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|06-13-2017, 06:56 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 17, 2009
What's Next for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?
NBA Finals: LeBron James faces his basketball mortality after falling short again, The Warriors present an existential challenge to the reign of King James
By Matt Moore
We've seen a lot of shades of LeBron James at the NBA Finals. That's going to happen when a man has been at a press conference for the final game of eight different Finals. We've seen him petulant (2011), we've seen him giddy (2012). We've seen him joyful (2016) and we've seen him frustrated (2015).
In 2014, LeBron James was mostly checked out. He knew the Spurs were better, but he knew he had more greatness in him, that he had more greatness ahead of him. People in Miami would suggest that at the back of their minds, they knew even then his heart was headed back to Ohio.
In 2017, we saw a new LeBron James at the podium after a Finals loss. After Golden State defeated Cleveland 129-120 Monday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to win the series 4-1, James joined an elite group of players to lose five Finals, which is still never a list you want to be on. James was confident, he was, in a sense, relieved. He said that he knew he left it all on the floor, he knew that he couldn't play better than he did in these five games.
And he's right.
James averaged a triple double, with 34 points per game, along with 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He shot 56 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point range. He was incredible. In a series the Warriors won in four games, and in which they beat the Cavs by a combined 34 points, the Warriors outscored James by just seven points across 212 minutes. They outscored the Cavaliers by 27 points in the 28 minutes he sat in this series.
Let's be clear on this. There is nothing more James could have done. Nothing. He went to the rack relentlessly in Game 3. It wasn't enough. He shot more 3-pointers per game in this series than he ever has. It wasn't enough. He defended Kevin Durant and was guarded by Kevin Durant and found holes in the defense that moves so well and attacks him so well and he still scored or found open shooters. It wasn't enough.
It has to be enough, for us. If you want to simply look at his record and condemn him to inferiority for whoever your favorite player is, then fine.
Partisanship is an essential part of sports. But if you pride yourself on seeking truth, if you want to have any honest perspective on basketball history, you have to come to grips with this: James gave as much as he could to the game. He didn't hide from the moment or overthink things like he did in 2011. He didn't cramp up, or choke, or fail. The other team was better. His team was not good enough. That is not a reflection of James.
The reality is that the more we watch this Cavaliers team, the more we see that they are a great team, because they are a team built well around James, not a great team on their own. Their second-best player is an isolation-only firebug who doesn't play defense. Their role players are shooters only who are special because of what James makes them, not because of what they make the team. That's never been more clear than in this moment. It was enough last year, and no one can ever take that from them. That accomplishment will always be theirs.
But for James, his past is what his legacy is built on. It's the stone that forms the pillar of the basketball temple in his name. He is a three-time champion, a four-time MVP, and is widely regarded as one of the two-best players in NBA history. There is no taking that away from him.
However, James did lose something on Monday night, outside of this series.
James sat at the podium, and couldn't say he could have played better. He couldn't really, honestly say that the Cavaliers could have played better.
This was it.
He was asked by a reporter (Dave McMenamin of ESPN who wrote a book on James and this team's run last year) on what he thinks of where he's at, with the Warriors having won two titles the past three seasons. Forget his comments on superteams. This is the most important answer he gave Monday night (emphasis mine):
This is LeBron James seeing the end of his reign, and it's got nothing to do with his individual game. Think about where James is at. He's 32, chasing Jordan's ghost. He's got two All-Stars with him. He's continually found a way to get better and better; he registered a career high in assists and rebounds this season. And yet, his team took one measly game from Golden State.
James is smart. He's truly, incredibly intelligent, not just at basketball, but in seeing the bigger picture, whether that's life, player-owner politics, media narratives, or whatever. He's too smart not to know Golden State is a juggernaut with no expiration date on the carton. There's no end in sight.
The worst part is, James may only be able to worsen his legacy by continuing. I'm not suggesting he should quit, he's LeBron James and as long as he's around, the Warriors had better be their best selves. But if he just keeps making the Finals, and losing to this same team, and his Finals record sinks from the 3-4 it was last year to the 3-6 it could be next year or 3-8 it could be in two years, that somehow makes him come off worse than if he just didn't make the Finals at all. That number will be on his basketball retrospective, even if it takes nuance to realize the more impressive thing is how many times he got there.
