McCormack: Agendas? There’s one, first and foremost

LeBron James' unwillingness to commit to staying with the Cavs longterm hurts the team's ability to make moves.

On the recent road trip in which the Cleveland Cavaliers went 1-4, coach Tyronn Lue mentioned how the players needed to set aside their “agendas” for the betterment of the team.

Of course, that comment only served to throw gas on the fire that had been blazing away just shy of inferno status all around this basketball team, which suffered its two worst losses on that crash-and-burn trip — 127-99 at Minnesota and 133-99 at Toronto two nights later.

While Lue did not name names, speculation ran rampant in regards to whom he was referring.

Lue was probably, OK, definitely wise to not name names because if he had, he would’ve had to start with one name.

One huge name.

The biggest name in the NBA, in fact.

LeBron James.

No one’s personal agenda is larger than that of James.

Despite being the game’s most-willing passer of superstar status perhaps in history, if not since Magic Johnson, anyway, he is also the NBA’s most selfish superstar in relation to his team when it comes to his contract.

Three times, now, James has held franchises perhaps not hostage, but put their ability to build and put together the best possible team by not being willing to make a commitment before becoming a free agent.

That’s his right.

However, for fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, this is like a recurring nightmare.

After the 2010 season, James staged his infamous “The Decision” television show with mouthpiece Jim Gray filling the role of ventriloquist dumm. Bolting from Cleveland to sign with Miami, shocking not only Northeast Ohio, but basketball fans across the world.

When James did it again after four years in Miami, opting to leave the Heat and return home as a Cavalier, he used the same exit plan on Miami as he had Cleveland. However, he learned his lesson, at least, and didn’t stage a dog-and-pony show on television to state his intentions, going through the excellent, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated to get the word out.

Now, with James all but definite to decline his player option for more than $34 million for the 2019 season this summer, there is a chance the Cavaliers could experience what they did in the summer of 2010 all over the game

Contemplate a future without the best player on the planet, with not nearly enough notice to do much after his departure.

Then again, James may opt to sign another deal with Cleveland (for what it’s worth, that’s what these eyes see happening, but I digress).

While James loves the inevitable drama, intrigue, rumor and wild speculation regarding his future, he steadfastly denies that’s the case, refusing to discuss the subject other than to give the same, generic answers.

Of course, he says all the right things whenever it’s broached by reporters across the league, feigning indifference, saying he’s 100 percent focused on this season and hasn’t thought about what he might do come summer.

Uh huh, sure. If you believe that, I’ve got some swampland in…

We’ve all seen this act before and, quite frankly, like the Cavaliers, it’s getting old. Actually, it’s almost past the “getting-old” stage and slowly but surely creeping toward the “it’s-time-to-(crap)-or-get-off-the-pot” status.

James has said he’s “chasing a ghost,” meaning the six NBA championship rings won by his idol, Michael Jordan. He’s halfway there, having won three, including ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought by leading the Cavaliers to the title in 2015-16.

What James fails to realize, though, or simply doesn’t care about, is by playing it this way — the way he’s done it for the last eight years — he’s not only hampering his current team, but in doing so, if he wants to remain a Cavalier, hurting himself, too.

The Cavaliers (26-17) are coming to a crossroads, and soon. Very soon. The trade deadline looms but three weeks away (Feb. 8) and the team has not only lost its way, dropping nine of its last dozen games, but has looked downright awful in doing so, at times.

With first-year general manager Koby Altman at the helm, there are huge decisions (ouch) to be made.

Obviously, Cleveland needs to make a move… or two… or three, if it expects to not only reach a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, but to compete with defending champion Golden State, its foe in the last three championship series, That’s should both teams survive and advance for a Round IV, of course.

What those moves are, however, are up for much debate. The Cavaliers’ biggest bargaining chip is the unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick of the Brooklyn Nets. If the draft were to be held today, that would be the sixth selection, and odds are, it will end up being even higher.

However, James hasn’t given Altman nor owner Dan Gilbert any indication what his plans are after this season.

All it would take is a hint, a wink, a secret handshake or perhaps a pool-side meeting (think Kevin Love’s choice to re-sign with the Cavaliers after the 2014-15 season) to offer a clue.

Hence, James’ personal agenda is, at least in his mind, more important than that of the franchise, his teammates and its fans.

If Altman is armed with the knowledge he expects to have James reup this summer, he could explore pretty much every avenue to make necessary upgrades to chase a second title in three years this season.

For example, as written here previously, he could use that Brooklyn pick to go after the likes of Paul George from Oklahoma City. And if George were to know James has committed to remain a Cavalier, odds increase greatly in the ability of the team to convince him to re-sign. George is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

However, it James continues to keep his plans to himself and his management team, Altman’s hands are very much tied.

Whispers are Gilbert, fearing a collapse akin to what happened when James jumped ship after 2010, will forbid Altman from including the much-coveted Brooklyn pick in any trade without some type of assurance from James that he’s going to continue to hang his hat in Cleveland.

Good luck with that.

The 2018 draft is regarded by most as having much star power at the top and very deep down the line. Not only do the Cavaliers have Brooklyn’s first-round pick, they also have their own.

Faced with starting over if James exits, two guys taken in the first-round and combined with Cedi Osman would be a good start.

And with Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Jeff Green, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose all headed to free agency after this summer, along with potentially dealing Love to a contender, the opportunities to get young, quickly, would be at hand.

As always, though, the ball is squarely in James’ court, just the way he likes it. This is what Gilbert and the franchise signed up for when James wanted to come home four years ago.

The seemingly almost-daily drama being played out by talking heads across the country, the rollercoaster of having emotions toyed with, the rumor, innuendo and speculation are all part of the package that comes with James.

The feeling here is, if not for the presence of Wade, James’ closest friend in the game, we would have seen, heard or read (LeBron loves to cryptically send messages via social media, after all) an eruption by him already.

James was most likely not one of the anonymous sources three media competitors combined to reference in their much-talked-about story saying inner discourse or disbelief is running rampant through the team.

He doesn’t need nor want to be anonymous. If he’s angry or frustrated, and wants it expressed, he’ll man up and put his name to it, for better or worse. Remember “fit in or fit out,” “we’re top-heavy,” and earlier this season, “mood?”

What he won’t do, however, is commit to his franchise, his teammates or his fan base, not during the season, anyway.

And though Lue would not come out and say it, that is by leaps and bounds the single biggest “agenda” which could be set aside to help the Cavaliers the most.

But, don’t hold your breath.

It’s not how James rolls.

It’s not on his agenda.

13 Comments on "McCormack: Agendas? There’s one, first and foremost"

  1. Thats how James has always been. The BK can’t be included in any trade especially for a rental.
    The Cavs need toget younger. Can you image James and a player like Mitchell (13th pick)

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 17, 2018 at 1:58 pm |

      Hey, Flat… Thanks for the thoughts. The more I think about it, other than the now-departed Kyrie Irving, what young player has James actually played with at a high level? Thanks for reading!

  2. Nail on the head! Love the honesty!

    And Gilbert is right to give Cavs fans hope too!

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 17, 2018 at 1:58 pm |

      Hi, P… Can’t really blame Gilbert after being left at the altar, so to speak, back in 2010, huh? Thanks for reading!

  3. Spot on! Thanks for posting it.

    If I was the Cavaliers I would take top officials into the room with him and lay out all of the possible trade scenarios with him if he would commit to the team long term.

    If he says no, keep my draft picks and inform the fan base of the meeting and only make moves that might help the team now and in the future.

    Lebron has to man up and take the heat for his decisions.

    He always wants it both ways.

    Michael Jordon he is not!

  4. Yeah, this is the unfortunate relationship LeBron has with his biggest fans. He created this whole circumstance. He is “LeGM” as they say, but it has backfired with the bad contracts he forced with TT and JR. No roster flexibility unless you include the BK pick, which could be the Cavs’ whole future, as horrible as that sounds, depending on like a 12th pick to find a magical savior. And we all know LBJ doesn’t play with amateurs, i.e., unproven rookies.

    I think the Cavs’ cannot make any moves this year to beat GSW, just like every other team in the league. The Dubs are a complete machine, with more combined talent than Jordan’s Bulls or anyone else. Yeah, please don’t remind me of the Bill Russell Celtics: the Dubs would destroy them today.

    So all you can do is wait and see if Curry blows out his ankle, or KD pops his knee. Because nothing can stop that team, not even the drama of LBJ’s path.

