Only a few days ago I was greeted with the absolutely unthinkable. As per Bleacher Report and Chris Haynes, if Lebron’s “hand is forced he won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting.”
While Bron was quick to dismiss this report, calling any talk of him spurning Cleveland once again “Outlandish”, it did come in the wake of a pair of ugly losses: one to a consistently underrated Atlanta team that has given the Cavs a lot of trouble this season and the other an inexcusable home-court-dumping-on by the now surging Detroit Pistons. The situation grows even more complicated in the wake of Anderson Varejao’s season ending injury, nagging back and ankle issues with Love and Irving respectively, and the fact that the Cavs have essentially been playing .500 basketball over the past several weeks.
Of course, none of this can be real. The Cavs are still trying to adjust their play style to their shiny new toys and James was one of the first to mention how difficult winning a championship actually is; he did not guarantee one this first season in his letter, instead writing about “growing together” with some of Cleveland’s younger players. Its also jarringly obvious that the PR typhoon that would come from leaving #TheLand a second time (AFTER stripping them of first round draft picks to mastermind a new Big 3) might be even too large for the world’s most popular athlete to survive.
I read this instead as another “wake up call” from James to his teammates. Cleveland is virtually guaranteed a playoff spot right now, something that none of these players outside of Wild Thing and the Miami imports have ever experienced before. James has brought the winning and spotlight that every good basketball player should crave; this is just telling them not to take it for granted, it could disappear at any time. It’s not a stretch of the imagination when you remember James trying to motivate his teammates earlier in the season by REFUSING TO SHOOT IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. The dude may have some odd ways of trying to get across to people, but after all those Miami seasons you really can’t doubt his leadership. And Kyrie did decide to play the night of that announcement after being marked questionable and missing a few games prior with some injury concerns. So, this is all just nothing. Simply another consequence of having the unbelievable media scrutiny and attention that follow James wherever he goes.
We’re here to pretend differently.
Joining me is Alex Abramowitz, a long-time basketball enthusiast, Cavaliers fan, and proud co-owner of Oberlin, Ohio’s most-listened to bball sports talk show, “The Alley-Oop.” (I would tell you all to tune in every Friday morning, but you’d pretty much have to be lying on top of him to be in the broadcast range)
The Experiment: Take Lebron at his word and imagine that he did choose to “bolt” at the end of this season. Where would be the best landing spots for the King? While doing this we obviously considered Bron’s top priority in winning another ring IMMEDIATELY. However, to make it a little more fun, we also wanted to think about the spots that would be absolutely bizarre for James to end up in, and those that would merit a bucket-full of laughs. Let’s get into it!
AA: First of all, while I don’t think its likely that Lebron leaves Cleveland anytime soon, its certainly possible. I see this happening if the Cavs get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Something like a 25% chance.
QS: I think you make an excellent point here. The Cavs are essentially going to sleepwalk into the playoffs, meaning that first series will be their first real challenge this year. How they play there will undoubtedly show Lebron a lot about the character of this team, although I don’t necessarily think he would leave if they lost in the first round. Toronto lost an absolute heartbreaker to Brooklyn last year, but you could see all the fire and heart they played with in that series. They use that loss for motivation every day and now they’re the best team in the East.
AA: And if the season ended today, the Cavs are locked into the 5th seed and a first round matchup with Washington. Above John Wall and Co. is Atlanta, Chicago, and Toronto, making up the top tier of the Conference. Honestly at this point in the season, any series between those teams could go either way. To avoid playing any of the East’s more formidable opponents, the Cavs would have to take at least the third seed.
QS: I’m not so sure they can. We’re coming up on the halfway mark of the season and these guys just haven’t gelled. Losing Varejao exacerbates their most glaring issues on defense and now the team is without Lebron for a couple weeks in which they play an absolutely brutal schedule. I would also argue that their likelihood of getting knocked out in the first round is much closer to 50%. True, Lebron is going to be able to put the team on his back, but big teams like Washington and Chicago are just going to MURDER Love and Thompson. I would say you can’t even count out Brooklyn in upsetting the Cavs if they did make it up to those upper seeds.
In any case we got sidetracked a little bit. I think all the NFL going on right now is really making me eager for the April and May in the NBA. Branson went on to detail his top landing spots.
Winning Right Now
AA: Do I even need to say it? If you want to win right now, you stay in the East. The Playoffs are guaranteed, there’s a much easier path to the Finals, and from there its just winning that one series. Maybe I’m overstating this a little bit, but there’s no way you look at the best conference in history and say “Oh yeah, I’m better than those guys.” So, in 2015 the Washington Wizards will swing big and miss on Kevin Durant before recovering and SIGNING LEBRON JAMES!!
I mean, just imagine Lebron and Paul Pierce crying and hugging each other as the confetti streams from the ceiling instead of exchanging dagger glares and calling each other soft. Imagine Lebron finally being able to play off-ball as he teams up with a PG who can actually pass. Imagine not having to shore up an entire team’s defensive liabilities as he joins a unit that’s already doing really well without him. Imagine how big they’d be up front with James-Nene-Gortat (Lebron and Gortat would also LOVE each other by the way). Paul Pierce coming off the bench in a Vince Carter role. You wanted to mentor Kyrie and Dion Waiters?? Now you get John Wall and Bradley Beal. He could even hang with Obama in his free time.
That’s rings right therrr.
My only backup would be hopping on the 2/3 and heading over to Brooklyn to party with Jay-Z and Prince William.
