Leading up to and during the NBA season, speculation has run rampant on what the future holds for Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. Few (if any) expect him to stay in Cleveland.
The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to make a run at him. Rumor has it the Houston Rockets are considering making a pitch as well. The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been shy about their interest either. There has even been speculation that the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers could be part of the conversation.
It’s not hard to understand why anyone would want to acquire James. While he isn’t getting any younger, he has proven this season that he can still perform at an extremely high level, perhaps his best. He can score, he can rebound, he can get everyone else involved, he can play defense—there isn’t a hole in his game.
LeBron James makes a team better; a contender if they weren’t one and a favorite if they were. But he comes with baggage. Teams interested in acquiring him must answer one question internally before making their pitch to James.
Is the drama and the aftermath worth winning a title or at least being in the conversation? That depends, what sort of drama are we talking about?
His pettiness and passive aggressive nature on social media have almost become the thing of legends. He’ll deny to his dying day that he ever took a shot at anyone, but it’s pretty clear to the rest of the world that he does it all the time.
- Like the time he took a shot at Kevin Love.
- Then again on Instagram when he left Love out of a team shot.
- He’s made it painfully clear on social media and in interviews that he has no respect for Kyrie Irving—without directly saying so.
- He unfollowed the Cavaliers Instagram
Charles Barkley went as far as to call James a ‘drama queen’ during a broadcast. When the rest of the cast pressed him to explain, he referenced James’ passive-aggressive behavior.
There are many, many more examples, but if childish and petty social media practices and drama are the only issues—well, who cares? Some silly online stuff is well worth an excellent shot to win a championship.
But there’s more…
Players aren’t exactly breaking down doors to play with James in Cleveland. Yes, there was the whole Big Three gathering in Miami. But Kyrie Irving—whom the Cavaliers were able to draft because they were so bad after James left – wanted out because he didn’t want to play with James anymore. According to some reports, he wanted out so bad, that he threatened to have surgery and sit for a year if he wasn’t traded.
Things must be pretty bad if he was willing to go to such lengths not to play with James anymore.
It is widely believed that James had a hand in David Blatt getting fired back in 2016. He had just led the team to the NBA Finals the year before. They were off to another strong start at 30-11; everything appeared peachy—until General Manager David Griffin fired him.
There was so much speculation that James had something to do with it that Griffin commented on the rumors, reiterating that LeBron doesn’t run the Cavs, and he wasn’t giving out orders.
Of course, when you feel the need to deny something like this, people are more apt to believe it’s true.
Not only did James possibly play a role in Blatt getting fired, but many believe that he is actually the one in charge in Cleveland—not head coach Tyronn Lue. It’s not a widespread belief, but whenever he can be seen leading a huddle (not Lue) or he changes plays, the speculation begins anew.
It’s been said enough that Lue commented on it earlier this season.
Okay—so, the pettiness, passive-aggressive behavior, and drama can be overlooked easily as long as you win. However, trouble retaining other star players and issues with the coaches? That’s a little harder to overlook.
The post-James aftermath
Anyone that signs James is going to have to pay him the max. To afford to do so, they will likely have to cut their current salary down or accept the fact that they are going to have an insane luxury tax bill. That means if you already had a good nucleus, you are probably going to have to blow it up in order to accommodate James.
At the same time, he’s made it clear that he wants the best roster possible. That, of course, costs money which drives a team over the luxury tax threshold even more. But that’s not the worst of it.
Since he returned to Cleveland, he’s been going year to year. This has allowed him to make sure he is getting paid as much as possible. But it also makes it easy for him to switch teams after every season. Do you really want to blow up your roster to acquire him only to see him leave a year or two later for someone else?
It’s also worth mentioning that when he left Cleveland the first time to chase titles in Miami, the Cavaliers hit rock bottom.
If a title or being in contention for one is worth potentially destroying the franchise, then any team that is willing to pay that price should pursue him.