Cavaliers

Recapping the Cavs Three-Headed Beat Writer Roundtable on 92.3 The Fan

92.3 The Fan

With LeBron James deciding to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in his career, signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, it also means the end of the Cavs daily beat as we know it today. The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, and Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon have been with the Cavs every step of the way over the last four years, covering the wine and gold on a daily basis. It sucks losing James, but it also sucks losing this group. Although Vardon has said that his role will remain the same, Lloyd has already made it known that his role will change and he will all but certainly not cover the Cavs on a daily basis like he has the last eight years, while McMenamin has stated that he will no longer cover the Cavs. The latter will likely return to Los Angeles and cover LeBron’s Lakers, where he spent six years covering LA before coming to Cleveland.

While the three joined Howard Beck on his The Full 48 podcast for a fantastic conversation in early June, the three also decided to join 92.3 The Fan’s Bull and Fox show Thursday afternoon. If you want to listen to the entire conversation, which went from 2-5 p.m. ET Thursday afternoon, you can do so here. It’s a must listen, in case you were wondering.

If you don’t have the time right now, we broke down the most important points and conversations throughout the entire three-hour roundtable.

Details about the decision and why LeBron chose the Lakers

  • Lloyd thought LeBron was leaving for most of the season due to No. 23 being so aggravated with some of the decisions that were made. The first LeBron-to-LA talk happened the same summer the Cavs won the title when Lloyd was told by someone in the organization that it could happen.
  • Vardon knew Thursday, three days before the decision actually became official. He couldn’t report it because of who (and how) he was told, but he knew LeBron was gone. He believes LeBron always wanted to play for the Lakers and the star aligned this offseason for it to happen.
  • McMenamin agrees with Vardon, but he still couldn’t believe it.
  • All three agree that it was a family decision, but the basketball side of things made sense as well. According to McMenamin, James’ wife, Savannah, spent more time in Los Angeles throughout this past season than she ever has before.
  • Lloyd was told that the only way the Cavs had a shot at keeping LeBron late in the season was if the Brooklyn first-round pick, which they had the rights to, landed in the Top 3 in the lottery.
  • McMenamin believes that if Paul George would have become a Cav last summer, along with Eric Bledsoe, there’s a good chance No. 23 would still be in Cleveland. Obviously, the potential trade that would have brought George and Bledsoe to Cleveland fell through.
  • Vardon believes that the floodgates of James’ angriness began when Kyrie requested a trade. Letting David Griffin go was also difficult.
  • LeBron loved Griff, especially because he was a great communicator, and he felt that he never had that type of relationship with Koby Altman and company.

The Kyrie-LeBron fall out

  • The relationship was much worse than Lloyd thought it was. He was fooled by it.
  • The “little brother” thing annoyed the heck out of Kyrie.
  • Uncle Drew didn’t like how much power and sway LeBron had in the organization.
  • James did nothing to keep Irving in Cleveland before it was too late. He never spoke to Kyrie in the month between the meeting when No. 2 requested a trade and when he was inevitably traded.
  • Kyrie didn’t want LeBron to come back in the first place. Didn’t think the Cavs needed No. 23 to come back in order to do well.
  • Irving and his camp were debating about asking for a trade during the summer following the championship but decided to keep it in-house. There were times Irving wouldn’t speak to anyone for days, even in practice.
  • Lloyd still doesn’t understand why Kyrie asked out, even if the relationship between the team’s two biggest stars was very meh.
  • Irving wanted to get out from the shadow of LeBron and go somewhere where he could be himself.
  • Lloyd questions why the Cavs sent Kyrie to Boston, which is such a good team and organization. Should have traded him to Sacramento or Phoenix, where he would have been miserable, instead.
  • Kyrie saw LeBron leaving this summer and wanted to make the first move and get out before it went down.
  • McMenamin believes Irving didn’t want to stay in Cleveland even without LeBron because Cleveland built a team around James and he didn’t want to play with a bunch of specialists for No. 23 and waste one of his prime years while doing so.
  • Irving was frustrated with how reporters asked him questions about LeBron instead of about him.
  • Cavs wanted an unprotected lottery pick in exchange for Kyrie, that way they were prepared for the future for if/when LeBron left. They wanted something in place, no matter which players came along with the pick.
  • Uncle Drew, while not really liking LeBron, also didn’t like head coach Tyronn Lue. Ty took shots at both Kyrie and Kevin Love, both privately and publicly, when he first took the job with the Cavs.
  • The Cavs debated about trading Irving even before LeBron came back, specifically when the wine and gold weren’t sure if they should trade either No. 2 or Dion Waiters.
  • The whole flat Earth thing was a political statement. He wanted to get attention instead of having all of it on LeBron and that was a great way to do so. Kyrie felt slighted by how everything was LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals

  • All agree that it would have become a series and would have gone at least six games if the Cavs didn’t mess up the ending of Game 1 and lose the opener in Golden State.
  • LeBron punched the blackboard not just once, but multiple times following the debacle.
  • The series was all but over due to the ending of Game 1. Was demoralizing for both No. 23 and the team.
  • After no one gave the Cavs a chance or believed in LeBron, having it slip away after the way the first 46 minutes of the game, it all crashed down on James and he just broke down.
  • McMenamin believes Golden State was vulnerable because Kevin Durant could have left this summer and Steph Curry and KD were trying to make it “their team”. LeBron knew that he could have played the “look who I beat this Warriors squad with” card if the Cavs would have beat the Dubs just a few weeks ago and Game 1 would have been a great start.

The Dwyane Wade trade

  • D-Wade had a major role off (in a bad way) off the court, specifically in the locker room. He was one of the main voices in that team meeting after Kevin Love left a game early in mid-January.
  • No matter what happened, the Cavs couldn’t get away with trading LeBron’s best friend away from the team, especially when they basically got nothing in return.

The soup incident

  • Was embarrassing on all levels for both parties involved.
  • LeBron is all about professionalism and that JR Smith doesn’t fit that mold, especially following that incident, when JR threw a bowl of soup at assistant coach Damon Jones.

Coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 title

  • LeBron always believed the Cavs would beat the Warriors, even when they were down 3-1 in the series.
  • Lue not only believed but thought Cleveland was the better team even when they were down two games.
  • Klay Thompson’s comment about it being a “man’s game” after LeBron complained about Draymond Green hitting him below the belt sort of woke No. 23 up, and gave him even more belief that they could come back. Was a turning-point moment.
  • It was obvious the Warriors were unraveling after Steph Curry threw his mouth guard in Game 6.
  • Vardon believes LeBron’s “Michael Jordan moment” was when James rolled into Game 7 wearing an RWTW (Roll With The Winners) shirt. Even though most players dressed up going into the arena, James made it clear that he believed, and the rest of the Cavs followed.
  • Nothing else mattered in Game 7 outside of winning the game. Relationships on and off the court didn’t matter whatsoever, all that mattered was that the Cavs were on the brink of making history.

The relationship between Dan Gilbert and LeBron

  • When Gilbert met with James in Miami before No. 23 decided to officially return to the Cavs in 2014, the deal was that the owner would do anything and everything to keep the Cavs in title contention every single season LeBron was in Cleveland. Judging by the amount of money he spent on the roster (and the luxury tax), he did just that.
  • Gilbert lost the best player of the generation (and one of the best to ever dribble a basketball) twice, which can’t go unnoticed.
  • The LeBron-Gilbert relationship didn’t crumble simply due to the fact that they never had a relationship to begin with. It was strictly business related.
  • James came back because of a bunch of reasons, none of which had to do with the owner.
  • Neither one trusted the other, which was obvious when LeBron only signed one-plus-one deals. Keep in mind, James signed a three-year (plus a player option) with both the Miami Heat and now with the Lakers.
  • If Gilbert trusted that LeBron would stay past 2018, last summer could have been much different. Instead of preparing for life after LeBron by wanting a first-round pick, they could have traded for Paul George, among others.
  • Blame is on both sides. Gilbert shouldn’t have built for the future when he has a once-in-a-generation-type player; LeBron could have given a commitment like he did with Heat, Lakers.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder mortgaged the future by going all-in and trading for George even before Russell Westbrook signed an extension. Now, OKC has both of them locked up for the foreseeable future. Gilbert didn’t do that and it cost him. Shouldn’t have worried about Plan B.
  • 2010-2014 was so bad because there was hope that LeBron would come back in 2014 and the Cavs were getting as many top picks as possible in order to possibly make that happen.

