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When the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of their roster overhaul on Feb. 8, many national pundits had a field day.
Their narrative was that by taking on Clarkson and Nance Jr., the Cavaliers helped the Lakers to create enough salary-cap room to sign Cleveland superstar LeBron James this summer.
So much for the plans of mice and men… and Lakers.
Clarkson and Nance Jr., along with fellow deadline-day acquisitions George Hill and Rodney Hood, have infused what had become a moribund Cleveland team with effort, enthusiasm, shooting and, believe it or not, defense.
Marc J. Spears of ESPN reports in a story that the Lakers’ plan of jettisoning Clarkson and Nance Jr. to Cleveland backfired on them.
Cleveland (34-22) has won two straight games since the retooling its roster and will be riding a four-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive told Spears. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him.
“The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”
While Cleveland stands third in the Eastern Conference, trailing first-place Toronto (41-16) by 6.5 games and second-place Boston (40-19) by 4.5 games.
While the Lakers are dreaming about this summer, James is focusing on what he always does — winning a championship, a point he reiterated after winning Most Valuable Player honors at the All-Star Game for a third time.
“We just added four news guys before the [trade deadline], and we have a lot of work to do,” James said postgame Sunday night. “So, I really don’t want to look too far ahead. But, obviously, winning championships is what it is about. That is what the league is all about and hopefully at the end of the road, then I have the Cavs there actually to compete for one, to be in The Finals representing the East.
“So, that’s my goal. Getting back. I’m looking forward to getting back with the guys. I know they’re excited, and that is going to be our mindset. But we’ll see what happens.”