I really liked the Cavs slogan last year as we moved into the playoffs. “All In” signified that the Cavs management, the players, the coaching staff and the fans were all focused on and driven towards a common goal. The beaten and bloodied Cavs fought as hard as any team could fight down to the bitter and painful end. The truth is that they had just come within 2 games of an NBA title. The reality is that they “lost” to the Golden State Warriors, a team with the most charmed path to an NBA finals victory I have ever witnessed. With virtually no injuries and the remarkable good fortune of missing any confrontation with San Antonio, they won.
Cleveland and Golden State each added a few marginal pieces but their basic rotations have not changed substantially since last year. I really doubt that you could make a strong case that the additions have moved the needle strongly in either direction for these teams. They are, in essence, unchanged. But the perception has certainly changed because of the teams current fortunes. Golden State is running roughshod over the NBA. No one is close. Cleveland has just fired their coach because the team and management didn’t believe in him. They weren’t having enough “joy” after wins. The Warriors have also been together longer and the perception is that they must be hitting their stride. Well …… maybe they are or maybe they are just ridiculously hot. Either way, what the Warriors do or don’t do or what the Warriors believe and don’t believe or what the perception of the Warriors is or isn’t doesn’t matter. So, by my way of looking at this, the Warriors don’t matter. And neither do the Spurs.
What matters is LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. When I refer to the Cavaliers I am referring to the players, management, coaches and even the fans. Because, after all, we are “All In”. When I place LeBron James in front of the Cleveland Cavaliers I am referring to the true order of things. Because, with all the talk of Kyrie being the “head of the snake” or someone else, it has been and will always be LeBron. Like it or not, he is the true “head of the snake”. Everyone knows that, if you can cut him off, you will ALWAYS beat the Cavaliers.
Last year I told everyone who would listen that they just needed to stay cool and the team would come around. No need to panic at 20-21 (or whenever it was that everyone started to panic). I would love to tell you the same thing this year, but I can’t. The Cavs have just made a dramatic move to change the coach who led them to within a whisker of an NBA title. They are now beginning to falter under the rejuvenated Tyrone Lue philosophy of “up tempo” offense and “having fun” after wins. David Griffin, regardless of whether the move was the correct one or not, has taken a huge gamble. He has just told the team, “if you don’t like the coach and if you are not happy, I will just change the coach and all will be well.” Now I am not here to ramble on about whether that move was the right one or wrong one. Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know one thing ……………. If the team falters and begins to doubt this coach, the Cavaliers are lost and the season is lost and David Griffin’s monster bet is a losing one.
Maybe that is why Griffin is reported to be desperately trying to add a piece to this puzzle. His magic worked last year. Maybe he can do it again. Only problem is that the Cavalier assets in a trade are nearly nonexistent and the team is approaching or has reached an NBA record for player salaries. The flexibility has been all “cashed in” for this team. So ……….. We can all wait for another miracle from Griffin ………….. Or ………….. We can all do the one thing that will win an NBA title …………….. BELIEVE !!
And by believing, I am mainly referring to one person, LeBron James. Because you see that is the person that we all need to hope sees the light. It is LeBron James that didn’t believe after two 60+ win NBA seasons that he could win a championship with that Cleveland team. And he was almost certainly correct. It is LeBron James that needed an existing champion, Dwayne Wade, to keep him believing that the Miami Heat could win championships. And they did. But now it is LeBron James that needs to be the proven champion that convinces the rest of his team and his All Star partners they can win a championship. But to do that he needs to be convinced, and he isn’t. That is what concerns me. Not the recent lackluster play or the coaching change or least of all, the Golden State Warriors.
This is not an essay knocking LeBron James. I am convinced that he truly cares about winning a championship in Cleveland. I fervently believe that he would do anything in his power to make that happen. For his own legacy and for the people of Northeast Ohio. He REALLY cares. And I mean REALLY cares. His actions and words are completely aligned with that caring. I do not see the slightest shred of evidence to the contrary. But sadly that could be the problem ……… he cares so much that he cannot believe. Sound familiar?? You see LeBron James is simply the reflection of us. He came from us and is us.
I hear so many fans who can’t believe now. It is like a battered and beaten team which came within two games of a championship didn’t even exist.
All of this can be changed by one man. It is a ton of pressure on one person but that is what a leader must do. I have been a leader enough in my life to know that if I don’t believe in my team, no one else will.
So it is time for LeBron to let go of his doubt and his fear. Strive for greatness as he says but BELIEVE he can get there with THIS team. And let them know that he believes. And show by his actions that he believes. No more need for “Hero” ball. If they lose as a team, than they lose. At least they did it as a team. If LeBron can do that and simply believe in this team, they will elevate themselves even above their talent toward an NBA title. The pieces are there. The belief is not. From any of us.