While the Cleveland Cavaliers may be confident that they can keep LeBron James around, there is reportedly a “slight possibility” that he leaves if the team comes up short again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers never fail to create drama and speculation. When LeBron James made his franchise-altering return in 2014, the Cavaliers immediately regained prominence in the Eastern Conference. And with the developing talent of Kyrie Irving and the arrival of Kevin Love, they had a big three with championship-winning potential lined up for years. Then the Golden State Warriors emerged, and the Cavaliers have done nothing but pale in comparison this season.
With wavering effort, too much reliance on LeBron, the firing of former head coach David Blatt, Love’s questionable fit and poor defense, not to mention the worrying chemistry, the Cavaliers don’t look too convincing as a threat to defeat the Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Which, as unlikely as it may have seemed in the past, could create some motivation for LeBron to leave.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote about some of the Cavaliers’ problems in great depth, highlighting the issues with Love’s fit and the overall atmosphere and chemistry in Cleveland, while adding that there is a “slight possibility” that LeBron could leave:
"The organization is confident James won’t leave again, but officials acknowledge it would be at least a slight possibility if Cleveland flames out. If he stays, James will have the clout to order another reconstruction. People who know James see a 31-year-old facing his basketball mortality — watching a rival in Oakland seize the league and shorten James’ championship window."
As Lowe said, the Cavaliers organization is confident that they can keep LeBron around. Even if they return to the Finals with a healthy big three this year and fall to the Warriors, they still have enough talent to easily be the top dogs in the Eastern Conference for some time. The Toronto Raptors are a threat already and the up and coming Boston Celtics are only a star away from reaching another level, but the Cavs should rule if they can just figure out their consistency and chemistry.
However, would LeBron really be content with another Finals exit in Cleveland as the Warriors shatter records and gather up the rings with more joy in a beaming Draymond Green smile than the Cavaliers have in their entire locker room?
Of course, there are so many factors as to why he’ll stay, from his hometown connection to his desire to finally be the one to win a championship for Cleveland. Yet,with only two titles in his legacy so far and no foreseeable chance to clearly take his team past the level of the Warriors, a move doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it may have two years ago.
He’s already aired the idea of taking a pay cut to play with his brotherhood of Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, so we know he’s at least entertained the thought of creating a new team elsewhere somewhere down the line. Whether or not that could be before he hits 35 and approaches his final years, though, is another head-scratching question altogether.
In the meantime, Lowe’s mention of a “slight possibility” is the furthest extent that we should let our speculation reach. Until further notice and until further worrying disappointment from the Cavaliers, it’s hard to see LeBron James running for a new contender right now.
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