QS: I love it. And somehow I never even considered Washington. I think its important to consider that OKC is still only the 10th seed in the West and only 6-4 in their last 10 games. If they do miss the playoffs there’s a good chance Durant hops over to D.C. and steals Bron’s spot.
Instead, I picked the Toronto Raptors. Think about it, what better way to escape the unbelievable volume of negative media by ditching the country entirely and joining We the North. In Toronto, James would be joining an already very good Raptors team that has one of the league’s best offenses, a brilliant GM, and a young team loaded with talent. The Raps are already one of the best teams in the Conference with a killer homecourt advantage for the playoffs. Not only that, but they’ve attained all of their success this season without their All-Star Demar DeRozan. Having him return PLUS Lebron James. Immediate Finals Lock.
Not only that, but LEBRON WOULD GET TO HANG WITH DRAKE!!! Aubrey’s already had a tough enough time as it is trying to reconcile his love for Bron with his newfound Raptor dickriding. WHAT IF HE DIDN’T HAVE TO CHOOSE?? WHAT IF THEY WENT OUT CLUBBING TOGETHER AFTER HOME WINS?? WHAT IF HE COULD ACTUALLY GET INTO THE FINALS LOCKER ROOM??
Having both of our too-big-to-hate-on-but-you-kinda-hate-them-anyway giants holding down the same team? That’s just too good to be true.
Bizarro Landing Spots
AA: I bet Quinn “Captain Obvious” Schiller chose Lebron going back to Miami for this one. Especially in the recent wake of everyone suspecting him engineering his comeback during the Christmas Day homecoming. I’ve got a couple, all of which will be a little more wild and interesting than anything QCOS could come up with.
Going back to my earlier statement, this time Durant does indeed end up in Washington so Lebron responds by joining the Oklahoma City Thunder. I like to think of him just sticking it to KD by finally bringing that ring to OKC or by posing for huge instagram selfies with all of Durant’s old friends. Oh you took MVP from me? Well maybe I’ll just take away YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. It’s also pretty funny to think about Lebron going out at night in Oklahoma City. Though I guess Cleveland can’t be all that much better..
The other? Lebron sucks it up, turns on his most sheepish grin, and goes hat in hand to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. The conditions of this of course is that he is given an outrageous rookie-hazing treatment, getting Timmy’s button ups from the dry cleaners, doing the grocery shopping for Kawhi Leonard, and picking up girls for Tony Parker.
QS: For some reason, I just see Serge Ibaka and Russ hating Lebron. Mean mugging and telling Sam Presti, “Fuck it, we don’t want him.” However, I’m going to do you one better. I also think it’s hilarious that people think he and Wade discussed that IN THOSE 25 seconds! The two of them had dinner the night before. They would have just talked about it then. Shaking my head. Anyway..
In light of the recent news that the team will be up for sale, Lebron James BUYS the Atlanta Hawks, hires himself as the General Manager, and goes on to become the first person in history to be starring on the team he owns and also manages. And, he’s the coach too. Almost forgot about that.
I can’t think of anything better for a really good Hawks team that doesn’t deserve the racist management and unbelievable fan apathy it has right now. Plus the Hawks would get REALLY good all of a sudden. Arguably the best frontcourt in the league with James-Millsap-Horford, plus excellent play-calling from Coach Bud that does its best to resemble an East Coast San Antonio. Imagine watching them meet the Spurs in the Finals. Basketball so beautiful all our brains might explode. It might even be enough to get ATLiens excited about the Hawks again. Meh, probably not.
For the Lolz
AA: The bigger the better. Lebron takes that big money, big market and hits La La Land, teaming up with Kobe on the Los Angeles Lakers. In doing so he embraces the wonderful contradiction of choosing the sunshine and celebrities over any actual winning while joining up with one of the most competitive psychos in the history of this sport.
In L.A. Bron would give the Kobe farewell the appropriate attention it deserves (not just all of us saying, wow the Lakers are bad), as well as setting himself up for a post-basketball life where he is eventually elected governor of California on a platform of staunch libertarianism. Hell, he’ll even be close enough to Hollywood to finish up shooting Space Jam 2 (it’s happening!!!) on his days off.
QS: I’m on the floor laughing right now, imagining Lebron completely giving up on winning, he and Nick Young just making fun of Kobe behind his back. Laughing at Bryant’s attempts to call out his team for their lack of effort, the two of them shouting “shut up old man” to him.
I don’t think mine’s much funnier than that, but I’d love to see Larry Bird pull off arguably a Godfather move in getting Lance Stephenson back from the Hornets for a first round pick (He’d told Stephenson to play shitty there, knowing this was pretty much a lost season without PG, and he’d get them both back over the Summer) and then bringing Lebron into Hoosier country as the latest member of the Indiana Pacers.
I’m just picturing Lebron showing up on the first day of training camp, introducing himself to a locker room full of people who HATE him. “Hi, I’m Lebron.” A whole season of everyone refusing to room with him on the road, or eat lunch together. No one passing him the ball in the game. Making horrible jokes about his receding hairline as he breaks down crying, middle school style. Larry Bird even getting in on the fun, calling him Lebron Lames and telling Frank Vogel to bench him for Chris Copeland.
Hmmm, don’t really know how my brain got there.
This will be sent along to Lebron’s people. While I’m sure the King has though through all of these scenarios, its always helpful to have a third-party opinion. And, if we see James playing in the Nation’s Capital next season, or making Canada the coolest country since the Conch Republic, well then “We told you so.”
Be worried Cleveland. Be very worried.