Dribbles: So, Why Was LeBron James At Cavs Game, Anyway?

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the second-most discussed topic from the Cavaliers’ home loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their NBA playoff series on Monday.LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA

1. By now, you know Cavs legend and current Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James was at the game, sitting next to wife Savannah and super-agent Rich Paul

2. But why? That is the question everyone seems to be asking after seeing James courtside at a game involving the team he led to the championship in 2016.

3. As you also know, James can opt out of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent. All the talk is he will return to the Lakers

4. James was asked about his plans right after the Lakers were bounced from the NBA playoffs by the Denver Nuggets. “I’m not going to answer that,” he said.

5. I do believe James, 39, is headed back to LA, just on a new deal. (He may be wise to put a no-trade clause in it, by the way.) But this is LeBron we’re talking about, and man, does he love to keep people guessing in free agency. He can get enough of the “What will LeBron do next?” narrative.

6. That’s not a criticism, by the way. Frankly, I’d do the same if I had the chance. You probably would, too. Free agency is a part of what makes the NBA world turn. Why not make it a fun little guessing game? And quite honestly, these types of mysteries about an all-time great are good for the league. It keeps the NBA in the conversation almost year-round.

7. Now, I don’t know if that was LeBron’s intent here. He could’ve been at the game simply because he was in town for other reasons and thought, “Hey, let’s head up to the game while we’re here.”

8. But he knew what he was doing. And I wouldn’t have been surprised if the entire thing was orchestrated by Paul as some sort of a free agency power-play. Maybe they were sending a message to the Lakers. I doubt it, but I’m not ruling it out.

9. Or maybe he really is thinking about trying to return to the Cavs. Imagine this team, as constructed, with James. He’s exactly what they’re missing — a veteran who can deliver the ball to the shooters and understands how to win when it means the most. 

10. Imagine how much better Darius Garland and Evan Mobley would be with a player such as James, who makes setting up his teammates a priority. Mostly, imagine James alongside Donovan Mitchell.

11. Oh boy.

12. And hey, last time James attended a Cavs home game when he wasn’t on the team was 2014, for Zydrunas Ilgauskas‘ jersey retirement ceremony. James returned to the franchise from the Miami Heat several months later. 

13. Now, it’s fun for some Cavs fans to dream — but I don’t see it happening this time.

14. Sidenote: I’ve been wrong before and I will be again. 

15. Again, James and Paul knew exactly what they were doing here. They sure didn’t expect to attend a Cavs game and have people think, “Oh no big deal,” or that this would be something other than a hot topic. They knew the rumor mill would start churning. And here we are.

16. Granted, most of the offseason talk surrounding James involves son Bronny James, who has declared for the NBA Draft. Bronny is viewed more as a basketball celebrity than a bona fide NBA player at this stage — but guess what? That too is great for the game.

17. LeBron has said he wants to play with Bronny in the NBA. But LeBron or not, drafting Bronny will sell tickets and move merchandise. This is the business side of basketball and it matters. A lot. Paul convinced the Milwaukee Bucks to take Akron native Chris Livingston (Kentucky) with the No. 60 pick last year, and Livingston doesn’t have near the following as Bronny and or near the perceived upside. Livingston has promise, but he’s not putting fans in the seats. Bronny is.

18. Translation: Someone will be selecting Bronny in the NBA Draft summer. I strongly suspect it will be the Lakers at No. 55. That sounds like something Paul can orchestrate. And if he can, then he absolutely should. That’s his client.

19. So that would mean LeBron back to the Lakers and the Cavs left to build their team in the same fashion as they’ve been doing — with patience and the hopes that Mitchell signs a contract extension. 

20. And quite honestly, that’s probably the best approach. LeBron likely has a decent year or two left (three max, in my opinion). You’d be selling your soul for a very short-term gain.

21. Yes, the Cavs would be immediate contenders if James returned next season. I have no doubt they would welcome him back. Heck, from a basketball standpoint, the Cavs have more promising young players than the Lakers, who are sort of stuck running in the mud. For the past three years, LA has been nothing more than hype. Cleveland would be a better situation for James, too.

22. Still, not seeing it this time. Paul comes to plenty of Cavs games, as he also represents Garland and Tristan Thompson. James is also a massive fan of the game. He loves watching and discussing it. It’s not all about being a celeb. So they may have just been there to offer support for their Klutch Sports agency teammates. That is what I suspect.

23. But I also started covering the NBA when LeBron entered the league, and before Paul entered the league, and I am not a total dummy. There was something more to this than just showing up to cheer on the Klutch stars. Guess we’ll know soon enough why, but guess is precisely all we can do. Just the way LeBron likes it.

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