What's important is to see Monday night as the important moment it was, when LeBron James didn't say "We'll get to work over the summer and come back better next season." He didn't say "I know we can play better." He didn't even say "Our front office will get the pieces we need."
He just said "I don't know."
This is the moment when LeBron James saw basketball mortality stare back at him. In 2014, he knew he could go find better teammates. In 2015 he knew his team had it in him to beat that Warriors team. But this one? With Kevin Durant? He knows the difference. He just doesn't now how to overcome it.
Maybe James will come back with a different, better team, in Cleveland or elsewhere, next season or the year beyond (when he's a free agent in 2018).
Maybe there really are changes he can make to his game to lift him past Steph Curry and Kevin Durant (and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson).
But maybe this is just the reality, that James is destined to be the greatest player of his generation, in a generation defined by teams greater than their individual talent.
James remains magnificent. He's efficient, and brutal, and brilliant, and special in a way we've never seen. But no legend has faced something like he's facing in Golden State. This isn't the Spurs at the end of their run, just as James reached his peak. This isn't the Malone-Stockton Jazz or the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. It's a different beast because of how it's built, how it fits together, and the age of its stars.
James said he doesn't know right now what the answers to these tough questions about how to get past them are.
The real problem may be that there simply are none, and the clock keeps ticking on a career that no longer has infinite upside. Time is not on LeBron's side.
And neither are the Warriors.
After losing NBA Finals to Warriors, five questions about the future of LeBron, Cavs What's next for Cleveland after falling in five games in the Finals?
By James Herbert
The undeniably exceptional Golden State Warriors finished off their superb season on Monday with a 129-120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, finishing the playoffs 16-1 and sending a message to the rest of the league: No one is on their level.
As Cavs forward Richard Jefferson said last week, this means that their season will be considered a failure. They may have gone 12-1 against the Eastern Conference and improved from last season, but the Warriors outplayed them on the game's biggest stage. Since they didn't repeat as champions, they will now face serious questions as they head into the offseason. Such is life with LeBron James on the roster.
1. What does this loss say about the Cavs?
Honestly, it says more about Golden State, arguably the best team ever assembled. Cleveland is a championship-caliber club, and it the playoffs it was clear that it had taken a major step forward. Midseason addition Kyle Korver made the Cavs even more difficult to defend in transition and in the halfcourt, and star forward Kevin Love had easily his best year in Cleveland.
None of that, though, was enough to take more than a game from a juggernaut -- LeBron's term -- that paired the last two MVPs with the likely Defensive Player of the Year, arguably the best two-way shooting guard in the league and perhaps the Sixth Man of the Year.
The way James played, these Cavaliers could have beaten several recent champions. He is still the most unstoppable individual force in the league, and he makes everybody around him better. The manner in which Cleveland disposed of its challengers in the East led some of us to think it could give the Warriors a run for their money, too. That did eventually happen, but only after two blowouts at Oracle Arena.
Like other elite teams, Cleveland has flaws, and those were magnified against Golden State. At the very highest level, its best offensive lineups have trouble getting stops, and its best defensive lineups do not provide enough spacing or scoring. It could use more 3-and-D guys; it could use playmakers who can also guard multiple positions; it is clearly less athletic and versatile than the Warriors.
The sobering reality, though, is that if these problems were easy to solve, the front office would have done that during the season. The Cavaliers won't feel good about coming up short, but they should at least be proud of the way they competed in the last three games.
2. Are the Love rumors going to start again? If so, is that fair?
Almost certainly, especially because of his six points on 2 for 8 shooting in Game 5. And no, that isn't fair. Love found his place in coach Tyronn Lue's system this season, and his effort and execution on defense in the Finals were about as good as anybody could have hoped. He's a wonderful player, and it is not his fault that the Cavs couldn't get past Golden State. He might, however, need to be moved for them to have a better chance.
The Warriors' roster is full of versatile wings and forwards who can switch on defense. Cleveland's roster is not built that way. Love's combination of scoring, rebounding and passing is not easy to find, but his team could be better off against Golden State if it had in his place a long, athletic, defensive-minded forward whose offensive game consisted only of shooting 3-pointers. At this point, this one matchup is more important than anything else.
