By the time you read this article, it may be possible that LeBron James has requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers, or that the Cavaliers have traded Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving for some other stars. But if there is anything to think about Cleveland’s moves for the past few days, it is the sheer chaos coming from the defending Eastern Conference champions.
To recap, the Cavaliers according to ESPN writer Marc Stein spent much of Monday angling around for various deals including an attempt to get Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler. But all of a sudden last night, Cavaliers GM David Griffin was fired by owner Dan Gilbert.
No one knew this firing was coming, not even LeBron James who is reportedly disappointed by the announcement. The fact is that the Cavaliers fired a general manager who had brought the Cavaliers to the Finals for three straight years. And while some people would counter “Yeah, because LeBron,” Griffin had brought in pieces to surround for LeBron. He traded for Kevin Love. He got key role players like Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson who helped in the NBA playoffs and made enough money to buy nice Strasserwood furniture for his home.
So what the heck are the Cavaliers thinking by firing Griffin?
The departure of Griffin is so stunning that some analysts are wondering whether this signifies the unthinkable: that LeBron James may depart the Cleveland Cavaliers next season. New York Post writer Jonathan Lehman speculated that LeBron may leave for Los Angeles, pointing out that James apparently still carries some resentment towards Gilbert over the infamous Comic Sans letter he wrote in the aftermath of LeBron’s 2010 departure to Miami.
Such a move would be seemingly devastating for the Cavaliers, who were one of the worst teams with LeBron gone even with Kyrie Irving. But the fact that Cleveland was trounced so thoroughly in the 2017 Finals against the Golden State Warriors may cause Gilbert to think otherwise.
The Cavaliers were the most expensive team in the league last season with a payroll of over $128 million and the accompanying luxury tax payments. And despite the speculation of Cleveland acquiring Butler or Indiana Pacers star Paul George, they would likely have to give up one of their own stars in Love or Irving to get another star, leaving them with a talent deficit compared to Golden State. Is Gilbert really willing to pay that much money for a team that is not a contender compared to the Warriors?
The fact that even the Cavaliers may consider waving the white flag in the face of this Golden State juggernaut indicates just how badly the Warriors have broken the NBA. But Gilbert may decide that rather than running a Cavaliers team that will be older, expensive, and not able to win a title, it may be time to slash costs. And if that means LeBron departs, well Cleveland already has one championship.
Of course, this is speculation and it is possible that LeBron decides to play out the rest of his career in Cleveland. But the sudden departure of Griffin is a clear sign that after these 2017 Finals, all may not be well in The Land.
Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.
Curry specifically is discussing his shock as the trash talk from then Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, which threw Curry off.
Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.
Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).
“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.
“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’
“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”
The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.
Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.
Cavs’ Tristan Thompson Allegedly Punched Warriors’ Draymond Green at Night Club
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Golden State Warriors’ forward Draymond Green apparently took their on-court beef off the court as the two allegedly had an altercation at a Los Angeles night club.
According to online gossip site Bossip, Green had approached Thompson to apologize for what happened after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but Thompson wasn’t interested.
When Green persisted, Thompson punched Green.
Green and Thompson got into it numerous times throughout the Finals, with Green even insulting Thompson as Thompson attempted to shake his hand following the infamous Game 4.
Here is more from The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre:
Draymond Green was not the aggressor, he was trying to make peace. Tristan felt embarrassed by the end of the Finals diss moment and just unloaded. Couple players i spoke here in LA/on social media went with, “about time”
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 31, 2018
Kevin Love Signs Extension With the Cavs
Kevin Love surprised the Twitter GMs and signed a 4 year, $120 million extension to stay in Cleveland. The full value of the deal will wash out to 5 years and about $145 million, around $10 million below his max for an extension. This clearly signals that Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers want to remain competitive in the wake of LeBron James’ exodus.
The initial reaction across the NBA landscape was that Cleveland would look to tear the roster down to the studs and start over. The Cavs owe their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta if it falls outside of the top 10, so trading Kevin Love would’ve not only helped clear their books, but also almost guaranteed that they keep their pick. Bringing him back into the fold makes that much more precarious. The roster now contains a mixed bag of inconsistent youth and holdovers from the most recent LeBron era that won’t take kindly to a middling team not in the championship conversation. The Cavs seem to be split between two paths.
But that’s not forever. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, “Cleveland is still projecting to have close to $70M in cap space during the summer of 2020 to reshape the roster.” The Cavs can get off of George Hill, JR Smith and Kyle Korver for less than $10 million after this season. That leaves only Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson as expiring contracts in the following season to free the Cavs of all their (current) bad money. Cleveland is never going to be a free agent destination without LeBron, but keeping Kevin Love makes them a much more attractive option for free agents, and they’ll have plenty of money to play with.
If that doesn’t pan out, Cleveland can still trade Love in the future. This extension makes him a cost-controlled asset, giving other teams more certainty. Yes, it’s more years and more money but Kevin Love is still an All-Star. Making him the focal point of the offense should allow him to put up big numbers and recoup some of the market value he’s lost while playing a diminished role alongside LeBron. In the coming years, all the ghastly cap-spike deals will be coming off teams’ books, opening lots of cap space around the league. There are only so many stars available and some teams will inevitably strike out. Combine that with some pressure from ownership to win now and Kevin Love can be a very desirable option.
Even with the extension the Cavs are far from a playoff lock. Their second best player may very well be a rookie. So perhaps an injury or a few strategically placed DNPs could allow them to keep their pick. Either way, Love wanted to stay in Cleveland. That’s a nice change for a city that doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. The goalposts for success have changed, but after years of watching this team trudge through the doldrums of the regular season, this young, talented team could be a lot of fun for fans to watch night in and night out.
Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24
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