Lebron Vs Gilbert: The Power Struggle In Cleveland....
What follows was read on the Dan LeBatard show this afternoon. It is my view on the power struggle playing out between Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavalier organization.
In listening to your extended conversation with Windhorst yesterday a few thoughts crossed my mind I want you to consider.
First, there can be no doubt that Lebron is involved in the mutinous locker room dynamic. If he had Blatt’s back any mutiny would be immediately nonexistent. Therefore, logic allows one to deduce that a mutinous dynamic that persists beyond management’s vouching for the coach could only thrive behind Lebron’s influence.
Second, Lebron has tried this before. If you recall in 2010, “his people” leaked to reporters that the team did not respect Eric Spoelstra. Following that, it was reported that a meeting with Riley resulted in the squashing of Lebron’s manipulations. I am on board with you in respecting Lebron’s will to exert power in as many aspects as he can, I applaud his intelligence and foresight.
Which brings me to my definitive point which you skimmed over with Windhorst: there is an incredible power struggle at play right now in Cleveland. You have been coy about what you have leaked to us, the public about Lebron’s true reasons for leaving Miami. You gave us generalities like the combination of homesickness, roster concerns, affronts to his pride and influence over the organization, etc. With what we know it follows that he orchestrated his return to Cleveland to address these issues.
He believed Kyrie would prove a more reliable teammate than Dwyane. In this, he underestimated the versatility of Dwyane’s accommodations and the limits Kyrie’s ego (not to mention defensive limitations) placed on their partnership.
Second, he underestimated Chris Bosh. He believed Kevin Love’s rebounding numbers equated to the ideal big man partnership Bosh could never afford him. What he underestimated was Bosh’s worth as a defender and as an accommodating teammate, just like Dwyane. I theorize that Lebron felt he carried the Heat. He could reasonably feel this way because he won in 2012 with Dwyane severely limited by injury and Bosh being limited by a torn ab muscle. In 2013 it is my belief that though he loves Dwyane as a friend, he felt the team was most effective when Dwyane was out of the way and he was allowed to be surrounded by shooters. In fact, the stats supported this perspective with little ambiguity. With the blow out series against San Antonio, his mind was made up about the long term value of the partnership. He assumed that if he returned to Cleveland he could wield the power and influence he had his first time there (Woj reported horror stories about this). What he did not anticipate is Cleveland leveraging his very own manipulations against him. The SI coming home article, the rally in the football stadium, the commercials (Curiously, Nike, Beats, and all his other sponsors have stopped the campaign of coming home related marketing), all these have served to put him in the position for it to be nearly impossible for him to leave Cleveland next summer. The owner who regarded him as property is now trying to outsmart him.
They are both playing this game publicly. First, with Lebron’s I will not hesitate to make a business decision to leave Cleveland leak to the media, second with his fake, secret whispering during the Christmas game about reuniting with Wade and subsequent denial, and then with Cleveland responding by saying Blatt’s the coach and Tristan Thompson will take what we are offering or walk.
What is Lebron’s next move? There are two paths to take: remain entrenched with the demand for coach removal and hope they cave. That could prove embarrassing with all the losses. It may be more prudent and downright ruthless to use his camp to leak to the media that it is an untenable situation. For example some variation of: “Lebron knows the difference between a world class organization and a bad one, this organization lacks winning leadership at the top”,etc. With this reworking of the narrative he could start leveraging his way out of Cleveland. In the next month or two Lebron could easily manipulate the narrative to say that he is being forced away from home again by poor management, a losing culture that no one, not even Lebron James, could overcome. I see this as the most likely outcome. Cleveland is not advancing past the second round with Blatt or Lue as coach. Lebron will realize that winning in Cleveland is not realistic. Once Kevin Love bolts (he will), and Kyrie gets traded, no other major player will sign with Cleveland. Can you name a top ten player that will sign up for a stint in Cleveland with Lebron? There isn’t one. Not Anthony Davis, Durant, Westbrook, the Portland Boys, the Warrior Boys, no one.
Get tuned into this story Dan, the drama is only beginning. The country afforded this team the benefit of the doubt where it did not earn it. The irony of this is that the Miami story was always a decent and principled one, everything this one is not. They genuinely came together in friendship and with relative sacrifice to win the right way. They played for each other, revolutionized offense in basketball, optimized Lebron’s greatness, and were compelling in every way. Lebron took this for granted and is now faced with a situation that may define his legacy.