There are a lot of jittery Cleveland Cavaliers fans right now. And not just because they had four cups at the Cleveland Coffee Company.
Clevelanders woke up this morning to a new landscape. Yesterday morning they were still the most logical place for LeBron James to play — they had shown him a serious commitment to winning, he got more money, he got to stay home and they were as close to getting a championship team together as anyone else.
Today, that is not the case. Chicago suddenly looks much closer to a title, and they have shown a serious commitment to winning.
That is, if the Bulls can land both LeBron and Chris Bosh. They traded Kirk Hinrich and now are right on the edge of being able to add two max contracts to go with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Land two big free agents and Chicago will get penciled in to take on the Lakers in the 2011 NBA finals.
Chicago has done all it could and now is in a great position. Cleveland has done all it could for the past couple years, making big moves to try to bring LeBron a ring. Both front offices have shown what they are willing to do. There are pitches to be made, but the foundations are set.
There are reasons this might not work in Chicago. Maybe Chris Bosh really wants to be option number one, and the thought of playing on a team where the ball will always be in LeBron’s or Rose’s hands has him heading to Miami or New York. Maybe LeBron really wants to play with Wade. Maybe LeBron really always wanted to play in New York, who cares how far the team is from a title.
Let’s hope the “LeBron doesn’t want to play in the shadow of Jordan” argument doesn’t ring true. Because that would be sad and speak of a weak-minded LeBron. You didn’t see Kevin Garnett shying away from the legacy of Larry Bird and Bill Russell – he embraced it and added to it. You don’t see Kobe shying away from the legacy of Magic and Jerry West, he saw it as a challenge. (Of course, Kobe sees everything as a challenge.)
It comes down to this:
Chicago is a place he can win and maybe be the heart of a dynasty.
Cleveland is home.
LeBron will have to choose. After all the fancy dinners and celebrities and long talks with general managers, it comes down to what LeBron really wants in his heart.
And if that truly is titles, Cleveland may no longer be the front-runner.
LaVar Ball rebuffs LeBron James’ warning: ‘They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing’
LaVar Ball, father of highly touted UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, continued his media tour by discussing the difficulties LeBron James‘ sons will face due to the high expectations implicit with their dad.
It’s just how people, they asked me a question about, do I think superstar players’ kids are good? And just my opinion that I’ve never seen one that was really good. LeBron is going to make his kids probably one of the best players ever, according to him. Now, there’s going to be some outside opinions. I’ve just never seen superstars that have kids, because they have to live up to that – they don’t have to live up to it – but I’ve never seen none really live up to what their dad has done.
So, he could be the first or not or the last. So, like I said, it’s not about me having his kids’ mouth. I’m not worried about his family. I’m not worried about his kids. If somebody asks me a question I’ll answer it the way I feel like answering it. But I have nothing against LeBron or his kids.
So, they can go ahead and make them the best or make them the worst. It ain’t got nothing to do with me.
People just asking me questions. I’ve been talking all my life. It’s just now the cameras and the things are in front of me. So, I’m just saying, if people ask me something, I’m going to give you an answer, because I can have freedom of speech to say whatever I want. And it’s either going to be good or bad, and it’s just for conversation for the next day.
I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. It’s just like people saying, “Keep my family’s mouth” – whatever they’re saying, I don’t care. They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing. If they take a little edgy edge on it and they get a little touchy because I answered something a certain way, who cares? They’re not going to do nothing to me. I’m not going to do nothing to them. So, it ain’t no big deal.
LaVar Ball’s inability to say the phrase “Keep my name out of your mouth” or any variation of it is poetic.
Some advice to LeBron: Don’t respond. You’ll get nowhere with someone who can say so much publicly about something he admits “ain’t got nothing to do with me.” The elder Ball is too attention-hungry to back down, and engaging him further will only serve his agenda.
Russell Westbrook assists Andre Roberson transition dunk with sweet behind-the-back pass (video)
Update: As pointed out by several, the Cavs didn’t introduce this jersey until after LeBron left. So, this was probably staged by the Nuggets. Still funny (and still searching for more evidence of Cleveland fans reconciling their about-face on LeBron).
