There was a screening a few days ago of the new movie “Trainwreck” in Akron that saw LeBron James bring the Hollywood feel to the city by way of displaying his astute acting skills. But fans are also hoping he’s able to reacquaint them with the euphoric feeling of celebrating a championship – one that hasn’t been a part of their sports history since 1964.
James doesn’t sound like he’s taken his foot off the gas pedal in the quest for a title. After shouldering an impossible load in the Finals to the tune of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, he’s alerted the Cavs there’s still work to be done this offseason after a good start, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“We definitely don’t want to come back the same team. We want to come back better. But right now, we’ve been doing so far, so good,” James said.
The pressure on the front office is inspired by so much more than one would imagine. With the NBA becoming a players league, superstars now have more authority than ever before. Furthermore, James has ascended to the level of sovereignty following his decision to leave Cleveland in 2010 for greener pastures, or better beaches.
When The King decided that reconciliation was possible, Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers organization stepped up to the plate and didn’t strike out. But in bringing him back to his home state, the franchise knew they were at his mercy going forward. It’s simple: A happy LeBron is a happy home.
With Kevin Love inking his five-year extension worth $110 million earlier in free agency and James signing his two-year deal worth $46 million (with a player option), the front office doesn’t have much financial flexibility. They also re-signed Iman Shumpert with a four-year extension worth $40 million.
Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving is in the midst of the lucrative extension he signed last season and Anderson Varejao has three years left on his contract as he returns from a ruptured Achilles injury, although the last two years aren’t fully guaranteed.
When you come within just two games of winning an NBA title, the general perception is that the team is just a few tweaks away from being right back in it. But listening to James speak to the media gives you the impression he’s expecting a bit more. This might be a lesson to Gilbert: To whom much is given, much is required. Having the best player on the planet might give you championships, but when it doesn’t it presents you with a great deal of responsibility.
James has been adamant about the team locking up Tristan Thompson, who’s looking for a big payday with his incumbent team. He also mentioned bringing back J.R. Smith, who had a nice season in Cleveland before bombing out in the Finals.
But as I alluded to, they already have an exorbitant amount of money committed to the players already signed. The CBA allows them to exceed the cap when it comes to retaining their own players, but outside of that they’re limited. The only legitimate move for them would be to move Brendan Haywood before his contract becomes guaranteed for next season in hopes of acquiring talent in return, but this hasn’t happened yet, and he’ll likely just be waived if no deal is made.
Are fans sleeping easier at night because Cleveland brought Mo Williams back to town? Probably not. But they have to feel some type of relief knowing that Love, James and Irving will return to form as the core next season.
It’s always interesting to look at what motivates people’s comments. Is LeBron feeling the heat because of the incredible offseason Pat Riley had down in South Beach? With the Bulls under new leadership, will the old Derrick Rose make a season-long cameo appearance and will his team into contention? The Golden State Warriors are returning in full form. And there goes that Spurs team again…
While a 2-4 record in the Finals doesn’t serve as an indictment of his career, James understands that an improvement in that area might help his legacy. Does he care about MVP’s anymore? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would truthfully feels he doesn’t, but obviously rings matter more.
No one would be surprised if we fast-forwarded to next June to find James’s team back in the Finals for a sixth consecutive time. But one thing that would catch us off guard would be GM David Griffin somehow performing some type of magic that would make the roster significantly better.