NBA fandom has gone into a literal frenzy, after The Decision 2.0 turned out to be a homecoming anthem. THE KING IS HOME! MIAMI IS OLD AND DYING! CLEVELAND WINS A RING NEXT SEASON! And other things like that. Is it really all it’s made out to be though? Will the Cavaliers gain redemption for Cleveland and win an NBA championship, now that LeBron James is back?
The best answer that can be given at this point of time, is that LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot of promise in the years ahead.
Roster modifications, coaching, and chemistry all come into play after that. It’s easy enough to say, having a major gamechanger like James flips the switch right away in the weaker Eastern Conference, and grants Cleveland an immediate ticket to the playoffs. After all, that’s what you get when you add a genetically gifted basketball player who can guard four positions with ease, muscle his way in the low post for easy buckets, hit shots from outside, and thread unselfish passes with the precision of a laser beam to open teammates – just so you know, you’d think twice, thrice, or even five times about sending a trap his way. Life is in a word, unfair.
The current Cavaliers are however, not ready to make an impact, and LeBron himself admitted it with admirable honesty and tact:
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates. – LeBron: I’m coming back to Cleveland, Sports Illustrated
Consider their roster. Cleveland has:
- a talented guard lineup that hasn’t attained true synergy in prior seasons (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters) and allegedly had locker room issues,
- an energetic but injury prone center who’s soon reaching the twilight of his career (Anderson Varejao),
- a young rebounding big in Tristan Thompson who got his **share of the pie mostly on being the roll man, cutting and offensive rebounding,
- a sophomore power forward who’s been more often than not, a question mark (Anthony Bennett), and
- a rookie wing with ridiculous athleticism and tons of talent waiting to be moulded (obviously Andrew Wiggins.)
- Of course, we can’t forget the energetic Matthew Dellavedova (DELLY!) in the role of bench guard. Lots of potential right there, you have to admit.
Everything else is still up in the air. So no, they’re not really a championship team right now, and I’m sure every NBA fan worth his salt would agree.
With a few more seasons under new coach David Blatt and LeBron James’ veteran leadership (and doubtless, a few more savvy vet signings), the Cavaliers could indeed become a perennial Eastern Conference Finals entrant.
*Note: above statement is made with the assumption that the Cavaliers continue on a streak of positive roster management and do not stuff things up. You know, trivial matters of no consequence like contract negotiations, player acquisitions, and coaching staff management. Dan Gilbert is fifteen different flavours of lucky, and like CBS Sports writer Matt Moore succinctly puts it, it’s become a “victory of incompetence“.
Whether they can get to the Finals and outplay the Finals entrant from the stacked West (Spurs? Portland? Rockets? How about Dallas?) in a best of seven, remains to be seen. It all comes down to a perfect storm of chemistry, health, and coaching, and the crystal ball is too fogged for scrying right now.
All we know for certain, is that
#23 #32 is determined to get his hands dirty and embark on an inglorious journey of moulding a young, untested roster into a championship team.
Perhaps, it’s simply what Bill Simmons imagines LeBron’s thoughts to be like:
I am a genius. That genius has a shelf life. I already feel my body wearing down a little. Over the last 11 years, including the playoffs, I played 1,000 of a possible 1,044 games, averaged nearly 40 minutes per game and logged 39,993 minutes in all. Only Wilt and Russell reached 40,000 minutes faster than I will. I want to be part of something that’s greater than me. I am tired of carrying teams for nine months a year. I thought Wade and Bosh would help me, and they did for a while, but now Wade is breaking down and Bosh is past his prime.
The more I thought about it, I loved the idea of playing with a younger, more athletic and more malleable supporting cast. I loved the idea of being able to play four positions again. I loved the thought of being occasionally carried by young legs instead of always doing the carrying. I want to play point forward. I want to play with my back to the basket. I want to run the wing on fast breaks again — something I couldn’t do in Miami anymore. I want to use all of my skills. I am Magic and Larry and Barkley and Malone in the same body. I am an artist. That’s what I am. – God Loves Cleveland, Grantland
Who truly knows the mind of a tortured basketball genius, especially one who longs for nothing more than to play winning basketball, the way it’s meant to be? We can only hope that his decision ends up getting Cleveland an NBA championship banner, proudly aloft in their rafters sometime soon.
**Offensive statistics for Tristan Thompson from Synergy Sports for 2013/14 NBA season. Observe highlighted areas: