The thought of LeBron playing alongside Kyrie Irving is enough to make even the most betrayed of Cavaliers fans forgive and forget, but what they should really forget about is the prospect of luring James back to Ohio.
This is not to say he won’t ever return, because it’s a possibility. But let’s not act like it’s a foregone conclusion.
You know the kinds of conclusions I’m talking about. The ones founded upon baseless rumors that were actually concocted as the result of a misconception. Like George Karl’s recent sentiments, for instance.
Per Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, Karl, the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, said he could see LeBron returning to Cleveland in 2014:
I think LeBron is at that stage where he’s challenging himself to motivate him to do something that’s maybe more difficult,” Karl said before Friday’s game against Cleveland at the Pepsi Center. “I could see him maybe doing that (returning to the Cavaliers).”
Not “I guarantee,” but “I could see him maybe doing that.” Those are two completely different notions.
In our quest to believe that LeBron isn’t done window shopping for a championship, we’ve (or rather plenty of us) have come to take James’ impending free agency as a fact, when really, it’s not.
First, James has to opt out of his contract after next season, which he’ll likely do. Not “definitely,” but “likely.” Then the Cavaliers have to prove to him they’re worthy of title contention. And then he has to put whatever beef he has with Dan Gilbert and company behind him, ink a contract and begin his time as Cleveland’s prodigal son.
Possible? Most definitely. A sure thing? Absolutely not. Which is why the Cavaliers need to go ahead as if they don’t have a shot.
I’m not saying that they’re still hanging their hopes and dreams on The Chosen One. If they were, then they were the only team that didn’t learn a damn thing in the summer of 2010. I’m saying that they need to embrace the Irving era, play hard to get if you will.
Their immediate future shouldn’t be about re-acquiring James. It should be about developing Irving, Tristan Thompson and even that efficiency headache we’ve come to know as Dion Waiters. It should be about putting themselves in a position to be major players in the 2014 free agency market (which they are). Not just because LeBron could be in it, but because they’ll have the opportunity to land multiple game-changers, whether one of them be James or not.
I don’t despise James for absconding from Cleveland, nor do I hate him. I don’t understand why he left the way he did, but we’re nearly three years removed from such a saga. I respect the man as both a person and basketball player.
What I, and all of Cleveland, should refuse to forget is how the team ended up the first time when they bet everything on him. To say they are in shambles would be a stretch (thank you, Kyrie), but they immediately went from title contenders to bottom-feeders.
So let’s not get caught up in this James-to-Cleveland business. Not when LeBron still has the opportunity to win two more titles in Miami before then.
Instead, let’s praise the direction the Cavaliers are headed in with Irving. Let’s commend them on a rebuild well done (so far). Let’s acknowledge that the future is bright.
With or without LeBron.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.