Cavs Don't Have to Kneel Before 'King'
Just build the best team possible, which includes giving the best effort to keep The King.
But do not pander, grovel, beg or borrow.
It's simply not worth it.
If the Cavs believe in the coach who won 127 games the past two seasons, keep him.
If they believe in the GM who made moves that were widely praised and touted at the time they were made, keep him.
Empower them -- or whoever runs the team. Empower the organization. But do not empower a player any more than he has already been empowered. No organization can survive twisting itself into a double slipknot for any one individual.
Trying to keep James is like driving a car without hitting pedestrians. It's just what you do. So, of course, the Cavs should try to keep James. He is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and he's done many, many things right in his time in Cleveland.
Heck, James now has city leaders making him a song. The "We are LeBron" song is funny but, more importantly, it's also to the point. It pokes fun at the city -- LeBron will save downtown -- what will we do with that big sign if you are leaving? -- and it states a fact: No bigger market will love LeBron any more than Cleveland.
Cleveland's fanbase has pretty much adored James since he signed up years ago. It's done everything possible to support him. Heck, James shops with his family at a Target near his home south of Cleveland. He picks out Bounce and nobody bothers him.
Perhaps it's trivial. But if privacy and lifestyle mean anything, and they do, picking out Febreze on your own matters.
That is one of many factors for James to ponder when considering his future. Everyone seems willing to tell him what matters most, but it's really what matters to him. All anyone can do is throw out issues, ideas. Lifestyle matters. Winning matters. So does his reputation and image.
James has a good lifestyle in Cleveland, where he's won a lot of games and two MVPs. He's never won a title though, and that matters, too. He now must weigh the love he's received from his hometown -- especially from kids who follow his every move and who now wonder why he might leave -- with the potential elsewhere.
And he must consider whether the job is finished in Cleveland, and if he wants to leave with those last two games against Boston being his final statement.
Kevin Garnett talked about getting out while you can, but guys like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant have stayed. Bryant wanted to leave the Lakers a couple years ago, but he sure looks happy there now. Paul Pierce never left Boston, though things were pretty bleak at times. He seems happy.
For every example of a guy leaving and finding the pot of gold, there are more who stay and are even happier. (Heck, at this point, Shaquille O'Neal looks like a vagabond.)
James also must weigh how this last season in Cleveland ended, with fans booing what looked like a half-hearted effort in Game 5 at home and a Game 6 loss filled with questions. James might even have some 'splaining to do about Game 5, because it was so unlike him. He at least owes his team some kind of explanation.
The Cavs attribute this game to a terrible night. Certainly everyone is entitled to one and, if that was the case, then that was the case. But the body language and approach in that game were completely unlike James and everything he's stood for -- so it remains a mystery why it happened.
Which is why the Cavs can't turn their franchise inside out to keep him. What they can do is stand strong and proud and state that the things they do are to win, and they'd love to have James be part of winning.
Nobody knows if James is trying to hire a new coach or fire the old one. Questions can be asked about Mike Brown's strategy and decisions. But Boston's play the first two games against Orlando might indicate the loss was about the Celtics' play as well. It's easy to target coaches; they make moves, and if the players back up the moves then they look smart, but if they don't they are ridiculed.
To say Brown has not helped James is ignoring the facts. Brown has made James an All-Defense player. Two years ago, he took the Celtics to the brink of elimination with a team that had no business competing to seven games. Last year was disappointing, this year near inexplicable -- but it was just as inexplicable to watch James in Game 5. Because the same coach had James and the Cavs playing so well in Game 3. How it went south so fast needs to be answered.
It could be that the Cavs have gone as far as they can with Brown, that he has taken them to a certain level and can't take them further. That happens, and Brown understands the team has the right to make that decision. But if he is let go, he'll be hired pretty quick. And the Cavs then must find a replacement.
The key, though, is that these are Cavs decisions, not LeBron ones. These are about the team. The Cavs have bent over backward to do what it can for James to keep him happy in his seven seasons. It hired one of his friends to work as a player liaison. It has LeBron's "team" sitting courtside, front row. It treats him like the superstar he is -- to the point of enabling a guy who has won two MVPs but no titles.
But ... it's also kind of silly to think that stars don't get preferential treatment. Jimmy Johnson used to say that those who produce get more rope. An undrafted rookie who falls asleep in a meeting would be cut, he said. What if Dan Marino fell asleep, Johnson was asked. He leaned over, cupped his hand around his mouth and whispered, "Please wake up."
Preferential treatment, though, does not mean ceding control. There are limits and, at this point, the Cavs should embrace those limits. The past two years the Cavs tried to win a title while teams like the Knicks and Nets gutted themselves in hopes of gaining LeBron. That the Cavs failed to win does not diminish the effort.
So empower James, but do not enable him. Empower him by trying to win, but do not enable him by making him bigger than life itself.
Treat James like a man, pure and simple. If that's not good enough for him ... well ... then his reasons for leaving would be about him. And in the end, that would say more about him than it would the team.