by Ken Carman
Listen to Ken on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima, weekday mornings from 6-10 am on 92.3 The Fan
I’ll try to make this short, but I don’t know if it’s going to be sweet. Last week I had a near breakdown. Well, a sports breakdown. It’s nothing life or death, but in many terms as an NBA fan in Cleveland, it might as well be.
Last week, while Anthony and I tried in vain to avoid it, the conversation we tried so hard to avoid was brought to our doorstep.
It was first thought of from a national perspective (Clay Travis, Fox Sports) then it was brought to us locally (a few callers), then like a grease fire, it picked up steam as we panicked and tossed water on it instead of baking soda and the lid.
But it happened on Thursday: A man called up, and uttered the thought that the Cavaliers should trade LeBron James.
I don’t blame him. Radio is a conversation and thoughts come out, even though they’re not well thought out at time. We’re not journalists ourselves, either. We’re radio guys, and there is a difference. So that doesn’t matter much. It’s a listeners opinion, and no matter how much we disagree with it, it’s fair game and respected.
Make zero mistake: The thought of trading LeBron James right now isn’t just asinine – for us as radio show hosts to entertain it – it’s sacrilege to sports in Cleveland, and further drives the nail in what’s real and fake in news and entertainment.
Separate the thought of him being traded and the thought that LeBron could actually leave in 2018. That’s a possibility that we could really discuss at some time, and something that will cast a shadow over another season, that even if the Cavs make no changes to the roster at all, will have them in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season.
And THAT, right THERE, is why the thought to trade LeBron James isn’t just dumb by us, it’s irresponsible.
While we as talk show hosts are not journalists, we’re supposed to know players at least a little bit better than fans, and we ought to know that the Cavaliers are only a few years away from an abyss rarely seen in sports.
The Post-LeBron Cavs will be a historically horrific team. No picks, a mortgaged future, and a pay day loan will do that to a team. We’ve made peace with that for the winning that comes now. On the outset, a trade to prepare and make those seasons sting less seems like a good idea. But if you want to see the future of the NBA, look toward our enemy in the Bay Area.
Young, elite stars willing to play for less. That’s where Golden State is headed. It’s also where marquee franchises are headed. When an MVP like Kevin Durant is willing to take less, where is the balance? There is none.
As you look into the future, find me a situation like the Cavs that could possibly work? You really can’t. This is fate. This is special. This is, quite literally, a ‘once in our lifetime’ experience.
LeBron James is the most powerful basketball player (and possibly athlete) in the world. He’s a homebody that wanted to be accepted again by his neighbors without awkwardness. Nowhere else in history has this story line played out.
And some goofballs in print and over the air want to trade that?
For a top three draft pick that isn’t as good as LeBron, who has no connection to the region like LeBron? Great. Now we can twiddle our fingers and wait for the conversation to happen about that player leaving.
As the league is made up now, Cleveland is reaching the end of its dominant NBA run. Either after next year, or in about five, it’ll be over, and the book will forever be closed. Along with the Cavs shot at making a serious run.
Look around the league now from our ivory tower in the Eastern Conference.
All around the league, there are teams that have amazing players, but none of which are now seriously expected to keep their players.
Even in the Western Conference, we’re counting down the minutes until Russell Westbrook’s frustrations boil over, and he opts out and leaves Oklahoma City.
It’s a league of have’s and have not’s. Cleveland, for right now is a have. And some folks out there consider messing with that?!
In nearly anything else, it’s smart to plan for the future. But with the current make up of the NBA, and players becoming more empowered, and even more that are willing to take less, there is no future for the Cavs.
This is it.
Once it’s over, Cleveland joins Detroit, Indiana, Memphis, Portland, etc. Cities that might build a nice team of competitive players, but so what? They’ll never be taken seriously as a title contender again.
Unless the NBA abolishes a salary cap, or enforces an NFL style strict cap (good luck trying to get either side to agree to any of that), NBA markets like Cleveland will be marginalized.
The Cavaliers, at least for one more year, have the player of the generation and another shot at a title. They may never again have either.
Read that last sentence twice.
To trade away your best player so you have something to build with in the future may be prudent, and would be great if the Cavs were a middling six-seed, but they’re not. This may be their last shot, or last few shots at greatness in our lifetime.
For anyone to think of a trade, that’s one thing. No one wants to be left with anything, but for us to take it and run with it in print and on-air is silly. We’re supposed to know better, and some of us don’t.
From a national perspective, it’s fine. They’re not living it and breathing it here every day. They should still know better when they claim to see the league for what it is, but still, it is an outsider’s perspective.
Locally, however, we’re supposed to try to tell the truth the way we see it. We’re supposed to learn from the experience shared in 2010, and over a 52- year drought. But click(z) and calls are like crack. Just a taste and you’re hooked. Lazy? Maybe. Irresponsible? If you’re reading this column you’d agree that it is.
Everything has it’s ending, and it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Why would I even entertain such thoughts of a LeBron trade?
This week has been dramatic. These three years have gone from gut wrenching to euphoric. We’ll never have this type of exciting pressure with real championship consequence again. Why would I want to shorten that?
If you haven’t already, it’s time to live in the moment as a Cavs fan. Because if LeBron James stays in Cleveland it’ll make it that much better, and if he leaves you’ve won a title that will never go away.
Why aim for the middle when greatness is possible?
Of course, I know you get that. I’m disappointed that we don’t.