Dribbles: With or without LeBron, new Cavs on the way

Cavaliers star LeBron James has reached the Finals eight straight times, winning three.

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the state of the Cleveland Cavaliers following their 4-0 series loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.

1. Where will LeBron James play next season? I don’t know, you don’t know and I’m not so sure he does, either.

2. This free agency just feels different than The LeBron Decisions of 2010 and 2014. It doesn’t have that grand appeal and feel. Maybe it’s because James and the Cavs have been to four straight Finals. Maybe it’s because LeBron and the Cavs won it all in 2016. Or maybe it’s because pro basketball in Cleveland will go on, with or without LeBron. We learned that when he left the first time.

3. That’s not to downplay the impact James has on the franchise and local economy. My first day covering the NBA on a full-time basis was the day James announced he was leaving for the Miami Heat. How’s that for a first day on the job?

4. Anyway, I quickly became the losingest beat writer in pro hoops — as the Cavs went on to compile four terrible years while the Heat advanced to play for championship after championship, winning two in that span. But LeBron’s absence impacted more than just the team. It could also be felt in downtown restaurants and bars. Cleveland was often like a ghost town after Cavs games without LeBron. But with LeBron in uniform, the Cavs and Cleveland are a happening.

5. That is what makes the past four years so special. It’s true the Cavs only won one of the four titles for which they competed. But man … four straight years in the Finals … LeBron being as good as (or maybe better than) ever at the age of 33 … the Cavs giving their fans tons of fun … the list goes on and on. Only the Golden State Warriors have reason to be more proud.

6. In other words, if you’re the Cavs and their fans, I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t get too caught up in the occasional frustrations and losses.

7. As for where LeBron goes next, I have no clue. I can’t get a feel for it. I think there are plenty of reasons for him to stay in Cleveland — the supermax contract, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend, the moves that can still be made.

8. Yes, the Cavs really can make some moves. They have the No. 8 draft pick and Kevin Love. I’m not saying the Cavs need to trade either. But the possibility does exist that they could move one, or both. I have little doubt each will be included in offseason trade talks.

9. My only hope, for LeBron’s sake, is he lets the Cavs know before the draft if he plans to return. It will make the Cavs’ efforts to build around him considerably easier. And if he’s coming back, it would be in his best interest.

10. That said, I doubt it happens. I don’t think LeBron will let anyone know until he’s good and ready.

11. So if I’m Gilbert and Cavs general manager Koby Altman, I just go about building the best and most sustainable roster as possible. As my friend and Medina Gazette reporter Rick Noland said, with or without LeBron this team is likely to look a lot different next season.

12. I’m not going to get into the different places LeBron could go and which spots other than the Cavs might make sense. Not today, anyway. Though I will drop this clue — I think Cleveland remains the best place for James.

13. He came back because Northeast Ohio is “home.” That, combined with his family, is what I think stands a good chance to keep him here. The Cavs just need to improve the roster as much as possible. That can be done, and yes, even if it means getting LeBron’s input.

14. Also, I have a hunch LeBron and his Klutch Sports team would like to own at least a piece of the Cavs someday. That transition would probably be easier if he plays out his career here.

15. If LeBron doesn’t return, I would just cut J.R. Smith. You would still have to pay him and his salary would still count toward the cap. Smith is an OK guy, but his inconsistency and lack of focus aren’t traits you’d want around a rebuilding situation.

16. I don’t know about Tyronn Lue as coach, either. My first reaction is to part ways. But Lue is still under contract. If LeBron leaves, is it really worth bringing in another new coach? I’m leaning toward yes, as Lue’s rotations and in-game management were questionable at best this season. But perhaps Gilbert would just roll with things and see how Lue does without the drama a superstar brings. I honestly don’t know.

17. Other than that, Altman and his staff will be working the phones and taking calls — with Love and that pick being other teams’ highest priorities. Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is undoubtedly available. San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard might be, too. Those and any other conversations are likely to take place closer to the June 21 draft.

18. Finally, we at Amico Hoops will be tracking and posting it all, or at least the stuff with some relevance. It doesn’t mean we are in total support of what’s being written. But if an expert in the industry writes or says he or she hears LeBron may join the Dallas Mavericks … we will post it.

19. Just don’t shoot the messenger. We understand this will be an annoying time for some fans. But our job is to round up information and pass it along for our readers to digest. As always, we appreciate you coming along for the ride.

13 Comments on "Dribbles: With or without LeBron, new Cavs on the way"

  1. Zach Evanish | June 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm |

    JR has to go whether we keep LBJ or not. The guy can still shoot threes but every time he dribbles more than twice you can just see the turnover coming. Also think we need to remove any memories of game 1…as LBJ said we need to up the basketball IQ around the team if we are going to compete with GSW.

