Would you listen if one of the game’s best players ever to step foot on an NBA court tells you change is needed? The answer should come if the Cleveland Cavaliers sit on their hands and do nothing or attempt to surround LeBron James with so much talent the superstar remains in the city in which he grew up.
With free agency looming over the heads of the front office and July 1 growing closer and closer, basketball pundits wonder where LeBron plays next season and how come his honeymoon return to Cleveland appears nearly over after less than four years. This could be the second divorce the Cavs and James go through and likely much messier than the first.
Two issues come to mind when trying to find determine what happened between the Cavaliers organization and King James. First, the cracks in the wall first appeared when Cleveland removed former general manager David Griffin. Second, the cracks grew bigger when the Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics.
Since August of last year, a noticeable shift has been made by the front office of Cavaliers away from the recommendations James’ makes. Both in public as well as in private, James was vocal in wanting the organization to keep Griffin as GM.
However, team owner Dan Gilbert had different ideas and replaced Griffin just days prior to the annual draft, naming inexperienced 35-year old Koby Altman to take his place. Altman was considered by most not to be ready for the responsibilities he was given.
When Altman took over James told the Cavs they should not trade Irving even if the star guard was disgruntled with playing in the shadow James. The team had control over Irving for another two years and James insisted Irving did not have any leverage to bargain with.
James was of the opinion of you could bring Irving to camp, he could fix any damage in his relationship with his teammate. However, Irving was clear he wanted out and did not want to play any longer with James.
Neither Gilbert nor Altman listened to James and traded Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and an unprotected pick from Brooklyn. Thus far it appears the Celtics have had the best of the trade with Irving starring for the Eastern Conference leading Celtics and Isaiah Thomas’ return triggering other major issues the Cavs are dealing with at the current time.
The most upsetting part of Irving trade may have been that the team did not consult with James prior to dealing the guard. The entire negotiation was done without the knowledge of James.
James also wanted the team to go after Jamal Crawford during the summer of 2017, but again his wishes fell upon deaf ears and the Cavaliers signed Cedi Osman, a rookie. Since then there has been a noticeable rift between James and Gilbert.
Their relationship for all intents and purposes is no existent. The same holds true for James and the GM. When Griffin was GM he often consulted with James on things and would also keep the player in the loop when it came to any major decisions involving the roster, but with Altman that no longer happens and James’ trust in the front office is near zero.
That might have been what prompted James to yell and curse at more than one executive from the front office during the team meeting that boiled over a few weeks ago that started with players questioning the absence of Kevin Love from a Sunday practice.
More than one source has confirmed that James used expletives toward two or more executives while the heated meeting was taking place.
While James has implied he no longer is aware of what is being discussed about the team and unaware of what is being planned, the Cavaliers counter that privately by saying two of the closest associates of James, Brandan Weems and Randy Mims, are part of the staff of the Cavaliers and spend substantial time with Altman. That should imply that James would be aware of what the team is planning.
The issues with James and the front office make one wonder if the star player has lost his desire to play for the franchise.
In less than five months he could be free to go and if he has already made that decision in his mind, what would keep him from just giving up, packing it in and walking away without worrying about how poor the team plays over the final 30 games of the season.
The Cavaliers are a fractured team and without a leader for them to follow could become even worse.
On Tuesday, the Cavaliers faced the Orlando Magic, a team that was without its best player and playing the second game of a back-to-back. Cleveland jumped all over the Magic scoring 43 points in the first quarter and leading at one point by as many as 21 points.
It seems Tyronn Lue took ill on the sideline and left during the second quarter never to return, staying for the remainder of the game in the Cavaliers locker room. The team started to play poorly around the time he left and when the third quarter rolled around the wheels came off.
Cleveland managed to score just 22 points during the third quarter, which is the same amount that Jonathan Simmons put on the board for the Magic during the same quarter. Orlando as a team scored 41 that quarter.
In the fourth quarter, things turned even worse, as the Cavs managed to score just nine points or 34 points less than they scored during the first quarter. For the entire second half, Cleveland put 31 points on the board, while Simmons scored 29 for the Magic during that same span.
The Cavaliers ended up losing 116-98 after leading by 21 points and scoring 43 in one quarter, but managed just 56 over the final three quarters.
James led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 10 rebounds. However, he did not record a rebound or an assist during his 15 minutes of playing time during the second half, which was the first time that has happened since he played just nine minutes in the second half against Miami in March of 2016.
James cannot be blamed for it all however. The trio of JR Smith, Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose combined for many bricks to the tune of 0-for-17 during the final three quarters of the game. Amongst those shots were seven missed attempts from 3-point territory.
Thomas says that when the team runs head on into adversity it splits apart into individual players that go their own way and play one on one offensively and defensively worry only about the player they are guarding.
Thomas ended the game 3-for-13 with 13 points and did not score the entire second half, which never happened to him during his 204 games played for Boston.
When asked if anything could be done by the team to fix their play. He replied that he did not know. He added that it seemed when he addressed something, he appeared in the eyes of others to be blaming somebody, so he preferred to lead by example and that means he added that he needed to play better.
Veteran guard Dwayne Wade said following the game against the Magic that he has not experienced anything like what the team is going through in the 15 years he has played in the league and that included playing on a team that won just 15 games an entire season. He called it mind boggling considering the number of veterans and talent on the roster.
Elias Sports Bureau research says that it was only the third time over the last 10 seasons a team scored 40 or more points in one quarter and less than 10 points in another quarter during the same game. The loss of 18 points was the largest during the shot clock era, dating back to 1954-55, where an NBA team was ahead starting the third quarter by 15 points versus a team that was 20 games or more below .500.
It all comes back full circle to where it started. James returned four seasons again and has led the Cavs to three straight NBA Finals winning one and losing two. However, he now feels left out of the loop and does not take part in any decision making when it comes to the roster.
Would that prompt him to just throw it in? Will he walk away for sure if the Cavs fail to trade to help the squad this season?
Only time will tell, but is certainly seems like it might be time to get the life rafts ready, with jumping ship looking to be more likely than at any time before.