Without question, LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. The $21.5 million he’ll make from the Cleveland Cavaliers this season isn’t commensurate with what he means to the value of the franchise, as well as the city of Cleveland.
Naturally, a superstar of James’ level is going to have opinions about his team’s roster regarding potential trades and free agent signings. But when does a franchise have to draw the line?
In James’ first stint with the Cavaliers, there was no line. James did what he wanted. He had to sign off on every move, which probably led to Danny Ferry‘s resignation as general manager. James was treated differently by the coaching staff, as told by Shaquille O’Neal in 2011, because the team feared he’d flee in free agency…and every Cav fan knows how that turned out.
But now that James is back in the fold, how much power does he hold? The four-time MVP reached out to Kevin Love because he wants his Olympic teammate to wear the Wine and Gold this fall. Will the Cavs move heaven and earth to please their out-of-this-world talent?
As a superstar who has championship rings, the team should at least check in with James to see what he thinks, but when it comes to pulling the trigger, a strong argument could be made that those decisions should be left to Dan Gilbert’s basketball people.
But the NBA is a star-driven league, and James’ influence is already noticeable, with the signing of Mike Miller, the King’s old friend from Miami. There’s also a rumor that Ray Allen is on his way to town.
These aren’t bad moves, and the acquisitions mean the Cavaliers are trying to win now, but the transactions show James’ power, even if unintentionally.
Associated Press writer Tom Withers doesn’t believe James is dictating what to do, but that his presence alone is influential. “In terms of him saying, do this, that and the other, I don’t think that’s the case, but i think his actions speak volumes,” Withers said on ESPN Cleveland’s Really Big Show.
Withers is referring to James’ two-year contract, with a clause to opt out after this season. The shorter deal allows James to make more money in the future when the salary cap rises, but it also puts pressure on the Cavs to keep improving the roster (not that the front office needs the motivation).
Whether or not James is vociferous about roster moves is moot. Making decisions based on their mega-star is something the Cavs will have to deal again, and it’s probably a problem the franchise is happy to have.
“LeBron holds sway over a lot here, and I think LeBron has to be factored into every single decision they make, whether it’s what kind of jerseys they are going to put in the gift shop or what kind of players are they going to acquire,” Withers said.