  2. southeuclid3 | June 9, 2018 at 3:28 pm |

    LBJ is NOT eligible for a super max. You are using the term incorrectly. A super max (or in this case a Designated Veteran Contract) can only be given if the player has 8 or 9 years of service AND was with same team continuously (unless traded during first four years in the league). LBJ left for Mia after 7 years…….which makes him ineligible.

    • Sam Amico Sam Amico | June 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm |

      OK well take it up with the front office because they told me he is.

      • I thought so too southeuclid but I am not sure. I believe the supermax refers to the ability to have 35% of the cap space. Any player with 10 years experience is eligible. Lebron is eligible for that and CAVS have his full Bird rights now. The rule that you reference above is commonly known as the supermax. It allows players with certain criteria to jumpstart the 35% deal a year or so early.

        • Which is exactly what I posted, Joy……LBJ is already eligible for what the CBA calls the “Designated Veteran Player 35% Max Criteria” …the supermax is different, so your instincts are correct. I should have been more clear in my explanation, but I was trying to save time and space (and after seeing the diatribe by my friend Chip from downstate, I see that was in error.
          The ‘supermax’ refers to players with less than 10 years and applies to either extensions or new contracts at a greater percentage rate of total team salary than would normally be allowed under the CBA. It is another effort to keep stars with their original team.
          Many teams are still getting the terms confused….so Sam’s response does not surprise me. For those interested….the details can be found in the 2017 NBA-NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (Effective as of 7/1/2017) Article II, Section 7. Specifics to 10+ yr players are in Sec. 7, a (ii)
          It really is nothing special for LBJ as he already meets the criteria for a max salary.
          Keep up the good work, Sam. Hope the kids are good (or at least not bothering the cat as much).

  3. Beany Boy | June 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm |

    Happy wife happy life.

  4. Good stuff as always Sam. I can’t agree with you more. However, if James were to leave, I’m wondering that possible Love could be that guy again where he’s a 25/15 guy w/0 being told to go stand in the corner or play pick and pop as the main offense. I don’t know at this point. I’m just wondering if Love wouldn’t be a better player playing in a system rather than “Just give me the **** ball” offense.

    Like you wrote, the team will look a lot different come next season and with that in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing how and what the Cavs do moving forward.

    Players I want to see develop in a system are Cedi, Hood, Zizic, Clarkson, Nance and yes to see what Hill can do running that offense. It would better if James stays, but I’m doubting it as each day ticks by and by looking at how James acted while playing out the Finals.

    I thought his reaction to JR and Lue, besides the rest of his teammates, was paramount on what happened in the OT. First he’s yelling at JR while JR is running out the clock. Not blaming him one bit b/c I was yelling at JR from Knox Co. at the same time. However, there stood a coach, Lue, not using a TO. And why didn’t he go up to the ref, like good coaches do, before Hill took his shots by telling the ref, “Look. If Hill misses a shot and we get the rebound, I’m calling an immediate TO. Where do I need to be standing to make that so?” But the killer to the team was how James first was yelling when he came back to the bench then he pouted. IMHO, a Champion leader tells his team, “Look. We somehow messed up as a team, but there were plenty of situations during this game if it went our way that wouldn’t have been an issue. Let’s take this game in OT and beat these guys.” Instead, he kept that incredulous look on his face as to say, “we blew it and we’ll never beat these guys”. That screwed the team moving forward.

    Game two was a blowout. The Warriors played with the Cavs the entire time. And James’ numbers proved it out. Attitude.

    Game three we had that game and again, James shrunk in the closing minutes. Not b/c he wasn’t going to the rack, but rather his distrust of those around him. It became an atmosphere and that atmosphere can kill another budding star’s perspective and confidence in his career moving forward.

    Game four, Korver still can’t shoot. Why? There were plenty of shots throughout the series he had open looks. He even missed at the FT line. And IMHO it appeared James coasted. There was a dark cloud of pending doom that waifed through the crowd coming from the Cavs bench. And Lue had that look “we’re done”.

    When a team has that one guy system, a GOAT type person, that plays ISO and pick and roll (or pop) for an offense and has some crazy switching defense, if that one guy’s vision of a series/game is such there is doom and the feeling of “where am I going to play next year” floating through the locker room and into the stands, it’s not healthy.

    I’ll be forever grateful for all the things you covered in this article, but if he goes, I will not be sad nor will I be angry with James. What happened, happened and nothing anyone can do that will change that. But if James goes to another team in the hunt for a title, he’ll become this era’s Wilt Chamberlin. Great player. Have to be in the discussion for best all time. But just another super star bouncing from team to team to chase Jordan. That’s not a good look. Although being mentioned in the same sentence or paragraph as Wilt the Stilt aint too shabby. I’m saying, as you wrote, Cleveland has the best place for him and his family for all the reasons you posted.

