Brian Windhorst covered LeBron James in Cleveland until James took his talent to South Beach. When James did that Windhorst took his talents to ESPN to specifically cover the Heat. Even still he has been one of the best at covering the Cavaliers and providing inside information on the team. With the impending return to Cleveland, not as a player but as a guest, James is once again at the forefront of the Cavs and Windhort in his post today. A lot of good information in that post, we will break down that which might be of most interest to Cavs fans:
The Cavs even chose this date in October after consulting with James on whether he’d be able to fly over from Chicago, where the Heat are staying on an off night. Technically, James is coming at Ilgauskas’ request, but the process of picking the game revolved around James’ schedule and was orchestrated by the Cavs.
So different then has been talked about the Cavs and James allowed this to happen. Did Ilgauskas want him to be there? For sure but its obvious that there was some depth of reason behind the date and decision of this meeting.
There were two people within the Cavs organization with whom James maintained good relations over the past four years. They were general manager Chris Grant and Ilgauskas, who joined the team’s front office in 2012 after his retirement.
James’ relationship with those 2 are very important but will not be the be all end all. He likes Pat Riley and respects him but didn’t have a relationship with him prior to signing in Miami. Instead James is going to make a decision based on how he feels about his future. Ilgauskas will stay with the team for some time, especially after the amount of time and energy put into this retirement party.
Grant was not without his flaws — this season did not go the way he plotted it at all and the blame was reasonable. James, however, was not among those who criticized Grant’s draft picks and saw good futures for Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters andAnthony Bennett.
“If they get things in order, they have some really good pieces here,” James said after a game in Cleveland earlier this season. “We’ll see what happens.”
Interesting counterpoints here. National people see the Grant draft picks and young talent on the Cavs as the reason that James wouldn’t come yet James thinks highly of a few of the players. He actually has hung out with Thompson and Bennett after different times. I put little stock in James’ comments though. He is not dumb enough to say anything bad about any team, much less the one he hurt on national TV. He is a politician when he is not on the court.
James’ affinity for Ilgauskas, though, still runs deep. One of the few regrets he has over his time in Miami is that he wasn’t able to help his teammate for eight seasons get a championship (Ilgauskas retired after the Heat lost the 2011 NBA Finals). Even with all the success James has enjoyed over the past two years, that is something that still nags him, and, in a way, still keeps a bond between the two.
One of the reasons James had a return to the Cavs sometime in the future in the back of his mind — he said in 2012 “I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of [Cleveland] fans again” — was to rejoin Ilgauskas and try to get him a ring that way. This, of course, was one of the reasons that Grant hired Ilgauskas into the organization two years ago, even though there was lingering resentment that Ilgauskas signed with Miami in 2010.
James has always seemed to care much about his friends. He created a marketing business and has his friends from high school running it. He does a great deal to keep his teammates involved, both on the court and off the court. That he feels so bad that he didn’t get a ring for Big Z, and the city of Cleveland, could draw at his heart strings. James’ desire to get Z a ring could lead him to return to get him a ring as an executive.
During the free agency pitch meetings in Cleveland that summer, the Cavs came to the table in James’ downtown offices with a custom-made cartoon that featured a bunch of fart jokes and characters that mocked other teams in the league. The Cavs knew James’ personality well, including his love of low-brow humor. They played to it, and James roared with laughter and there were smiles all around. It was fun.
Riley came with his championship rings and his vision to leverage the city of Miami to load the Heat roster with talent. James didn’t laugh nearly as much during that meeting. There were still smiles all around. It was impressive.
Looking back this looks like a very poor choice by the Cavs but they didn’t have the type of cache to do what Riley did. Instead they did what they knew James liked. James enjoys having fun but is serious about his reputation and career. With his future decision he has to decide if Cleveland’s young talent is enough to bring him to the promise land. Remember the Heat were terrible the season before James and Chris Bosh came.
Privately, Riley has to be irritated the Cavs hatched this maneuver and even more miffed that James bought into it the day before the Heat play a key game against the fast-rising Chicago Bulls with a noon start time. The Heat play in Cleveland in two weeks; Ilgauskas’ jersey could’ve been retired that night so James could be there, the thinking goes. Naturally, though, Riley countered perfectly by endorsing James’ trip and planning to send along several members of the Heat’s staff with him.
The Cavs getting Riley a little upset is a good sign. Getting James to agree to come today instead of in 2 weeks when the two teams play is amazing. James is going out of his way, and tweaking some Heat, and played a role in the day it was decided. Obviously the Cavs wanted to do it on a weekend game to give time for the day to be enjoyed by all but James’ role in the event cannot be denied.
“We view [Ilgauskas] as a Miami Heat guy,” Spoelstra said Thursday night in a perfect play of public relations.
He isn’t. Good try Spo.
All in all interesting information provided by Windy. Do you see a young team ready to break out with the addition of James last year and this event just a start to the return of James? Or is this James’ closure in Cleveland?