Cavaliers fans went overboard when they burned LeBron James jerseys in the street when he left for the Heat in 2010.
Many of those same fans instantly forgot the terrible things they said about LeBron once he returned to Cleveland in 2014.
The NCAA Tournament gets back underway Thursday, but the NBA ball just keeps rolling along. Here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.
1) LeBron James says Cavaliers lack toughness. Is there trouble or are they just bored with the regular season? Here is the unquestioned fact: The Denver Nuggets trounced the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night, 126-113. There are a number of factors in this, starting with Denver is playing better than people think — the Nuggets are the fifth best team in the NBA since the All-Star break, outscoring teams by 5.6 points per 100 possessions. Jamal Murray is emerging as the ball handling guard of the future for this team, Gary Harris is a sniper, and they have solid veterans such as Jameer Nelson and Wilson Chandler. But at the heart of it all is Nikola Jokic, who is for real. Watch what he does to LeBron James here.
“It ain’t about a group. It’s about individuals,” James said… “We’ve got to be more, just do more. It ain’t about no group. You can’t preach toughness. You’ve got to have it.”
“Personally? I had opportunities where I could have been better,” James said before firing back with a rebuttal. “Um, one thing about it: I always bring toughness to the game. I know that. That’s for sure.”
LeBron is clearly challenging his team to get serious on both ends and to start getting in playoff mode.
To me, the Cavaliers look bored. As in the real season starts in a couple of weeks with the playoffs, and they feel they can flip the switch then, but right now the regular season feels like a tedious slog. That’s what it looked like in Denver. Before that, I watched the Cavaliers in person against the Lakers Sunday, and LeBron James played well enough all game, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were getting theirs, but the team lacked any urgency, and it showed on defense. The tanking Lakers hung around. Then, LeBron seemed to say “screw this” and for a five-minute span took charge of the game, looking every bit the best player on the planet, the rest of the Cavaliers quickly fell in line, Cleveland took control of the game, and they coasted from there to the win.
That was against the Lakers, the worst team in the NBA since the All-Star break and a team playing youth everywhere. Denver is legit right now, they are playing well, and the Cavs couldn’t just flip the switch on Wednesday. Jokic and Mason Plumlee led the way as the Nuggets scored 70 points in the paint.
It’s still hard to picture any team in the East beating Cleveland. However, they have not spent the regular season building good habits to fall back on when the eventual challenge comes in the playoffs. There’s been a lot of comparisons to the 2000-01 Lakers, a defending championship team that battled injuries and didn’t impress in the regular season, looked bored on defense, then flipped the switch in the playoffs and went 16-1 on the way to the title. Maybe. But teams that flip the switch are the exception, not the rule.
The bored Cavaliers are playing a dangerous game, but will it haunt them before June? Can any team in the East make them pay?
2) The Knicks have no answer for Rudy Gobert, Jazz thump Knicks. Rudy Gobert is a defensive powerhouse of a big man, the best rim protector in the game and a man on his way to winning Defensive Player of the Year. That was a problem for the Knicks on Wednesday night. A bigger problem — they couldn’t stop him on offense around the rim. Gobert at 35 points on 13-of-14 shooting, with 11 offensive rebounds. The Knicks went small for stretches (with Kristaps Porzingis, but he isn’t strong enough to handle Gobert), other times Willy Hernangomez tried but could not slow Gobert, and the French big man feasted. Check out Gobert’s shot chart.
Or, just watch what he did to the Knicks.
The Knicks started hot in this game behind vintage Derrick Rose for a quarter, but they can’t sustain that kind of play against a quality team. Utah is a quality team (I think they can beat the Clippers in the first round), and the foundation of that is in the middle.
3) Russell Westbrook notches 35th triple-double with perfect shooting, Thunder attack the rim and get the win. Let us formally acknowledge that Russell Westbrook is very, very good at basketball. He had 18 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. That would be the first perfect shooting triple-double in NBA history. How’s that for adding to the MVP resume.
As for the game, the Thunder attacked the paint and the Sixers had no answers. OKC won 122–97, scoring 76 points while knocking down just four 3-pointers.