The wheels are not just coming off in Cleveland, the whole car is about to fall apart like a car in a Buster Keaton silent movie.
Tuesday comes a report from long-time Cavaliers writer Jason Lloyd, now with the Athletic, who details LeBron James yelling at Cavaliers officials who attended the recent team meeting (the one where Isaiah Thomas reportedly called out Kevin Love).
“For the past seven months, the Cavs have been noticeably pivoting away from James’ recommendations. He was vocal both publicly and privately in wanting Griffin to return as GM. Instead, owner Dan Gilbert replaced him days before the draft with Koby Altman…
“James cursed toward at least two team executives (in the meeting)…
“Whereas Griffin would consult with James and keep him informed of major roster decisions, that is no longer happening. James doesn’t trust this front office, and there is no communication now between management and star player.”
Ken Berger of Bleacher Report wrote what many of us around the league had heard: Owner Dan Gilbert has taken charge of running basketball operations again. Koby Altman is doing the day-to-day, but Gilbert is involved and pushing the agenda. And that agenda does not include trading the Brooklyn pick and going all in to try to win again this season, especially not without a commitment from LeBron.
James wanted the Cavaliers to either keep Irving this summer — to do what Gregg Popovich and San Antonio did when LaMarcus Aldridge demanded a trade, sit down with him and work things out (something David Griffin might have been able to do) — or if they were going to trade the star point guard, he wanted a haul more like the failed deal that would have brought Paul George and Eric Bledsoe to Cleveland. (Who backed out of that deal and how close it ever really got to the finish line depends on who you ask around the league.)
What James really wants is to compete for a title. He played at an MVP level for the first two-and-a-half months of the season, and it was clear then that was not going to be enough with this older and injured roster. Since the beginning of the year, LeBron has looked dispirited, his effort on defense has been poor, and the Cavaliers have gone into a tailspin. In the past when LeBron took mental nights off, Irving was there to carry the squad, this season Thomas is not up to the task (at least not yet). And while effort can improve the Cavaliers defense, they have some systemic issues.
LeBron is not waiving his no-trade clause, he will finish the season a Cavalier. But it feels more and more like at the end of the season (whenever that is for the Cavs) LeBron is gone. And while some will want to blame him, Dan Gilbert should go look in the mirror.