by Ken Carman
Listen to Ken Carman on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima weekday mornings from 6 am-10 am
The honeymoon is over.
The memories are still vivid, and hopefully will be for a long time, but the time for the Cavs and their fans to get to work is finally upon us.
It was still a great six months, though.
We’ve done a lot of complaining about LeBron James’ complaining over the last week.
But this is no complaint piece, because LeBron, for everything that he’s complaining about, is doing this by design.
LeBron has always been a complicated icon. He’s sent cryptic tweets to his teammates, sent messages through media scrums, and has even filtered information through sources, all to keep people on their toes.
After the Cavs loss to the Pelicans on Monday night, LeBron cursed the current situation of the Cavs.
It wasn’t just that loss, but the frustrations of losing five of their last seven, and having to play significant minutes in games when LeBron has made it abundantly clear over the last few seasons, he doesn’t want to play 40 minutes a night. This season, he’s added Kyrie to the complaint.
All of this is upsetting to the average fan who knows that when LeBron decides to hang it up, the Cavaliers will be bad. Not just bad, but without first round picks until, basically the next century, historically bad.
“LEBRON NEEDS TO SHUT UP AND JUST PLAY! HE COULD HAVE TAKEN A PAY CUT TO KEEP DELLY!” – a caller shouted to Lima and I on Wednesday.
I feel that too, sometimes. It sucks to leave the comfort zone of a very talented team. It sucks to leave that comfort zone after that very talented team just won a world title.
LeBron knows, though, that to repeat as champions, the Cavs will have to leave that comfort zone.
That’s everyone, himself included. He’s not all knowing, and he’s made a ton of mistakes. But LeBron is no dummy. He’s been around the NBA as it’s evolved to the player’s league it’s become today. With only Gregg Popovich holding down the old guard, LeBron has been at the forefront of creating a league where team leadership comes from the players.
If I’m reading into what LeBron says, it absolutely is a complaint about the amount of playmakers on the Cavs. But he’s also telling the truth.
Golden State is only going to get better as the season goes on. Four star players against three star players is still a tough thing to overcome. LeBron understands that moves will have to be made, and that might include healthy players that are on the current Cavs’ roster.
LeBron also knows that this rests solely on him.
He knows that Terrence Jones blew by him on Monday night, but you also know that he wouldn’t allow it if the Cavs were somehow playing the Pelicans with anything on the line. LeBron’s talent and career affirm to him, and to you, that he’s allowed to be a complete hypocrite in certain situations because he’s LeBron James, and everyone else isn’t.
Again, this is a guy who got blown by, and still had a triple-double, and basically did that in one half. James isn’t the absolute smartest person to ever be around a basketball, but he knows himself, and he knows the players in the league as well as anyone. He can be surly, and hypocritical, because in the end, he can answer the challenge.
No one else in the league can do what he does.
This is the third year in a row LeBron has criticized his team, coaches, or organization in January.
Two years ago it was David Blatt. Last year it was David Blatt, cryptic tweets and the lack of an enforcer. This season, it’s another playmaker. Guys like me, and fans like you, remember that type of stuff, but the basketball world won’t 20 years from now. They’ll remember what LeBron did and didn’t do, or really the titles he did and didn’t win. Not that Kendrick Perkins or Matthew Dellavedova (as much as we love him) was “the missing link.”
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the Cavs can beat the Warriors in a seven game series again, even if the Warriors have four all-star players who can garner MVP votes.
The difference between the two teams is that LeBron is a 6’8″ Zeus-like figure who has done the work of four players in the past, and can do the work of two if needed. Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant cannot do that. The Warriors know that they’ll have to help each other. At times in LeBron’s career, teammates have taken advantage of James’ talent.
LeBron has eaten up all the salary of the Cavs, while Steph Curry is still paid a fraction of James in salary for the rest of this season. He’s also in a race against father time.
Again, LeBron complains, because he knows what’s coming.
There will be a day when LeBron reaches back, and that magic will really no longer there. He’s the one who mentioned that he’ll be 33 years old in the winter, even though he just celebrated his 32nd birthday a month ago.
James is paranoid about the future. He’s paranoid because he knows there’s still remarkable basketball left, but he can now see the door to his next life at the end of the hallway, and no matter what he does, it’s only getting closer.
James isn’t just battling the Warriors either. He’s also battling ghosts. He’s begun moving past the all-time greats on the stats list, and he’s now in the serious conversation as one of the men on the Mt. Rushmore of the greatest NBA players of all-time.
His legacy is now secured here in Cleveland. But nationally, he believes that this is the final ascent to the mountaintop of a sterling career. A career that will set him up for another life in the public conscious after basketball.
There is a lot at stake. LeBron has absolutely put the Cavs in the spot that they’re in, which to about 29 other teams, is still a spot that’s unimaginable.
If the Cavs fail, it’s on him. If the Cavs succeed again, it’s on him. The final push towards the playoffs has started, meaning he’ll need the absolute strongest effort from those around him.
Nick Saban said it; “Success breeds complacency.”
LeBron has no time for it. Neither do Cavs fans.