Could the Cavs trade Love for a wing superstar like Paul George or Jimmy Butler? It seems incredibly unlikely unless one of them pressures his team to do so, but it's worth wondering whether or not it is possible. Alternatively, maybe Cleveland could trade Love for a package of role players that give Lue different lineup options, but that doesn't come without risk. There is a heavy enough playmaking burden on James and Kyrie Irving already -- if Love is moved, then Lue might need to re-imagine Cleveland's offense to take some pressure off of them.
3. Is there any other way the Cavs could shake things up?
Well, does anybody want to talk about trading Irving? It seems like a ridiculous idea, but it is fascinating to think about what he might return on the trade market, especially if George and Butler are available. Perhaps it's not completely crazy for Cleveland to be open to it ... but it feels weird after seeing what Irving can do in the Finals once again.
Beyond trading a star, the Cavs don't have a ton of options. They could look at moving Tristan Thompson, but, somewhat disappointing Finals aside, he is extremely important to what they do. J.R. Smith is on a fair deal, but not necessarily one that can be easily moved for a piece that fits better.
Channing Frye is probably worth more to Cleveland than it is to a potential trade partner. Iman Shumpert's value is difficult to discern. This summer is going to be tricky for general manager David Griffin or whoever ends up making these decisions -- Griffin and the organization have not reached an agreement on a new contract -- because the best plan might be bringing the same group back, but that plan isn't particularly exciting after losing to the Warriors in five games.
4. Is it seriously time to start worrying about LeBron leaving?
About a year ago, The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that winning a title in Cleveland would give James "lifetime immunity for his legacy," meaning that he could safely leave his hometown team again, perhaps for "somewhere warm," without risking damage to his reputation. Last week, Jalen Rose predicted on ESPN that James would eventually leave for the Los Angeles Lakers and The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor quoted league sources saying the Clippers are also a "viable destination." It might not feel like James is about to leave anytime soon, but he has never guaranteed that he is going to spend the rest of his career as a Cavalier. He can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent after next season if he chooses.
It might not be wise to dismiss the possibility of James leaving, but none of this really changes what Cleveland's front office must do. Griffin (or the new guy) has immense pressure to improve the roster because of James' presence, not because of the threat of James leaving. There's no time to waste with him heading into his 15th season and chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan.
5. Is there anything else to watch for this summer?
Korver, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, James Jones and Dahntay Jones are all unrestricted free agents. This means there will be roster spots to fill, and it will be fascinating to see what the Cavs do. They have no picks in the upcoming draft, and it's unclear which veterans might be willing to take a discount to play with James.
Of the aforementioned free agents, the names to watch here are Korver and Deron Williams -- do they want to come back on minimum contracts in order to stay with this group? Can the Cavs even guarantee them spots in the rotation again given that they're preparing for another potential rematch with the Warriors? They were both great at times in the postseason, but Cleveland probably wants its second unit to be better defensively.
Lisa Marie Varon, Lisa Moretti, Jazz, Lilian Garcia & Dawn Marie
The Fab 5-Underrated, but AWESOME in my book
Atlanta Falcons: RISE UP
|06-13-2017, 09:34 AM||#2|
Join Date: Mar 15, 2013
Location: Montgomery County, Maryland
They'll give one more chance for Lebron next season and I think they can improve their buildup, by then.
The Cavaliers are still in the same approximate level as the Pittsburgh Steelers currently so far... IMO.
|06-13-2017, 12:37 PM||#3|
Drew Carey from Hell
Join Date: Nov 09, 2007
Location: My name says it all...even my emotions!
That's a breather...I also won't doubt LeBron may do some assistance in coaching.
Thank God for kids who love Obscure Things.
Lee Hazelwood (1929-2007)
|06-20-2017, 02:21 PM||#4|
Drew Carey from Hell
Join Date: Nov 09, 2007
Location: My name says it all...even my emotions!
The NBA world roasted Cavs owner Dan Gilbert after shocking front office shake-up
Is Dan Gilbert starting to become Ted Stepien?
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