The Cleveland Cavaliers have the assets needed to make a big splash at the NBA trade deadline next month, but questions about LeBron James’ future with the franchise could prevent them from pulling the trigger.
If the Cavs wanted to pursue adding a star player, they would likely need to part ways with the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which they acquired as part of the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade. However, dealing the valuable unprotected pick might only make sense if LeBron plans to return next season and beyond. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Cavs currently prefer to hold onto the pick in case they need to start rebuilding without James.
A recent report indicated that the Cavs tried to secure a commitment from James this past offseason so they could plan accordingly, but he was unwilling to provide it. LeBron and the team are seemingly in a bit of a stalemate, as Cleveland wants to put a team together that will make him happy but doesn’t want to risk its entire future this year and then have him walk again.
The Cavs have lost four straight games and eight of their last 10, and there have been signs that players are starting to lose confidence. A major splash at the trade deadline could change things, but the team’s brass needs to juggle pleasing LeBron and building for the future — especially if he is not planning to be a part of it.
The Eastern Conference’s favorite rivalry is back.
LeBron James and Lance Stephenson were involved in a bit of a mix-up in the Cleveland Cavaliers-Indiana Pacers game on Friday night. The fun started in the fourth quarter when Stephenson got into James’ space during a dead ball, causing the four-time MVP to complain to the referees. As play was about to resume, James gave Stephenson a slight forearm shove to the chest and was promptly whistled for a technical foul.
Lance Stephenson lives in LeBron James' head pic.twitter.com/c2tImQWE1v
— Dakota Crawford (@DakotaCrawford_) January 13, 2018
The tech proved costly as the Pacers would eke out the 97-95 win to give the Cavs their third straight loss. As fate had it, James stepped out of bounds and turned the ball over in the closing seconds, and Stephenson was loving it.
LeBron steps out-of-bounds with 2 seconds left, down 1 … WAIT FOR LANCE pic.twitter.com/5FDzD98EcT
— Lance Stevewobson (@World_Wide_Wob) January 13, 2018
Of course, the two have a well-established history with one another, and it’s interesting that Lance can still get under LeBron’s skin after all these years.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com reported after Cleveland’s blowout 133-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday that Cavs players have been unhappy that LeBron James is supposedly slowing down the team’s ball movement.
Players have grumbled that James has slowed the ball movement, holding onto the ball until he sees an “assist” pass, rather than moving it quickly.
Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue also made a comment after Thursday’s loss that the team had to lose whatever personal agendas they may have.
Ty Lue just dropped a “if guys have agendas, we have to get rid of them and play the right way.”
When asked if anyone has “an agenda,” he said “I don’t know.”
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) January 12, 2018
Ball movement is usually somewhat of a strong suit for James-led teams, even dating back to his days with the Miami Heat. But the Cavs have a significant number of ball-dominant players this year, particularly with Isaiah Thomas back in action. For James, who will always be the fulcrum of the Cleveland offense, it sounds like he could do a better job of keeping everybody involved (even if he apparently has his own gripes to air out with his teammates).
H/T NBA Reddit
- LeBron James
Kyrie Irving took note of LeBron James getting animated in a team huddle while the Cleveland Cavaliers were getting blown out by the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night.
An Instagram account called “Ballgod” shared video of James addressing his team in a huddle late in the second quarter while the Cavs were losing to the Raptors. Irving was among those to “like” the video on the social media service:
— Shez / 2O (@Shez_Tastic) January 12, 2018
First, we don’t know what James was saying in the huddle, only that we know he was animated and seemed to be motivating his team. Second, we don’t know if Irving “liked” the video because he finds it humorous that the Cavs are struggling, or because he liked what he felt was some leadership shown by James.
Nothing can be assumed, but many figure Irving was laughing at the Cavs’ situation. It wouldn’t be the first time people have speculated that one of the two was taking a shot at the other over social media.
LeBron James got animated during a team huddle as his Cleveland Cavaliers were getting crushed by the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night.
The Cavs were down 59-36 with 3:30 to go before halftime against Toronto when TNT returned from a commercial break. When they returned, they showed video of James speaking passionately to his team and coach:
Coach James? pic.twitter.com/BJW8e2etW8
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 12, 2018
It’s unclear what James’ message was, but it’s quite likely it was about the team’s poor effort. Take a look at this incredibly easy basket the Cavs allowed prior to James’ speech:
I see the Cavs defense taking the night off pic.twitter.com/CvFcxwrp7X
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 12, 2018
The Cavaliers were pathetic on both ends of the court. It’s no surprise that James had something to say especially after they gave up that easy basket.
- LeBron James
Isaiah Thomas may have found himself a home in Cleveland regardless of who is still on the team next season.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported on Tuesday that the two-time All-Star may have mutual interest in re-signing with the Cavaliers this summer no matter what superstar teammate LeBron James, who is also set for free agency, does.
Thomas is in a contract year, and he wants to be paid. League executives and agents judging the market believe Thomas’ best chance at a significant contract this summer is with the Cavs, and they believe he will proceed accordingly.
That could be the case regardless of what happens with LeBron James’ free agency. In the event James decides to move on from Cleveland again, some believe the Cavs may still be interested in retaining Thomas as long as he proves he can return to his All-Star form.
Thomas, 28, is averaging 15.0 points and 3.3 assists a game through his first three appearances for the Cavs, having just returned from a lengthy hip injury absence. As for returning to an All-Star-level of production, Thomas certainly believes that he can and then some. Thus, health-permitting, he could be a quality piece to keep the Cavs afloat in a potential future without The King.
The chances of LeBron James ever winning as many championships as Michael Jordan appear quite low these days, but LaVar Ball thinks he knows a way that LeBron’s legacy can top M.J.’s without the six rings.
While speaking with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman over the weekend, Ball once again said he is certain James is going to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. And if LeBron does that and wins a championship in L.A., Ball believes that would make his legacy better than Jordan’s.
“LeBron’s coming to L.A. I know he’s coming to L.A.,” Ball said. “LeBron is not a fool. What’s the only way he can beat Jordan? You can’t get more championships. Only one way, to say every team I’ve gone to I’ve won a championship. Go to Lakers and win a championship, then you’re better than Jordan.”
Ball didn’t specify why he believes winning a championship with the Lakers would be so important for LeBron’s legacy, but he said adding James to a team that includes his sons Lonzo and LiAngelo would be an automatic recipe for a title.
“You can’t give my son the best player in the league, and don’t expect them not to win,” he said. “Get rid of everybody. Give him LeBron and Gelo [LiAngelo Ball]. You got a 2 and a 3. And it’s a win. It’s a wrap. Then all you need are two rebounders — [Julius] Randle and [Larry] Nance Jr.”
While it’s hard to figure out if Ball even believes some of the things he says, there has been plenty of talk of James potentially signing with the Lakers. An exchange he had on the court with Lonzo Ball earlier in the year perpetuated those rumors. However, the Lakers have lost nine games in a row and are now 11-27. They’re becoming a less attractive free agency destination by the day.