed up at pretty much every turn, and now the NBA’s best player must be thinking about life beyond Cleveland. Like maybe in Brooklyn, where that cap space being cleared practically has James’ name on it.
Why aren’t the Cavs in on any of the big trade powwows? Simple: They don’t have any tradable assets. Everyone is overpaid, under contract for too long, or, as in the case of Drew Gooden, offers nothing to get other teams stoked.
And so, in a shrewd attempt to keep James’ eye from wandering, coach Mike Brown will be fired — probably as soon as the Cavs are eliminated from the playoffs.
James is playing strictly for regional and personal pride but is not about to slack off. But with the team powerless to get him real help, this is the best it can do to publicly shake up a sinking ship.
Over the summer, LeBron, Bryant and Jason Kidd were grumbling teammates with Team USA. Bryant wanted out of Los Angeles. Kidd wanted a trade to Cleveland. And James just wanted someone to share the burden with him. Well, the two point guards whom Cleveland GM Danny Ferry had tried to obtain for two years – Kidd and Mike Bibby – are on the way to Dallas and Atlanta.
When those stars left Las Vegas over the summer, they talked glumly about returning to teams with unworthy talent. Now, James leaves New Orleans and nothing’s changed in Cleveland. Ferry has tried tirelessly to find him a point guard, but the Cavaliers have uninspired young talent and veteran contracts that won’t expire for two years, leaving little value now.
When most of his All-Star pals are making runs with new teams and new toys, it’s back to reality for LeBron James. There are so many better teams in the NBA now, but it gets harder and harder to make the case that there’s a better player.
That’s why the situation with Ferry and James is on a collision course, even if no one in Cavs management wants to admit it. If the Cavs want to retain James, they are going to have to demonstrate in dramatic terms that they are committed to putting a team on the floor capable of winning it all. A new practice facility and a tricked-out locker room are always nice amenities. But if they don’t bring in the kind of players seriously capable of winning a championship, then they are all for naught.
Ferry can’t simply wait until James has one foot out the door to step forward with a move that might make a difference. With James captive for the next two seasons, the time is now. In fact, the Cavs and Ferry are operating on borrowed time as it is.
It’s no secret that in the summer of 2010, LeBron James is a free agent. Between now and then the Cavaliers will have the chance to shed every one of their bad contracts (goodbye, Larry Hughes!) and should have a revamped roster. If, however, LeBron James is dissatisfied with the team at that point, it’ll be trouble for Cleveland. It’s no secret that keeping James happy is a major corporate mission for the Cavaliers.
How could LeBron James leave? All options are on the table. He could waltz as a free agent to one of the teams that is now maneuvering to have cap space that summer. He could theoretically sign with a major market team for the mid-level exception, and try to make up the income difference in endorsements. Or he could use the threat of either of the above to goad Cleveland into a sign-and-trade.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that Cavs fans can worry about. They have numerous injuries, Daniel Gibson hasn’t shown he can handle the ball well enough to play the point and the defense isn’t where it should be if the Cavs want to beat Detroit and Boston come playoff time. These are things that should cause some sleepless nights.
But you’re wasting your time worrying if LeBron will leave in the summer of 2010 based on what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like in early 2008.
Look at the Cavs salaries, there at least five players (possibly as many as seven) who’s contracts are ending after the 2008-09 season. Not only will those players (Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones) be off the team before LeBron can leave, their contracts will help facilitate moves throughout the upcoming season.
I cannot believe that we’re already discussing LeBron James leaving in free agency. His new deal (you know, the one he signed to re-up with the Cleveland fucking Cavaliers) just kicked in this season. The Cavs are coming off their first Finals appearance and they just gave their coach a contract extension. People are acting like this trade deadline is make or break time with LeBron and the Cavs.
If there’s ever a time that Cavs fans don’t have to worry about LeBron’s feelings on the front office, it’s right now. Is he going to demand a trade? Is he going to sit out? I highly doubt it. Even if he wanted to, he can’t walk away for two years. Obviously, they can’t afford to actually anger the guy, but they can’t run the team based on what James wants either. Michael Jordan wanted the Bulls to get rid of Bill Cartwright and Kobe Bryant wanted the Lakers to trade Andrew Bynum… how’d that work out? Just because the star says jump, doesn’t mean the front office has to ask how high.