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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 16, 2010

NBA: Cleveland in LeBron’s rearview mirror? Looks like it

By Mark Heisler
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — On the bright side for Cleveland Cavaliers fans, at least they can see LeBron James when he comes to town with his new team!

They're playing for keeps this spring with Toronto's Chris Bosh and Atlanta's Joe Johnson already surveying the ruins of their teams before the Cavaliers' season, and possibly their world, ended in a stunning loss to the creaky Boston Celtics.

Actually, it wasn't stunning at all, with James playing much of the series left-handed.

Nevertheless, the world that kissed his feet right up to the presentation of his second MVP award before Game 1, suddenly awoke to the realization he was clueless, heartless and/or a quitter.

Accompanying the worldwide pile-on was a new perspective on Kobe Bryant, supposedly in the process of being left behind by Kevin Durant as well as James, ripped in the first round for pouting and/or getting old while hiding his knee injury:

How could we ever have doubted you, Kobe?

It definitely helps to know what they're looking at, and see it through your own eyes, as opposed to writing down what everyone says, which is journalism, and swallowing it, which isn't.

With James refusing to make his elbow an issue . . . or apparently, to get a simple anti-inflammatory shot . . . and Coach Mike Brown, Boston Coach Doc Rivers and their players pooh-poohing it, it still came down to one of two possibilities:

A) The elbow wouldn't let James do more.

B) The arch-competitor with the mind-blowing game and serene self-confidence underwent a total personality change.

Of course, everyone went with B) total personality change, starting with Cavaliers management.

Confused, in denial, or both, team officials took James at this word, blaming everything on Brown, now a dead coach walking amid reports LeBron and Shaquille O'Neal had had it with him . . . as players do with coaches when the bottom drops out.

In 1973, Boston's John Havlicek became a folk hero, playing left-handed after separating his right shoulder as the Celtics, who trailed the New York Knicks, 3-1, forced a Game 7, before falling.

James' elbow got less attention, or none, while becoming a bigger problem, like the list by FoxSports.com's Charley Rosen, Phil Jackson's assistant in the minor leagues, known for probing looks into players' psyches:

—LeBron, himself, doesn't believe the overwhelming hype about his own game, and there's an undercurrent of self-doubt working in his subconscious.

—Or, he's simply the king of chokers.

—Or, his bags are already packed and he's headed out of town.

James does look outward-bound, barring a sentimental turnaround that didn't seem at hand when he noted afterward that he loves Cleveland, adding:

"At the same time, we've had a great time together."

His love for the place is actually the Cavaliers' sole remaining edge, locked into this roster with no cap space, even without their crumbling statuary, 7-foot free agents O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

James has already passed up one chance to leave but seven seasons later, his last title is the Ohio state high school championship.

It may be excruciating, but it's not a hard call with nothing more there than Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson, Delonte West and Anderson Varejao.

James can do better lots of places, including:

1. Chicago — Best supporting cast: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson.

It's true, the Bulls' inbred management has a grisly history with free agents, functioning on the level of Jimmy Breslin's bumbling Mafioso "who couldn't run a gas station at a profit unless he stole the customers' cars," in "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

They're now coming off their adventure with fired coach Vinny Del Negro, whom they decided to keep at midseason, leaving the team to underachieve under him, before his angry run-in with shadow General Manager John Paxson.

What could go wrong now?

2. New York — Minimal supporting cast, since David Lee has to go to free up enough money, but the only team with two maximum slots.

That should get the Knicks an audience, with the possibility of James getting Bosh or Amare Stoudemire to come with him.

3. Miami — With Dwyane Wade, the Heat should get an audience too.

However, after the big two, they'd have only Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal, et al.

4. Clippers — With a supporting cast that might blow the Bulls' away, who cares if they're down the hall from Kobe? Donald T. Sterling would build LeBron a new hall, with a new arena around it.

Unfortunately, they had the season they had, after which Sterling stiffed Mike Dunleavy for the money he owed him, reminding everyone they're still the Clippers.

5. New Jersey — As former James confidant Sonny Vaccaro noted, LeBron's not going to Newark, even for a year.

6. Lakers — Give me a break.

The spring's not over. After the Suns' miracle rally, they're going all-out to re-sign Stoudemire, who was shopped right to the trade deadline, but now appears caught up in the excitement.

Of course, losing to the Lakers would be a bummer, which is a bad way to leave things this summer.