A Defense Of LeBron James & Other NBA Weekend Thoughts

LeBron James makes another return to Cleveland tonight with the media again jumping all over him for an obviously innocent remark. James, when asked about the prospect of him again becoming a Cavalier at some future point, said he couldn’t rule it out, that nobody knows what the future holds. For this, James is being excoriated for again being insensitive to the city he jilted in “The Decision.”

You know I’m not a LeBron fan. I rooted for Dallas in last year’s Finals and even though I generally don’t like the city of Chicago’s sports teams, since the Windy City faithful tend to be the New Yorkers of the Midwest when it comes to arrogance, I’ll admit to having gut-level sympathies with the Bulls in the current battle. But I’m also not a LeBron-hater, a middle ground that I guess puts me out of place in today’s NBA world.  Each passing day with the media coverage of him though, moves me closer to a sympathetic view.

To start with, let’s begin with the notion that he jilted Cleveland. He played eight years for the Cavs and gave them their best teams in an otherwise lost organization’s history. The fact the team utterly collapsed without him speaks volumes to how bad a supporting cast the front office surrounded him with. That he put this team in the Finals once, and got close a few others teams speaks volumes to James’ ability and competitive drive. As to the argument that he treated Cleveland with the way he left, the infamous “Decision” on ESPN, I agree it was self-promoting  to the extreme, a reason I’m not a LeBron fan. But as for treating Cleveland poorly—has anyone actually been to Cleveland? Other than Jacobs Field and a nice Irish pub nearby called The Harp, this is a city that’s basically a walking cesspool. Clean up the damn city, then worry about whether a player “jilts” you on national television.

LeBron’s comment that you can’t know what the future holds and his return could be possible pending future events is an innocuous—if unsavvy—declaration of the obvious. But I guess with Brett Favre now retired for good, the media needs to track somebody else all over the country and read deep thoughts into every casual statement.

Anyway, Minnesota-Houston is a better game tonight, with the Wolves two games out of the playoffs and the Rockets still holding steady. Denver goes to Memphis, where the Grizzlies seem ready to live up to their preseason expectations and have moved into the #8 spot, while the Nuggets are trying to avoid a free-fall. The ESPN doubleheader starts at 8 PM ET with Dallas-Philly, a good game among teams just outside the elite in their conferences, although the Sixers inability to win at home over the Clippers does raise concern about the staying power of Doug Collins’ team. The nightcap at 10:30 PM ET is Suns-Lakers. The city of Phoenix tries to complete a sweep of Hollywood, as in the NHL the Coyotes edged the Kings 1-0 last night in a key game in the playoff race. The Suns-Lakers rematch back in the Staples Center on Sunday.

Saturday’s a light schedule as the NBA defers to college hoops, but one of the games is a big one. San Antonio and the LA Clippers are both right on Oklahoma City’s heels for the top spot in the West and they meet up in Los Angeles. I’m surprised and disappointed this game is in the afternoon, rather than NBA-TV’s Saturday night feature, which is instead Atlanta-Portland, with the Trail Blazers just outside the playoff bracket in the West and the Hawks still holding strong trying to finish in the top four in the East and get homecourt in the first round of the playoffs.

NBA Sunday means marquee TV action and Jeremy Lin goes before a national TV audience as the New York Knicks host Dallas at MSG. The game tips at 1 PM ET and is followed by Orlando-Miami (3:30 PM ET) , with both on ABC. The Magic remain the mystery team of the East with Dwight Howard’s status still uncertain. With the #6 seed so coveted by teams like the Knicks and Celtics—meaning you avoid Miami/Chicago in the first round—Orlando holds the key. If they trade Howard and fall apart, the 6-spot opens up. If they keep him and stay competitive, it’s a tough fight. Then on Sunday night it’s Denver-Oklahoma City (8 PM ET, ESPN), with the Thunder leading the way in the West.