Photo via Getty Images
No matter where you go today, the majority of sports news is about LeBron James and his recent comments to the media about his team. He seems to be going through a mid-season crisis, like he has done repeatedly over the past few years. The Cavs are in the midst of a losing streak. The team has stopped playing defense and has lost to the Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Warriors, Jazz, Blazers, Bulls and Mavericks all in the month of January. They are just 7-8 this month resulting in Lebron’s first losing month since 2006. Their lead in the Eastern Conference over the Celtics and Raptors is getting smaller by the day.
“We need a f—ing playmaker,” -LeBron James
With the recent struggles, LeBron James has mentioned to the media that he needs, “a f—ing playmaker. I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that.” He also went on to note that his team is “top heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top heavy.” Lebron wants to see this team have more depth. However, what great teams aren’t top heavy? The Big 3 in Miami was dominated by Wade, Bosh, and James. The Warriors are dominated by Durant, Thompson, Curry and Green. They had to get rid of their depth, Barnes, Speights, and Bogut to acquire Durant. Lebron made the NBA into a league dominated by Big 3’s. Big 3’s result in the sacrifice of depth.
LeBron knows at his age of 33, he can’t be leading the league in minutes. He needs to be using January to rest and save his legs for the stretch run in June, but with the current makeup of the team, LeBron doesn’t believe that he can take time off without major negative effects. He also mentioned that he isn’t worried about the 5 minutes here or there in each game, but the fact that any injury to their big 3 could derail their season.
Honestly, I don’t know what team doesn’t take a hit when they lose a star player, but according to LeBron, he wants a team where one injury to himself, Kyrie, or Love doesn’t hurt their chances of winning. In reality, an injury to Love would hurt their chances of winning, but it isn’t that brutal. We saw the Cavs look better after Love got hurt in 2015 because Tristan Thompson came off the bench and performed superbly.
LeBron notes that “[his team] is not better than last year. From a personnel standpoint.” I’d say that is a true statement, but why does that matter. The Cavs won the championship last year. Their attitude should be, “We won it once. Let’s lace em up and do it again.” Realistically, what could the Cavs do now? They just added Kyle Korver and adding a big piece isn’t likely, but LeBron knows that.
“The Cavs have the highest payroll in the league, but LeBron still wants Gilbert to do more.”
The fact is that LeBron comes off as a diva. Whenever something isn’t the way he wants, he complains. He doesn’t complain to Dan Gilbert and David Griffin, but he complains to the entire media. He makes it a national story. To this point in time, LeBron has got his way, which makes sense. He increased the Cav’s value by hundreds of millions of dollars, has brought this team from the bottom of the conference to a title contender, and has brought the first championship to Cleveland in forever. He deserves the largest contract he can get, and he deserves some influence in the front office. However, what has Gilbert done to rub LeBron the wrong way? At the beginning of LeBron’s second tenure, he traded for Kevin Love and traded away Wiggins. He got them to trade for Shumpert and JR Smith. He got them to fire a coach in the middle of the season! Whatever LeBron wants is what Cleveland does, and it is for good reason. The Cavs have the highest payroll in the league, but LeBron still wants Gilbert to do more.
Spending isn’t the answer. Forcing Gilbert to acquire a massive contract of a star player past his prime doesn’t make the team better. It doesn’t help the organization to overpay millions of dollars for average players to sit on their bench. That shouldn’t be how a franchise is run, yet LeBron wants it done that way. He wants everything to be about now and himself, whatever LeBron wants is what needs to be done. However, Dan Gilbert shouldn’t mortgage their team’s future just to make LeBron happy now (rumors of a Chris Paul for Kyrie Irving deal or Love for Carmelo). I understand, LeBron is invaluable to the Cavs, but at a certain point, Gilbert needs to clamp down and stop LeBron’s whining.
LeBron, if you want Gilbert to spend more on players, take a pay cut and force him to use that money to bring someone else in. I don’t fault him for taking the max, he honestly deserves more than the max, but don’t complain about it nationally if you don’t take a pay cut.
“LeBron has now gone on a tirade for the 3rd time, all coming around this time in January.”
All of this must be read with caution. LeBron has now gone on a tirade for the 3rd time, all coming around this time in January. It comes at a lull in the NBA season, after the hype of the Christmas games, but before the All-Star break. I believe that LeBron uses this as a motivation tactic. There are only two reasons for him to voice his concerns to the media, for motivation or to show extreme displeasure in the front office. Is there any major shake-up that the Cavs could do to improve the team a ton? No, there isn’t and why would they? They just won a championship.
Even if his comments are for motivation, LeBron needs to quit trashing the team he has. LeBron is always out to look for more help. He complained before he left to Miami. He complained when got back to Cleveland and he is complaining now. He has publicly complained on a regular basis. When was the last time a major star complained about his supporting cast this frequently? Lebron’s story is false and he has created a built in excuse for if he loses. The excuse of never having enough talent around him to win.
However, his team is extremely talented. He has a young superstar in Kyrie Irving, a dynamic Kevin Love, a beast inside with Tristan Thompson, and a strong supporting cast with Korver, Smith, Shumpert, Frye and Jefferson. The supporting cast tailors to LeBron’s game. For example, Griffin has put a ton of shooters to surround LeBron. Think about it, no one can stop LeBron driving to the basket. Therefore, when he has 3 or 4 shooters on the floor, similar to the Warriors game plan, there can’t be any help defense. Other teams have to pick their poison. Let LeBron drive without help, which LeBron will win every time, or force LeBron to utilize his great passing ability to hit the open man for a 3 when the help comes. The team is built well around James. He even has a superstar who can single-handedly win games in Kyrie Irving. We all saw what he did to the Warriors on Christmas day and in Game 7 of last year’s NBA finals.
Kyrie Irving Hits a Clutch 3-Pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to Bring Cleveland Their First NBA Championship (photo by Ezra Shaw)
Don’t get me wrong, the Cavs don’t have the talent of the Warriors, but the Warriors built what they have patiently. There is no quick fix by spending money in any sport. A team needs bargain players and to get lucky to have a team like Golden State. Nevertheless, LeBron still has an extremely talented roster. The difference has to be himself. If he wants to be one of the best ever, then he will make up for the difference in talent by continuing to win Finals over Golden State.
In the end, these comments don’t really matter. We know the Cavs will get in gear by playoff time and will be in the Finals. People will look back on this based upon the outcome of the finals. If they win, great motivation by James. If they lose, it will be looked at two ways, LeBron has become high maintenance wanting everyone to bow to him or once again the talent around him failed him (which is just way too old of an argument now). It is not just black and white. LeBron has shown to be high maintenance and uses this lull in the season to motivate his players and to take a shot at management hoping it will result in them caving into his demands like each of the past two seasons. To support LeBron, his (alleged) advice has led them to 2 straight NBA finals. But the question that everyone is asking, did he handle it the right way, is still up for discussion.