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D.A.: Forget The Series; Cavs Should Worry About LeBron

With the Cavs down 2-0 to the upstart Celtics, the writing is on the wall in Cleveland

May 17, 2018 - 9:53 am

The fortunes of an NBA playoff series swing faster than a debate on Yanni vs. Laurel. A few days ago, many wondered how the depleted Celtics would bottle up the sheer dominance of LeBron James. The King had destroyed the top-seeded Raptors with such violence and velocity, it seemed impossible a team without its best two players could withstand his Tour De Force

Today, all of that feels much different. The Celtics have beaten the Cavs in every way in this series. After dropping the first two games, Cleveland must find solutions to all of its problems, continue to get crazy box-score-stuffing performances from LeBron, and win both games at home. Either that or we're getting a short series and a long offseason in Northeast Ohio. 

After watching LeBron put up another dazzling stat line – ones we now officially take for granted – and still lose by double-digits, the unfortunate reality is creeping closer like a slasher flick. James has little reason to stay in Cleveland. He went for 42-10-12 in Game 2, something no player had ever accomplished – regular season or postseason – against the Celtics. And yet, here was the dysfunctional Cavs still 13 points worse than Boston and peering out of a deep hole. 

This series is not over. If the Cavs win their home games, we find ourselves in a Game 7 Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. And LeBron's history in those winner-take-all moments is astonishing (including against Boston). But this is all too broken for him not to want to move along, finding a fresh start and a reboot elsewhere this summer. 

When the Sixers were eliminated by the Celtics last week, they wasted no time politicking for LeBron to join the brigade. They will be one of many (all?) organizations desperately trying to woo him in free agency. And it's hard not to see almost any other place as a better fit right now for him. Watching the way the Celtics work for their offensive shots in comparison to the Cavs lethargy is jarring. Cleveland's discombobulated scheme is two-pronged: Wait for LeBron to do something or quickly take an ill-advised shot from somewhere on the perimeter. The Celtics constantly look to make the extra pass; the Cavs don't. The Celtics crash the boards for put-backs and tip-ins; the Cavs don't. The Celtics race to loose balls like hyenas chasing their last meals; the Cavs don't. The Celtics always look like they have a plan. The Cavs always look like the plan has been lit on fire, and thrown overboard. 

Tuesday night was a double dose of harsh reality because the Cavs landed only the 8th pick overall in the NBA Draft. This was the selection that came over in the Kyrie Irving trade. Had the lottery balls given Cleveland a top-3 pick, perhaps there would be enough reason to believe LeBron's optimism could keep him home. But at #8? The Knicks chose Frank Ntilikina, the Kings took Marquese Chriss, the Pistons selected Stanley Johnson with the last three players in that slot. Not exactly the firepower that would put the Cavs over the top. 

Much of this is LeBron's own doing. His decree to win now, that every season must be a championship possibility, means his rosters have short shelf lives. ESPN's Brian Windhorst is as connected to LeBron's last decade of chasing titles as anyone. He described the mandate perfectly: "Acquire older veterans instead of developing younger players. Sign players to large contracts because they fit with James or because they can't be replaced if they leave in free agency. Trade draft picks to get veterans or as a way to relieve payroll pressure. Deal with the stress of repeated long playoff runs, endure massive media scrutiny, manage varying degrees of drama."

The road to an eighth straight NBA Finals is not washed out yet. There's a flickering hope for LeBron and the Cavs. But the writing is on the wall in pencil, and about to be painted in permanence soon. Thus, the reality is a cold one for his hometown. LeBron's best chance of winning championships will no longer be in Cleveland once this series is done. And isn't that what he always chooses? 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.