Let The Pouting Begin


The Cleveland Cavaliers came into this NBA season expected to once again contend for the league title. At first things appeared to be status quo for the Cavaliers as on December 17, their record was 23-8. But since then the Cavs have found themselves in downward spiral as they are 7-12 ever since. The Cavaliers are coming apart at the seams as this team has been plagued by a lack of communication of the court, no passion to play defense, in-fighting and finger pointing. The Cavs are clinging to first place in the Central Division as the upstart Indiana Pacers are giving them a fight. However Cleveland is third in the Eastern Conference in spite of the fact that they are a very talented team. But one person that we should “not” feel sorry for is Cavs small forward LeBron James.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t believe that James isn’t the best player in the NBA. James is in his 15th NBA season and he is showing no signs of slowing down. James is averaging 26.8 points per game this season which is third in the NBA, and his 8.6 assists per contest are fourth. James recently became the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 career points and he is just the seventh player in league history to reach the milestone. But none of the other players who have scored 30,000 points have been known to throw fits like him.

When James was drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, it appeared to be the perfect marriage as the hometown boy was hoping to turn his local team into a winner. In just two years James was able to get Cleveland to the playoffs, and by 2007, he did the impossible which was to lead the Cavs to the NBA Finals. After the Cavs were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals, they would remain as a playoff contender, but once James realized that he wasn’t going win an NBA Title in Northern Ohio, he decided to join the Miami Heat in 2010.

In Miami, James teamed with shooting guard Dwyane Wade and power forward Chris Bosh to give the Heat their version of “The Big Three”. Miami became immediate title contenders, and in 2012, James was able to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as an NBA Champion for the first time. James and the Heat would follow this up by once again winning the NBA Title in 2013. However after the Heat’s loss in 2014 in the finals to the Spurs, James decided to pack up shop and return to Cleveland.

Upon returning to Cleveland, James was teamed with point guard Kyrie Irving and and power forward Kevin Love as the Cavs version of “The Big Three”. And just like James was able to do in Miami, he won an NBA Championship in his second year with the Cavs. Following Cleveland’s victory over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors vastly improved their team when they signed small forward Kevin Durant. And when the Cavs met the Warriors in the NBA Finals last spring, Durant was the difference maker as he averaged more than 35 points per game in helping the Warriors take care of the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in five games.

The formula that James used to win his titles has become old news as James has been known to throw his weight around in order to get the team around him that he likes. When James left Cleveland in 2010, I gave him a pass being that the City of Cleveland has never been a hotbed to recruit NBA free agents, while the franchise itself has been home to dysfunction. However when James lost a power struggle with Heat team president Pat Riley in Miami, he abruptly returned to Cleveland. And it also was a coincidence that James decided to return to the Cavs after they had somehow secured the first overall pick in the NBA Draft three times in the four years that he was in Miami.

Dan Gilbert

Upon returning to Cleveland, James was able to push aside all of the bad blood between him and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert because of the talent on the team’s roster. Gilbert also gave into James and put a team around him that he wanted, but things have changed since last June.

James wanted Gilbert to re-sign general manager David Griffin, but that was not the case as Gilbert who has never given a GM a second contract let Griffin walk at a very crucial time. After the Cavs has been dusted off by the Warriors in the finals, there were talks of the team potentially acquiring swingman Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls, or small forward Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. And to make things even more interesting, point guard Kyrie Irving had become disgruntled with James and his propensity to compare him to shooting guard Dwyane Wade among other things asked the Cavs to trade him which made things even tougher this summer in Northern Ohio. However at this very important time for the Cavaliers, they didn’t have a general manager because Gilbert did not want to spend money.

So what happened was that the Bulls traded Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, while George was shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And to make matters worse, Irving was dealt to the Boston Celtics.

In exchange for Irving, the Cavs received a first and second-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, along with point guard Isaiah Thomas, small forward Jae Crowder, and center Ante Zizic. And by the looks of things so far, the Cavs got fleeced.

