Thoughts for today, the day after Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
LeBron James is one of the Top 5 Greatest NBA Players, if not THE Greatest NBA Player, ever.
He single-handedly willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals this year, the eighth straight time that he has played in the Finals. There is one reason and one reason only that the Cavs are in the Finals. You know it. I know it. HE knows it.
LeBron made it to the Finals DESPITE the front office, not because of the front office.
Chance of winning the Finals? A Puncher's Chance. (And when I say a puncher's chance, I mean, like Buster Douglas, not like Floyd Mayweather.)
Win or lose, without a massive front office and roster overhaul, LeBron James is done in Cleveland. How can I say that the day after the 2018 Finals started? Because you treat the situation like a personal workplace Drama, instead of as a Sports Story. The clues are everywhere….
Driving home from my morning shift yesterday, it leaked out on multiple radio and print outlets that LeBron begged the Cavs front office not to trade Kyrie Irving.
Let's start from the top. All of the comments below are speculation, not admissible in any court of law. So weigh my viewpoints below similar to the way ESPN gives you the point spread but then warns: Not for Gambling Purposes. Like any employee making a list of the pros and cons of taking a new job, let's go over his potential checklist:
I believe that LeBron thinks that this $200 million contract will be his last, so besides making the most money possible, he'll also want the most favorable conditions with the most boxes checked on his wishlist.
Editor's Note: You may be yelling, it's $200 million, who cares about favorable conditions. Nobody is offering you $200 million, and no one is offering me $200 million, so you have to look at the situation through the prism that 20 or so teams would probably offer James that money. Well, with any job, when you have options, you can be more discerning, no matter what the dollar amount. What would a new job checklist look like for the most powerful player in basketball entering his twilight (playing) years and do the Cavs check any of thosse boxes?
I believe LeBron is looking for an owner he likes....
In this case, 2 pictures are worth a thousand words.
I believe that he wants a front office set-up like the Lakers. A Basketball-first owner, not necessarily Jeanie Buss, but someone like a Jeanie Buss. A Hall-of-Famer in the Front Office. Using the Lakers as an example, again, someone like Magic Johnson. And I think he'd want a GM with at least 10 years basketball-related experience,
I believe that the Coach is nearly irrelevant. He isn't playing for Pat Riley and he isn't playing for Phil Jackson, so other than Greg Popovich, is there a coach that weighs into his decision? Probably not.
I believe (and LeBron believes) that he could have taken, oh, probably 27 of the 30 teams in the league to the Conference finals if he was on their roster. Meaning he cares about what the roster looks like today, but it doesn't haven't to be a great roster. Where can he go to play with good players, in their prime, for the next 5 years?
I believe he needs a team that will spend money. That concept circles back around to the owner. The main reason LeBron came back to Cleveland in the first place is that Dan Gilbert committed to spending money. Now that other owners have now seen the Gilbert example, I believe they are ready to step up and make similar pitches. Let's use Mark Cuban as an example. Even though the Mavericks have cap space, it's not because they're being cheap, they're looking for the right pieces. I could see an owner like Mark Cuban committing to being in the Top 3 in spending getting LeBron's attention. But that Mavericks roster....oof. They would have to do a lot of work.
I believe that LeBron is a Businessman. Like any businessman, you are always looking to streamline processes. Does Cleveland/Akron still work for James? At some point is he going to look at a metropolis on the East or West Coast to grow his Brand? Remember, sometimes businessmen have to make cold-hearted decisions to grow the Brand. Where is a good place to transition from his playing days into his management days.
I believe that LeBron would like to play out his last years with a friend. Sound stupid? I'm still not sure why they traded Dwayne Wade back to Miami. I heard all of the feel good stories about Wade going back to Miami, but if you're trying to win a championship, why get rid of Wade? They wanted to reduce Wade's playing time in favor of who? Rodney Hood??? How would Dwayne Wade look coming off the bench today, in the finals? I still think James would like to play with someone like Chris Paul, who he considers a peer. I don't think he considers any current Cavs players a peer.
I believe that LeBron played every game this year, regular season and playoffs, because this is his contract year. I think he wants to convince the other owners that he has 5 years like this one up his sleeve. That ain't happening. Again, Father Time is undefeated. After watching LeBron score 51 points last night, just a week after being called "tired," he is still trying to adjust the narrative of his potential. I remember Kobe Bryant talking about taking extensive care of his body and wanting to play into his 40's, and then he tore his achilles and...go ahead and look up Kobe's stats after that.
One major factor that could tip the scales for the King staying in Cleveland.
St. Vincent-St. Mary High School - His kid plays ball there. Not just any High School, his alma mater.
If Dan Gilbert says, "listen give us another chance," we are going to gut the team....AGAIN. What moves COULD appease James in Cleveland? If the Cavs could make a run at Tom Izzo, he now may be interested in disassociating himself from what's going on in Michigan State. But Gilbert may also have to get rid of Koby Altman to lure Coach Izzo. Izzo would probably want one of his guys in the front office. Re-imagining a front-office structure would be bold. Then the turnover of players would HAVE to start with J.R. Smith. His future? This meme says it better than I ever could.
The Cavs would still have to be the #1 spender in the league, but they'd have to turn Love, Thompson, George Hill, and aging Kyle Korver into 4 upgrades. Are they willing to trade away their team BEFORE James makes a decision to stay or not? If the Cavs make no major changes (and getting rid of Rodney Hood isn't enough), they aren't even going to get close to keeping James.
With No Major Cavs changes, his final choices will be Houston, the Clippers, or the Lakers.
WIth Significant Cavs changes, his final choices will be Houston, the Lakers, or the Cavs.
I'm not being flippant in describing the power of the LeBron Brand.
The Stanley Cup is going on right now.
How many Las Vegas Golden Knight players can you name?
When I told my wife that the Golden Knights were in the finals,
she said she doesn't follow Arena League.
Bottom Line - Where does he go?
You can bet on it.....
Or I could bet on it.
I still think the Houston Rockets is where he'll end up. (Unless the Cavs turn their current crop of players into 2 all-stars, say Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins.)