    This may sound like I’m angry, to which I’m not as good a writer as you to protray my sentiments that I’m not. I don’t know if any human could have played that monster game 1 with the horrendous calls which favored the Warriors so heavily to blow it via JR’s mental lapse and a coach who didn’t call a TO with 4.7 seconds left on the clock. I’m not strong enough to have done what was necessary to lift the team either.

    Thanks to LeBron for a fabulous season. Thanks to Koby Altman for what I believe to have been some good moves at the deadline to put the Cavs back on track and into the finals. Here’s to the 2018-19 season. Go Cavaliers!

    • Sorry, “Mr. pihc”, but non-coach “Lue-ser” ALWAYS has that deer in the headlights-we’re done look!–otherwise, very nice commentary-chucked full of many very good points that were well said for many of us–for I was yelling in a different county too.
      Many, I believe would’ve loved to see CEDI, HOOD, ZIZIC, NANCE operate quite a bit more to see what youthful energy could’ve brought these playoffs, BUT LUE-SER refused to give any kind of chance for that since, the OLD JR/TT & the disappearing Korver act HAD to be on the court. Too much ISO-ball ALL YEAR, JR TOSSING UP BRICKS-AGAIN ALL YEAR, TT trying to dribble or crouching down with an offensive rebound before trying to go back up-giving opponent blocking time, (even the TV announcer mentioned it)–again ALL YEAR, (Zizic goes right back in quickly)
      LUE-well,,,,, ALL YEAR, except the 10 games he was NOT there–Larry Drew WAS 9 and 1.
      It IS TIME FOR A NEW DIRECTION TEAM ESPECIALLY IN THE COACHING AREA. HOPE THE CAVS CAN SURVIVE IT.

  5. Well, congrats to Sam, CJ and Ashish for a great year of Cavs coverage! It was a lot of fun. Yes, the losses were frustrating. It was hard to watch Larry Drew do such a great job and then have Lue come back and bury the team.

    Sam, you are very respectful to Lue, and I appreciate that. It serves as a balance to the vitriol the Cavs’ fans have towards him.

    I would try to get rid of Love, TT, JR and Korver. Considering the size of their contracts, that seems impossible. Love is the only one of them with some value. But all of these players have proven repeatedly that they are useless against the Warriors. That’s all that matters, in the end. They are good against everyone else, but… well, you get the idea.

    If the Cavs can dump those guys, bring in Kemba or Kawhi, then sure, LBJ should stay.

  6. Sean Waple | June 9, 2018 at 10:57 pm |

    Sam,

    LeBron is worth almost half a billion. He has a lifetime Nike deal and will have hundreds of opportunities after his career is over to become a billionaire athlete like he’s always said he’s aspired to be.

    With that said, I have the best scenario for LeBron. I know this would never happen but I don’t understand why LeBron wouldn’t think about it…LeBron should opt out and resign for cheaper to get the Cavs under the cap. Then Buyout JR. That gives them plenty of room for another star. Id still trade that #8 pick for Kemba because he would THRIVE next to LeBron. Also, next summer you can buyout George Hill. As well for even more CAP savings. JR buyout this year is 3.8m. George Hill next summer is 1m.

    • Let me help you with a few points….If LBj were to be paid $1….the Cavs would still be over the cap. He must, however, be paid the minimum salary.
      If JR were to be bought out (and I assume you mean the team option of his last year)….well that can’t happen until after next year (June 2019) as it is guaranteed at nearly $15 mil. A player cannot buyout another player in an attempt to circumvent the cap. His salary could be stretched by the team if he agrees to a buyout for next year….but over $4 mil would still count towards the cap each year (unless he agreed to less)….so the savings would be salary would have to be stretched, so it and LBJ at the minimum would only get the Cavs less than $2 mil off the cap….so a star for $2 mil is not likely.
      Trading the #8 and salary to match Kemba is great, but the Cavs would still be over the cap.
      The following year the Cavs would be under the cap (with LBJ), but with Kemba’s new contract they would be less than $10 mil under the cap…..but that helps little now.
      Hope this helps…..

      • Sean Waple | June 10, 2018 at 3:48 pm |

        Jr has a 3.8m buyout and George Hill has a 1m buyout next year. Saves the Cavs 29 million. Thanks.

        The team buys them out not the player. Never said that. Not sure where you got it from. Made it up apparently. Learned to read.

    • Sean Waple | June 10, 2018 at 12:26 am |

      I forgot to say that he’d opt out and sign in for 1 year deal. Then resign for a 4 year Max once they buyout Hill next summer.

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