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm |

      Howdy again, Wolv… always great to heard/read your thoughts. The Cavaliers, as is the case with every other team in the NBA, are between and rock and a hard place in regards to Golden State. Durant throwing his hat into the ring with the Warriors changed the entire landscape of the league, really. You mention Jordan’s Bulls… when I think about it, what great team did Chicago defeat in The Finals in any of its six titles it won while being led by Jordan? By now count, zero. Chicago’s most difficult challenges during that era came out of its own conference — New York, Cleveland, Detroit — all pushed Jordan and his teams, knocking him on his duff continuously, especially the Bad Boys Pistons. Once Chicago got out of the East, it was all downhill from there… as always, Wolv, thanks for reading!

      • Agreed, Don, Jordan’s biggest challenge was probably the Bad Boy Pistons, who compensated for their lack of talent with violent physicality. They just tried to hospitalize opponents. Out West, it was Barkely in Phoenix and Stockton and Malone’s Jazz. So Jordan was fortunate to never have to face a juggernaut like the Dubs.

        The last team I saw this dominant was the Shaq and Kobe three-peat Lakers. Just unstoppable. Shaq was the only player I have ever seen put total fear into his opponents with his force and size. In their prime, those Lakers could sweep anybody just like the Dubs.

        Yep, Durant’s decision changed everything. I don’t know how anyone could put together a better roster in the next 3 years.

        It’s tough for LeBron… as a fan of his, I was hoping he could match Jordan with 6 rings. But as of now… I’ll be cheering him on with heavily tempered hopes.

    • LeBron vouched Not forced for Jr. Tt contracts yet he didn’t foresee them + Shump being content with 1ring instead of Earning their paycheck like he’s Consistently done so I’d imagine he’s more disappointed in Them than anyone bc He put His reputation on the line.
      Like Pat Riley says you’ll never really know what drives an athlete until after they Win a ring..
      Wtbs: Lue must be blind or Too loyal to continue to start Crowder + Jr and forcing Tt in with 2nd unit

  5. NBA players fought system + Rich owners to Earn rights of FREE agency so I don’t get Constant narrative of LeBron needs to decline making decisions best for James family at due time as rest of NBA just to make Cavs fans + Owner secure in their “Agendas” which obviously will be null w/o LeBron is like Us regular job workers joining union only to be pressured into Still making decisions that’ll be best for owner of company who wouldn’t even give options voluntarily! Fact is he’s currently Not a free agent and has same Options as Shumpert for next year yet 0mentions of where Iman is going I get why just pointing of double standards that many use against LeBron yet has audacity to dare him to use Himself.
    Dan doesn’t even deserve the common courtesy team had Kyrie signed for 2years who was perfect planB but let him dictate moves. Must also mention that said owner is a Trump financial supporter whose yet to Publicly denounce 0 of his many bull statements which clashes with LeBron + Communities he represents and Consistently stands/Speaks for.
    A lot in Ohio even suggests he sticks to Basketball. SMH as a LeBron not Cavs fan after writing this I’d rather him leave to be more Appreciated for +s his mere presence brings and type of Man he’s now instead insecurities of But remember that time he had audacity to exercise His rights and left me heartbroken…
    Bet the Sixers or Wizards like Heat will gladly accept the minor -s that Cavs fans/writers grip yearly about while
    just Appreciating that WE get to Witness LeBron’s Greatness on/off court. ✌?

    • Good points, Ivory, and well said about the players having rights according to collective bargaining and the union. And also right about Dan Gilbert as Trump supporter… why does Trump keep attacking African American athletes? Because he knows his followers eat up his racism. So black men peacefully protesting are horrible, but it’s ok for Nazis and Confederates to burn torches and chant “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Notice how the NFL kneeling is an ongoing problem for Trump and company? Wonder why.

  6. The Cavs continues to mortgage their future around one player. 3 teams have won a championship without LeBron in the last 7 years. So it can be done. LeBron’s model for winning a ‘chip is the least likely to work. How many WIN NOW teams, have won ‘chips, won back to back or even stay relevant for 4 years before having a fire sale. Boston, Spurs Toronto, Dubs all have multiple players on rookie scale contracts or players playing to stay in the league playing meaningful mins. These players are likely to make mistakes but they give energy and play defense every night.

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