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Cavaliers making predictably slow headway in post-LeBron James era

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

This is why Cleveland blew it during LeBron James‘ last year there.

The Cavaliers spent the 2017-18 season bracing for LeBron’s exit. They kept the treasured Nets first-rounder. They targeted young players. They didn’t trade for Paul George due to fear he’d walk the next summer.

The result: A team with a real chance didn’t maximize its opportunity to win the 2018 championship.

Perhaps, LeBron would have left, anyway. Many believe his exit last summer was fait accompli. But I think another Cavs title would’ve increased their odds of re-signing him. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered much. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered enough. But living through a championship run and celebration could have been transformative.

Even if LeBron still left, a championship would’ve been rewarding in its own right. Each title is so important. That’s the whole point of the game.

It’s so hard to reach title contention, and Cleveland was there. Teams on that level should do all they can to win rings.

But the Cavaliers took only a halfhearted swing in 2018. They were too interested in preparing for their post-LeBron future. More than a year after LeBron’s departure, where has that gotten them?

Not far.

The Cavs stink. They spent three years pushing all-in to win titles around LeBron. Hitting the brakes in the fourth year didn’t stop them from crashing into the wall.

They still have the poor roster (or equivalent parts) assembled around LeBron, just without LeBron. They still have a bloated payroll, which bit them when they couldn’t trade J.R. Smith’s partially guaranteed contract for value without entering the luxury tax. They still have as many outgoing future first-rounders as incoming, though at least the incoming pick has slightly more favorable protections.

This is the head start into the next era Cleveland earned by tepidly pursuing the 2018 title. It doesn’t count for much.

Still, in this quagmire, the Cavaliers made a few interesting moves that could make a long-term difference.

That Brooklyn pick turned into Collin Sexton, who had a crummy rookie year overall but showed incredible progress throughout. The Cavs drafted another point guard, Darius Garland No. 5, this year, anyway. That was the right move, one not every team would’ve had the stomach for. Garland was the best prospect available. Neither he nor Sexton is assured of panning out. Cleveland was correct to take Garland and figure out the rest later, though the situation creates complications.

The Cavs also added No. 26 pick Dylan Windler and No. 30 pick Kevin Porter Jr., who came at a significant cost. Cleveland sent the Pistons four second-rounders and $5 million for Porter. Kudos to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for that spending. Porter is far from a sure thing, but the Cavs improved their odds of finding a contributor by spending more.

Ultimately, Cleveland used the Nos. 5, 26 and 30 picks on Nos. 3, 11 and 26 prospects on my board. That’s generally excellent value, though in this weak-looking draft, the impact could be limited.

The Cavaliers also surprisingly hired John Beilein. He showed his coaching chops at every level of college basketball, most recently at Michigan. As the oldest first-time non-interim coach in NBA history, Beilein is at least intriguing. These are the type of creative moves that will help the Cavs moving forward.

The most important thing is nailing high draft picks, and I think they did that, though it’s far too early to tell. Cleveland will likely get another high pick next summer, too.

Offseason grade: C+

Cavaliers play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod dies at age 67

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Fred McLeod brought prestige, passion and curiosity to games he called. This is awful news for everyone who knew him or even just listened to him.

Cavaliers release:

It is with the most extreme sadness that the Cleveland Cavaliers share that Cavs and Fox Sports Ohio play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod died suddenly Monday evening. The entire Cavaliers organization mourns the loss of their great friend and teammate. Fred’s deep love for Cleveland and the Cavaliers was clearly evident in everything he did in and around the community and on-air during his more than 1,000 Cavalier game broadcasts. He was a true, heart-felt ambassador for the team, fans and entire greater Cleveland community.

McLeod, who previously called Pistons games, had an incredible career. Former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien asked him about trades. Current Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert interned for him. While other outlets were packing up their equipment, McLeod had his cameraman remain the only one still shooting during the final play of the Stanford-Cal “The Band is on the field” game. There are so many great stories.

A Northeast Ohio native, McLeod clearly cared deeply about Cleveland. His emotional call of the Cavs’ 2016 championship – as shared by his wife, Beth – is such an incredible moment:

Anthony Davis: LeBron James wants me to be Lakers’ focal point

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As many star teammates as LeBron James has had, he has always transcended them.

LeBron led Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to the Heat’s titles. LeBron led Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to the Cavaliers’ title.

But could it be different with Anthony Davis on the Lakers?

Davis, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

“I’ve kind of been a focal-point player my whole career, especially in New Orleans. But first off, to have a guy like LeBron, someone of his caliber, go tell management and ownership and the coaches that he wants me to be the focal point is an honor,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “I know what comes with that, and that’s a lot of heavy lifting. I want to be able to do that. I think I have the capabilities of doing that. And obviously with the team’s support, it’s going to be a lot easier on me. We have a great team.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

LeBron said he planned to hand the keys to the Cavaliers to Irving then never did. Irving played second fiddle until getting tired of waiting and requested a trade.

Last summer, LeBron put out word about wanting to play off the ball. The Lakers pitched him on that. But when the season came around, he was his usual ball-dominant self.

Even at age 34, LeBron is at his best with the ball in his hands. He knows it. Everyone knows it. It’s hard to surrender control to a lesser option.

Davis is far better than LeBron’s supporting cast last year. Davis has improved as a distributor, making it more effective to run the offense through him.

But Davis is still more of a finisher than creator. LeBron could do wonders setting him up. Especially if LeBron starts at point guard, everything falls into place for LeBron to have the ball. Then what? Will he really give it up enough for Davis to be considered the focal point?

I believe LeBron thinks that will happen, just as I believe LeBron thought he’d relinquish control to Irving or last year’s other Lakers. But when push comes to shove, two things happen – LeBron wants to win, and LeBron wants to play how he’s comfortable. Both lead to him taking control of the offense.

Maybe it’ll truly be different with Davis. The older LeBron gets, the more it makes sense for him to defer. Yet, there’s a lot of precedent to overcome.

The stakes are high. Davis sounds excited about being the focal point, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. If he dislikes his role, not could the Lakers face turbulence during a potential championship season, Davis could leave them outright.

Cavaliers unveil 1990s throwback uniforms (photos)

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Every sports uniform, no matter how ugly, becomes delightfully nostalgic after enough time.

Case in point…

Cavaliers:

Would you believe Cleveland had a winning record every season wearing these in the 90s? It’s true!

Cavaliers owner Gilbert back home following stroke

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CLEVELAND — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has been home for nearly a week in Detroit as he continues to recover from a stroke suffered in May.

Gilbert had spent the past two months in a rehabilitation center in Chicago. On Thursday, Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner provided a brief update on the 57-year-old billionaire businessman.

“On Friday, Dan Gilbert returned to Detroit to continue his rehabilitation locally,” Farner said. “We are extremely thankful for all of the skilled medical professionals who have played a significant role in Dan’s recovery and are glad to have him back home.”

Gilbert, who founded Quicken Loans, suffered the stroke on May 26 after he was taken to a hospital by a family friend. He was immediately taken into surgery for a catheter-based procedure, which doctors have credited with being a key to his recovery.

He spent more than a month at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, before going to the rehab facility.

The Cavs and Gilbert’s numerous other dealings have operated while he’s been absent, and Farner said that will continue.

“While Dan focuses his energy on the rehabilitation process, our teams across the family of companies will continue to execute at a high level, serving and supporting our clients and team members,” Farner said.

In a video recorded for Quicken Loans employees, Gilbert said earlier this month he was grateful for the outpouring of support.