With Irving leading the way, the Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference as they are 37-15, while the All-Star point guard is averaging 24.9 points and 5 assists per contest for a team that Cleveland will more than likely have to go through in order to get back to the NBA Finals. On the Cavs end they are stuck with a team that is simply waiting for James to do everything, while they are pointing fingers at each other.

Kevin Love

Recently the Cavs had a team meeting where power forward Kevin Love was called out by Thomas for recently leaving the team while he was ill. However Thomas who just got to the Cavs should not be calling out anyone on the team; especially Love who helped this franchise win a title. And what makes matters worse is that it was allowed to happen by the likes of James. Thomas must realize that he is no longer with the Celtics where he averaged 28.9 points per contest and was an NBA MVP candidate. Thomas is not even the second option for this team as he is further down in the pecking order. Since joining the Cavaliers, Thomas has been exploited as a one-dimensional player that is not effective when he does not have the basketball in his hands. Thomas is a non-factor at the defensive end of the court and you can see why the Celtics were ready to move on from him after he underwent hip surgery last year.

Isaiah Thomas

Aside from the issues that Thomas has caused for the Cavaliers, center Tristan Thompson is not the same player that he once was since Cleveland paid him. Thompson is getting $16 million per year, but he is only averaging 5.9 rebounds this season even though that he’s averaged 8.5 for his seven-year career. Shooting guard J.R. Smith has never met a shot that he has never liked, and thus he has always had problems in regards to playing within the realm of an offense. When the Cavs won in all in 2016, Smith shot 40% from the three-point line, but since then he is only hitting on 35% of his shots from downtown, while he is only making 1.8 shots per game from beyond the arc this season. And if all of this is not enough for the Cavaliers to deal with, former All-Star point guard Derrick Rose has literally been M.I.A. as he attempts to assess where he is at in his NBA career.

But as previously mentioned there is not anyone who should feel sorry for James as he brought all of this upon himself. Before returning to Cleveland, James had seven years worth of experience in regards to dealing with the Cavs organization and their dysfunction. However James decided to prostitute himself to return to Cleveland in 2014 due to the fact that they had young talent since they consistently “won” the NBA’s Draft Lottery during his absence from the team. James was also given the chance to hand pick the players that he wanted to play with, but Gilbert got tired of having to pay the luxury tax for going over the NBA’s salary cap. Upon returning to the Cavs, James knew that former head coach David Blatt had no prior coaching experience in the NBA, and his successor in Tyronn Lue is not going to remind anyone of Phil Jackson on the sidelines. James put his differences with Gilbert aside due to the fact that he is in the business of chasing rings, and by the looks of things, he might have to be content with the three championships that he owns.

Whereas the Cavaliers never had an answer for Durant in the finals last season, Golden State has actually gotten better since they are one of the most efficient teams in the NBA at both ends of the floor. There is also a winning culture within the Warriors organization as each player enjoys going to battle with the man next to him which is something that the Cavs are lacking. And even when Cleveland won it all in 2016, everyone on the team was not on the same page.

The Cavs are playing as if they feel that they can turn it on whenever they want to, but it is not that cut and dry. Cleveland needs to upgrade their roster in order to not only compete with the Warriors, but to also get past the Celtics in order to meet Golden State in the finals for a fourth consecutive year. But that will be difficult to pull off as I do not see Gilbert parting with the first-round pick that the Cavaliers picked up from the Celtics which was the property of the Brooklyn Nets. Gilbert doesn’t know if James will be with the Cavaliers following this season and he wants to do what is in the best interest for his franchise which means that James needs to get comfortable with the malcontents that he currently calls teammates.

Love recently suffered a broken hand that’ll keep him sidelined for at least two months which means that the likes of Thomas and Crowder won’t be able to point fingers at him. And when don’t win again this spring, James will pack up his bags over the summer to chase another ring that won’t come, while the sideshow around him will continue.


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