Monday was not a fun day for the Cavaliers as they met the media following an embarrassing 23-point home loss to the dismal Detroit Pistons.
There was a report of a rift between management and head coach David Blatt, and a concern over whether or not he was reaching his players just 30 games into the season.
There was LeBron James, not exactly sounding super-convincing in coming to his coach’s defense.
Now, a report has emerged stating what was essentially unthinkable before the season began — that James would actually consider bolting Cleveland after just one year if things don’t work out as he envisioned.
James, who turns 30 today, has no intention of compromising his prime years playing for a sputtering organization. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent.
Given the massive scrutiny he would endure if he departed Cleveland a second time, if his hand is forced, I’m told he won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting.
Of course, anything is possible. But logic would dictate that, to put it mildly, this is complete and utter nonsense.
James signed his two-year contract in Cleveland, which comes with it the ability to opt-out after this season, purely for financial reasons. The salary cap will skyrocket following the 2016 season thanks to the league’s shiny new broadcast rights deal, and if James had been locked into a long-term deal with the Cavaliers, his earning potential would have been limited significantly.
There’s little incentive for James to leave to play anywhere else. He has more power within the Cavaliers organization than he’d have with another franchise, and can use that to influence a head coaching hire if in fact Blatt is ultimately unable to get the most out of this season’s roster — one which had flaws from the jump, but is now more precarious than ever with Anderson Varejao lost for the season due to injury.
Kevin Love can bolt, too, and him leaving seems at least a little bit more likely, especially if he ends up being scapegoated as a key reason for a disappointing season.
But the reality is that it’s far too early to be talking about any of this.
There are problems with the Cavaliers, certainly. The effort and energy on the defensive end of the floor have been inconsistent at best, and James himself admitted to being in “chill mode” to start a recent win over the Magic. Despite it all, Cleveland has a record of 18-12 — not as good as expected, but just fine in the East, and only five-and-a-half games out of the Conference’s top spot.
If James chose Cleveland this past summer purely for basketball reasons, then it would be realistic to see him choosing to leave should this current season result in disaster. But remember what he wrote in the letter that was published explaining the move once it was finalized.
“But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
The fact that LeBron leaned so heavily on the homecoming angle when he made his return to Cleveland makes the notion of leaving now, after just one potentially difficult season, virtually impossible to envision.