Nov 4, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) posts up against Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) during the second quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Quick! Who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers? Easy question, right? It’s Dan Gilbert, right? Maybe, but are you sure it’s not LeBron James?
If you’ve watched LeBron James in his return to the Cavs so far this young NBA season, then you’ve been “treated” to a fascinating, though sometimes bewildering phenomenon. James, the face of the Cavs and of the NBA itself, has not been dominating games like we might expect him to do, and his stat line looks downright pedestrian (for him) through three games: 23-for-57 from the floor, and per-game averages of 5 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks and 21.3 points.
LeBron was scoreless in the second half of Tuesday night’s game on the road against the Portland Trailblazers, and he was basically a non-factor as the Cavs absorbed a 19-point loss. According to a report from Joe Vardon at Cleveland.com, though, it’s all part of the plan.
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LeBron is teaching his team a lesson by doing, well, nothing obvious.
As Vardon puts it, the message that LeBron is trying to send to his young teammates, including Kyrie Irving and DionWaiters, is that selfish basketball is not winning basketball, and that it will no longer be tolerated in Cleveland. In the process of teaching his lesson, LeBron took on a point guard role in the second half of yesterday’s team and dished the ball all over the place rather than shooting. He provided an example, but also a prime example of how removing your best player from the mix can doom any team.
It’s admirable that James wants to set his team up for long-term success, but the reality is that his term is not as long as we might imagine. Believe it or not, LeBron turns 30 in December, and like Kobe Bryant, he has been playing at the highest level for a long, long time. Is he really willing to risk bypassing one of his final peak season in order to drive home his point about how basketball should be played?
Even if LeBron has the patience of Job now, how will he feel in another month if Cleveland is sitting a 5-15 and sliding off the NBA map? How will Gilbert feel? How strong will the love affair between the city and LeBron be then?
It’s very, very early in the season, but it’s not to0 early wonder what in the world is going on in LeBron’s world right now.
For everyone involved, LeBron’s lesson could be a very expensive one to learn.