Will Cavs tear it all down, trade Kevin Love?

  • More about whether they should completely tear it down or see what they have with a team led by Love.
  • With a top-1o protected pick, the Cavs need to either go all in and tear it down or be mediocre and barely make the postseason at best, and therefore not keep their first-round pick, which isn’t a good spot to be in.
  • Gilbert’s pride may not allow him to tear it all down right now. May want to prove that the Cavs can still be somewhat competitive even without LeBron, which would, therefore, have the Cavs keep Love.
  • Love could play better as the team’s first option, but how much better?
  • History shows that it usually takes about a decade for teams to recover (and be an impactful team in the postseason) after losing a superstar.
  • Salaries/books clean up in two years or less after they lose Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Love’s contracts.
  • Failure as an organization if Love is still with the team at the end of the season.
  • Love may want to remain with Cavs.
  • He could go back to his stats that he had with the Timberwolves this season if he remains on the Cavs.
  • All three believe Cleveland will trade Kyle Korver and the Cavs could potentially get a first-round pick in return for the sharpshooter. If not traded, he could be bought out.
  • Rodney Hood will most likely be back with the wine and gold.

Looking ahead at the 2018-19 season

  • The Cavs will likely look much better than they truly are because they’re in the East.
  • Will depend on if they tank and trade Love or try to make the postseason.

Collin Sexton

  • Lloyd was told May 10 that the Cavs would select either Oklahoma point guard Trae Young or Alabama point guard Collin Sexton in the NBA Draft.
  • Reason Cleveland past on Michael Porter Jr. could potentially be due to the Cavs medical team, which is one of the best in the league because of the Cleveland Clinic, told them not to take the injured MPJ no matter what.
  • Cavs are in love with Sexton as a person.
  • He has self-motivated enough to turn himself into an All-Star, much like Dame Lillard, who was drafted out of Weber State.
  • Off-the-court behavior definitely matters and Sexton seems to be a great guy. Imagine if Kyrie had the rookie’s demeanor and attitude off the court.
  • Sexton will be a great addition to the locker room and could be a great leader that will lead by example.
  • Whether he likes it or not, the rookie is replacing LeBron as the face of the Cavs. No pressure, 19-year-old rookie.

What’s ahead for Ty Lue

  • Might be happy LeBron is gone because, for the first time as a head coach, the pressure is off of him.
  • Without LeBron, he will decide how the Cavs play, not No. 23.
  • Getting together with Sexton and Jordan Clarkson this summer and doing one-on-one work. Not only to improve them as point guards but to show them what he expects from each point guard.
  • Could be a really good coach but he hasn’t been given any credit, even when the Cavs won it all in 2016.

Love to LA?

  • KLove doesn’t fit what the Lakers are trying to do going forward.
  • The relationship between LeBron and Kevin isn’t as good as people made it out to be.
  • James loved Love with Team USA, and the relationship slowly dwindled as the years went on.

Trust in Koby Altman?

  • Didn’t ask for any of this, was more just dropped into the job due to David Griffin not being retained.
  • He wants to build a team system, so they are more organizationally sound.
  • Altman wasn’t ready, and it’s not his fault. Was more of a disservice to basically go from the No. 3 guy and completely be thrown into the fire and try to replace Griffin.
  • He has the work ethic to be trusted, but the bigger question is if Gilbert can be trusted to do the job and that doesn’t seem to be the case.