State of The LeBron: Times are Grim

June 25th, 2010 by John Krolik

So far this offseason, two LeBron-related realities have become clear. The first is that LeBron does not feel such a strong sense of loyalty towards Cleveland and the current Cavalier team that he has secretly planned on returning to the Cavs no matter what. If that was how he felt, one assumes he would have talked to Tom Izzo.

LeBron refusing to assure Izzo he would return to the Cavs didn’t/doesn’t guarantee that he’s leaving, but it does strongly suggest that Cleveland would need to give him a better supporting cast than any other team, or at least one nearly as good. There is now a very high likelihood that the Chicago Bulls will be able to offer LeBron a far better supporting cast than the Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to offer him. If they can’t the Miami Heat will likely be able to offer James the chance to pair with Wade and at least one other big free agent. In my heart, I can’t imagine LeBron playing for another team. But my head is telling me LeBron has likely played his last game as a Cavalier.

Assuming they can grab James and Bosh, Chicago makes perfect basketball sense for LeBron, what with Derrick Rose creating plays for LeBron to finish and Bosh and Noah finishing them. I also think people underestimate just how good of a defense Thibodeau could build around LeBron and Noah.

I thought about going in-depth on the above, but felt squicky about it. Instead, here’s how LeBron-to-Chicago could potentially get botched. (This is assuming Chicago fails to move Deng for a useful package.)

As has been noted, LeBron and Rose wouldn’t be the best pair of superstars on their own together. Bosh has let it be known he’s waiting on LeBron, and believes himself to be a centerpiece. The prospect of being a possible second/third fiddle on the Bulls might not appeal to him.

Also, remember that the Bulls don’t have quite the money to give both James and Bosh max contracts if they don’t make another move. LeBron will want the max, and so will the player’s association and the other owners. Bosh doesn’t have nearly the endorsement money that LeBron does, and not getting the max might hurt his pride. Amar’e and Boozer may be backup plans for Chicago, but Amar’e is likely going to Miami and Boozer isn’t Bosh.

Unless LeBron has heard seriously bad things about Thibodeau, is really chapped about Noah’s Cleveland comments, or doesn’t want to play in the same city Michael Jordan played in (and honestly, if it’s the latter, I regret ever having rooted for LeBron), I don’t see many other reasons why Chicago wouldn’t make sense for LeBron. (Pat Riley’s “Combine Like Voltron” pitch also has a puncher’s chance of working.)

Basically, all I really want to say in the weeks before this does or doesn’t actually happen is that it’s nobody’s fault. The front office had two good chances to win a championship, and it went for them. In this league, there’s no excuse for not going all-out when the opportunity to win a title is there.

All the cap space and patience in the world wouldn’t have gotten them a Bosh/Rose/Noah combination, because they didn’t have the draft picks. The options available to the front office were to go for the good chance the Cavs could win a championship with a team thrown together around LeBron or go for the slim chance of building an NBA 2k team around LeBron. The choice they made likely won’t pan out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong one.

LeBron’s always made his priorities clear: He wants to be on the team that gives him the best chance of winning championships in the near future. The Cavs made those moves, or at least what they thought those moves were. Now they have few assets or ways to improve, and there are teams that can potentially give LeBron a better chance to win a championships ever did or could.

Everyone in this organization did their best. They were contenders. Things didn’t go their way. That happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean there were any bad guys involved in the equation. I’ll always wonder what would have happened had the ball bounced a different way in games 1 and 4 of the 2009 ECF, or if anyone was prepared for the Celtics in these playoffs. This was a heck of a team. They were a contender, and that’s all you can ask a team to be. All of that is over now;  the next couple of weeks will tell just how over it is.