LeBron James takes another shot at bringing an NBA championship to Cleveland this season.
You have to say that there is some irony to Joe Johnson, ex-Net, passing on a chance to play with LeBron James in Cleveland and signing instead with LeBron’s old team in Miami. But what is not surprising here is how much LeBron wanted Johnson to come play with his new team, which was LeBron’s old team before he left for South Beach.
What isn’t surprising here is that LeBron continues to act as if there is some law somebody passed that he’s supposed to be surrounded by as many All-Stars, or former All-Stars, as possible every single season, or that somehow the earth will stop spinning on its axis. Or he and all his fans will die of heartbreak.
And what is rather amazing here is that James, who is one of the great teammates in NBA history, someone who came to the league from high school with impeccable basketball values, has somehow turned into this kind of diva, like that’s one of his jobs in Cleveland along with being star player and front-office executive, whether he wants to wear that last one or not.
I asked one veteran NBA coach the other day how it is that someone who is this kind of teammate, and has these kind of values, somehow has turned into this kind of diva.
“It’s a learned behavior,” the guy said, “fostered by out-of-control adoration from a very young age.”
If you have been following the drama around James and his basketball team – the Cavs somehow viewed as underachievers even if they haven’t lost 20 games yet this season – you know that there is even the suggestion that he might not play the rest of his career in Cleveland, despite the fact that he was treated like a messiah when he ditched the Heat for the Cavs a couple of years ago.
There have been these weird tweets from him, and leaks from his camp, all making people think that James is less than thrilled with his current circumstances; that things haven’t played out for James in this homecoming the way he thought they would, even despite an amazing performance in last year’s NBA Finals, when he didn’t have Kevin Love against the Warriors and lost Kyrie Irving and still had enough game and will to push the whole thing to six games.
You know that before James played a minute for the Cavs in this homecoming, they had traded Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Love, and if you don’t think that was his idea you also don’t think Lake Erie is deep. Now this season David Blatt is gone and James’ guy, Tyronn Lue, is the new coach. Only the coaching change hasn’t made things perfect in Cleveland, either. And it has become increasingly clear that things are supposed to be perfect for LeBron, always, every single year.
This isn’t about how much he wants to win. We know he wants to win. All great players want to win. This isn’t about his talent. Maybe there have been a few other players who could have been All-Stars at all five positions on the court, the way LeBron James could be an All-Star at all five positions. But I still believe that there has never been a player who can impact a game in as many different ways as James can when he is at his best.
No. This is about how the Cavaliers currently spend more money on basketball players than anybody else in the NBA, and how even that isn’t enough for him. Maybe someday he will think that he would have been better off staying in Miami working for Pat Riley, who has proved he knows a lot more about building a winning operation, and sustaining one, than anybody in Cleveland does, including LeBron. Here is what he said to Cleveland.com after Johnson went to work for Riley:
“All I care about is winning. That’s all that matters to me. A piece like Joe, you know what it does to your team and if he was concerned about playing time or concerned about starting, then I’ll sacrifice. I’ll sacrifice to get a guy like that to help us try to win a championship… Man listen, I’ll do anything to win. I’ll kidnap my momma to win.”
He had every right to want Johnson. He had every right to think Love would give him a better chance to win a fast title in Cleveland than a kid like Wiggins would have. But how much is enough for him? He went to Miami to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and for a while they were as hot a ticket and as hot a show as the Warriors are. They went to the Finals every year and won two. Then he went home to Cleveland, and the sports world went crazy, and he was carried along by the roar of the crowd. Maybe one of the reasons he left Miami wasn’t simply how much he wanted to go home. Maybe James was thinking that the Heat were through contending for the title every year. The Cavs had a young star like Irving. They had the ability to trade away a No. 1 like Wiggins to get a noted numbers hanger like Love. So away they went, all the way to the NBA Finals, where they were hurt, and where Steph and the Warriors were better.
