The Cavs Are Staring at Their Worst-Case Scenario
The team was expected to make moves this offseason, then didn’t. Now LeBron and Kyrie are hinting at their frustration.
Paolo Uggetti – The Ringer
Wearing a limited-edition black nylon OAMC jacket built for the fall and the winter, Kyrie Irving walked into Sports Illustrated’s Fashionable 50 event on a summer night in Los Angeles thinking about anything but basketball. “Socks, lots of socks,” he said when asked about the go-to item in his closet. He pulled up his ripped black jeans to reveal a psychedelic color scheme on the pair he was wearing. “It’s about the attitude that goes into socks.”
A few minutes later, attitude came up again. This time, it was Kyrie’s attitude as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, given their quiet offseason after losing in the Finals. “I understand we’re in a very peculiar place,” he told Sports Illustrated. “We just have to, you know, make sure that all our pieces are aligned first, and then we go from there.” Kyrie didn’t evade the question, and he easily could have in a place where basketball wasn’t a main topic of conversation. He didn’t call out the franchise, but he reiterated that there’s an expectation for the Cavs to make moves, a feeling LeBron James reportedly shares. “Obviously there are some things that I’m pretty sure our organization wants to do, and we’ll go from there.”
Whatever LeBron and Kyrie say or don’t say, the Cavs’ offseason has been undoubtedly turbulent and could present both imminent and long-term problems to the franchise’s place in the league.
In June, a week before the NBA draft, the Cavs parted ways with general manager David Griffin. Griffin was LeBron’s guy — the one who swung deals seemingly at his behest (Kevin Love) and consulted with LeBron before making in-season trades (J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert). Now, he is gone at the worst possible time.
Reports surfaced after the fact that Griffin was awfully close to getting Paul George in a trade, and just this week ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said it got so close to completion that George was about to speak on the phone with owner Dan Gilbert. Instead, the Cavs never cinched the deal, and instead plunged into the draft and free agency without Griffin. George ended up in OKC in a deal that even the asset-strapped Cavs could have beaten. Carmelo Anthony, who was also linked to Cleveland, looks to be Houston-bound if he doesn’t stay in New York.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s dysfunction, there’s likely discontent. Earlier this week, USA Today reported that LeBron, not surprisingly, was “frustrated” and “concerned” about the Cavaliers’ offseason after “expecting” that they would make moves to close the gap with the Warriors. I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think Jose Calderon and Jeff Green are going to be enough to do that. The tea leaves are starting to distinguish themselves far in advance of next year’s offseason, however you want to read them.
The tumultuous offseason has been authored by Gilbert, whom LeBron has seemingly been at odds with since he left Cleveland in 2010, most recently over payroll spending. Outside the organization, there’s plenty more fodder if you look closely enough: The early reports of a possible move to L.A. The Lakers signing Klutch Sports client Kentavious Caldwell-Pope while saving up cap space for next summer. Paul George reportedly being hell-bent on becoming a Laker and constructing another superteam with LeBron on the West Coast. The Banana Boat team looming in Houston. Kyrie himself said he understood how the league works now, that “players want to play with other players. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” And if LeBron leaves Cleveland destitute, Kyrie might be better suited to demand a trade, while the Cavs might be forced to rebuild once again. The possibilities are endless, and with the Cavs wrapping up a worst-case-scenario offseason, they are all now plausible.
On Tuesday night, just before he was asked about the Cavs, Kyrie ran into Andre Iguodala, who was also at the fashion event. They were both asked if meeting in the Finals once again, a fourth time in a row, would make their rivalry one of the best in NBA history. This time, Irving deflected.
“It’s not summertime? I thought it was summertime,” Kyrie wondered aloud. Perhaps unintentionally, he summarized why, though the offseason matters, the results of the next 82 games and playoffs will have the biggest impact on what transpires with LeBron and his hometown team.
“The competition starts again in September,” he said. “And we’ll see what happens.”