If the clock had been rolled back about six years, the Cleveland Cavaliers would’ve had the Eastern Conference All-Star team to themselves. The reality, however, is that Derrick Rose is washed up, Dwyane Wade is old, and Isaiah Thomas needs a team all to himself. The Cavs came to this realization and it hit hard, and now we have a completely new team walking the shores of Lake Erie.
These last few weeks have been stuffed with speculation that Cleveland is broken, LeBron wants out, and they eventually wouldn’t make the playoffs or survive the first round if they got in. These trade deadline moves, all 1,000 of them it seems, show that Cleveland knows exactly who they were and what they want to be. More than jettisoning dead weight, they cut ties with delusion. Their roster looked like it was made by someone who stopped watching the NBA after 2011 and loves Spud Webb. Now, they’re young, they’re united, and they’re motivated. All four players they brought in came from losing or relatively hopeless situations. Rodney Hood was stuck in the Rocky Mountains in a bench role for a team that may not make the playoffs. George Hill was trying to get all the kids to sit down in Sacramento. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. haven’t seen the playoffs in their career, though they did have to bid adieu to Los Angeles and welcome Cleveland.
NBA writers everywhere got exactly what they wanted in this rebuild. For weeks they’d speculated about LeBron’s future and whether he’d even finish out the season in “The Land”. LeBron responded by saying he’d never waive his no-trade clause. NBA writers saw something that, perhaps, they’d been looking for for years: LeBron failing. As long as the King is in the house, his mood, his diet, his enthusiasm, his leadership is all that matters. If you’re a General Manager, Coach, towel boy, you work for LeBron James. The Cavs saw that he was potentially slipping away, and they stepped up and got the guys who would keep him around at least through the season. The old roster didn’t have that same devotion to King James. Newly christened Jazzman Jae Crowder claimed that LeBron was chasing stats, and some players have expressed concerns that James is turning into a ballhog of the Russell Westbrook type. If he was, so be it. He’s the best player in the NBA and he makes the team around him better.
What the Cavs have done is not just a rejuvenation of a team of square pegs and round holds, but they’ve brought in pieces that will buy into the system. The system is simple: do what LeBron says. It’s not the triangle offense, it’s not Gregg Popovich. Hell, Metta World Peace isn’t even on the floor. Do your job, listen to the King, and you’ll win.
LeBron isn’t leaving, not yet at least. The Lakers have cleared cap space hoping to make room for two superstar signings, one of whom has been widely and exhaustively speculated to be James. But that’s all next year. Right now, LeBron is having fun. His new team blew out Boston and he was clearly having a blast. They cut ties with the egos and has-beens and gave the King a team he can work with, and that’s enough to prove the naysayers wrong.