We have our first ‘LeBron James might leave Cleveland’ rumor
A league source told Ohio.com that James reportedly hasn’t ruled out leaving Cleveland after this season. But that seems like a huge long shot.
We didn’t even reach the new year before a rumor that LeBron James could leave Cleveland was published. Despite pledging his love for Cleveland when signing there, James can opt out of his contract after this season. And yet, a league source told Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that “he won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting.”
This comes on the heels of a report that has the Cavaliers questioning whether head coach David Blatt is the right man for the job. Cleveland has lost two out of three games, with the latest being an embarrassing 23-point home defeat at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons. Sandwiched in between the two losses was a closer-than-expected win over the Orlando Magic.
Things aren’t pretty in Cleveland at the moment, but is it really time to push the panic button already and think about James leaving after all the goodwill he built back up after “The Decision?” The Cavaliers are still 18-12 despite key injuries, defensive woes and Kevin Love’s slump, and there are reasons to believe there will be improvement over the course of the season. James wouldn’t again spurn his hometown team, would he?
Why James leaving after a year would make sense
It doesn’t. Well, at least it’s hard to come up with many reasons why James would bolt Cleveland again after just one season.
Simply opting out could make some sense, because that could put some pressure on the organization to improve the weaknesses on the roster, especially inside and on the wings. But James signed a short-term contract to capitalize on the rising salary cap, not to leave Cleveland.
Perhaps if the situation doesn’t improve this year and James doesn’t like what he sees in the offseason, he comes to the conclusion that the fit isn’t great and he attempts to join a roster with more depth and battle-tested talent so he doesn’t have to carry as much of a load on both ends of the floor. But his reputation would take a huge hit if he did that.
Why James leaving after a year wouldn’t make sense
Would James really walk out on his hometown team AGAIN after doing it on national television in 2010? The level of vitriol sent his way was strong when he did it then, but just imagine what it would be like if he bolted one season after he returned. It would get ugly and would hurt his brand.
When James first announced he was coming back to Cleveland, he talked about it taking time to come together. Even after the Cavaliers acquired Love and expectations were raised, most figured there would be growing pains because of some of the glaring flaws on the roster. This was never going to be a walk in the park.
So this chatter about James having “no intention of compromising his prime years playing for a sputtering organization” and bolting because it’s the “appropriate business decision” makes little sense at all. This is especially true given the fact that Cleveland still has a good record despite a lot of adversity. This isn’t the New York Knicks we’re talking about here.
The Cavaliers might not win the championship this season, but that doesn’t mean everything was a failure and all is lost. There are avenues to improve the team this year and in the offseason. Cleveland still has a $5.4 million trade exception at its disposal, and Brendan Haywood has a $10.5 million non-guaranteed deal for next season that can be used as a huge trade chip. There are also exceptions in free agency that can be used, and don’t rule out trades of players currently on the team in order to make an upgrade.
Likelihood of James leaving: 1/10
I can never say there’s no chance of something happening, because the NBA is crazy. But I’m almost certain James won’t leave Cleveland after this season.