Now James is about the same age that Kobe Bryant was when he won the last NBA title he will ever win with the Lakers. Could he win his third title this season, despite all the stops and starts for his team? He could, especially if somebody in the Western Conference beats the Warriors. Is he still the best basketball player in this world? He is, even if Steph is more fun to watch these days.
But it was his old boss, Coach Riley, who famously said there’s winning and there’s misery. The two of them were made for each other. And maybe should have been together forever.
How do you like Zen now?
This is what Phil Jackson said in his state-of-the-Knicks address in Los Angeles on Friday, or lying-in-state address:
“We went to a two-guard format (with the Bulls and Lakers), and I think we were successful at it. I think we caught a lot of people in the league by surprise because of the way we played. So it works, and we know it works.”
Well, yeah, when one of the two guards in Chicago is Michael and one of the two in LA is Kobe Bryant.
But what was noteworthy on this day was this: Jackson’s support for Kurt Rambis, his interim coach, and the second of His Guys to coach the Knicks since James Dolan gave Jackson all that autonomy at the Garden.
If there is a fracture in this relationship between the owner and the team president, it will be about who coaches the team next season.
There are people in the league who think that the reason Dolan has been so silent about Jackson’s sketchy job performance so far – starting with his decision to pay Derek Fisher $ 25 million to coach the team – is because part of Dolan’s deal with Jackson is that he not criticize him publically.
But if the Knicks don’t make some kind of miracle run over their last 15 games at the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, then what compelling case can Jackson possibly make for Rambis to return?
Dolan wrote a big check when he wanted to get rid of Larry Brown after the first year of Brown’s contract, with $ 40 million still left on that contract, at least before David Stern chopped off some of that money in arbitration. And Dolan just wrote a big check to Derek Fisher, someone only Phil Jackson thought was a future star of the coaching business.
Why wouldn’t he do the same with Jackson if Jackson insists on keeping one of His Guys instead of actually going out and hiring the best guy to coach the Knicks, even if that guy doesn’t think that the triangle offense is some kind of sacrament?
After the Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis made a run at the Clippers on Friday night, Rambis said something about how the Knicks are figuring out who they are as a team.
Most of us have figured that out already.
James L. Dolan has to have done the same thing, just because he knows a lot about bad basketball teams by now.
Irony often abounds with Dolan’s Knicks, but perhaps the greatest current irony is this:
Knicks fans didn’t just cheer when Dolan hired Jackson, they cheered even louder when he talked about how much autonomy he’d given the Zen Master.
How’s that working out for everybody so far?
Watch those Warriors, UConn magic & Bronco farewells…
— Just for the sheer fun of it, wouldn’t it be great if the Warriors came into the last week of the regular season with a chance to get to 73?
It would be like an NFL team trying to get through its regular season at 16-0.
The Jets should want Ryan Fitzpatrick even more than they did when they brought him here from Houston.
But Fitzpatrick should want the Jets just as much, because this is the best job he’s had in pro football.
And Lord knows he’s had a lot of them.
— It has become sort of official that magical things happen to the UConn men’s basketball team when it gets to any kind of conference tournament.
The Huskies made a lot of big shots in the Big East Tournament in the old days.
They played a lot of amazing games at Madison Square Garden in March.
But they never played one more amazing than the one they played at the AAC tournament in Orlando on Friday afternoon, Jalen Adams making that shot from his own backcourt with 0.8 seconds left to tie the game at the end of the third overtime and then the Huskies finally winning in the fourth.
— I am not a binge-watcher of shows, but I will make an exception this weekend with the second season of “Bosch” on Amazon Prime.
Titus Welliver is so good as Harry Bosch it’s stupid.
Who would have thought that Brock Osweiler’s farewell would make the Broncos WAY more emotional than Peyton’s.
I wouldn’t go to sleep on Donald Arthur Mattingly’s Marlins.
Maria Sharapova announced she had tested positive for meldonium this week, which I thought was one of those countries they’re always worried about invading in “Madam Secretary.”
Memo to Johnny Manziel: Fire off an Insta if you get work.
I don’t want to say that Jerry Reese is having his own fun spending money this way, but I think he just tried to sign Bryce Harper.