Did Warriors force LeBron to leave Cleveland? 'We'll see what happens'

Did Warriors force LeBron to leave Cleveland? 'We'll see what happens'

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Warriors 2018 Championship Parade begins Tuesday at 9:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on NBCSportsBayArea.com.

“We’ll see what happens.” -LeBron James

Those are the final words spoken by James from the podium following the Cleveland Cavaliers loss in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals.  

Those are words that will likely haunt the city of Cleveland for a very long time. 

James’ workload got a little lighter after Friday night’s sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. After carrying the Cavs to an improbable fourth straight Eastern Conference title, one of the greatest players the game has ever known is about to embark on another free agency journey. One that very likely leads him away from his home state of Ohio.  

“My family is a huge part of whatever I’ll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that,” James told reporters following the Cavs loss. “When I decide what I’m going to do with my future, my family and the folks that have been with me for the last 20 years will have a say-so. Then it ultimately will come down to me. We’ll see what happens.”

Cleveland has seen its share of highs and lows when it comes to James. His departure to Miami in 2010 broke the city. The cruelty of “The Decision” hung in the air for four years, as the Cavs posted the NBA’s worst record.

From the NBA Finals to the basement in the blink of an eye. After posting a 61-21 campaign during the 2009-10 season, the Cavs won just 19 games the next year following his departure. They should be ready for a similar fall if he chooses to leave again in the coming weeks.

There is plenty of chatter about what the Cavs might need to do if they hope to retain James, but most of that is conjecture. Cleveland went all in at the deadline, adding pieces that never quite fit together.

The downfall of the Cavs began with the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in August. Instead of getting Irving, James and management around a table and working things out, Cleveland chose to trade their second best player to their biggest conference rival for a package that included Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets first round selection.

Without Irving to share the load, James looked overworked and completely outgunned in the series against Golden State.

To compound matters, Cleveland misused the assets obtained in the Irving trade, dealing away Thomas and Crowder at the deadline while adding Rodney Hood, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson.

In addition to the botched deals above, the Cavs sat on one of their strongest assets - the Brooklyn first round pick. Without a firm commitment that James was staying long term, they held onto what many believed was one of the most powerful assets in the league.

Unfortunately for the Cavs, Brooklyn played better than expected, depreciating the prized asset with every win. Cleveland gambled. Instead of chasing a complementary star and giving James the support he needed, they watched their logo come up with the eighth overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The pick still has value, but nowhere near what it was worth when it was obtained. Cleveland can draft a player or possibly attach the pick to one of the many bloated contracts that will hinder the franchise moving forward. But finding the next LeBron James at No. 8 is virtually impossible.

Now the Cavs are cash strapped with a grossly flawed team built with James in mind. Take the 14-time All-Star off the roster and this team is filled with overpaid, underachievers.

At 33-year-old, James wants a group that can compete with the Warriors. The chance of that happening with the collection of talent currently assembled is unlikely. If James is going to stay, the roster has to be reworked once again, but who is going to bail out the Cavs?

This is the eighth straight Finals appearance for James and his ninth overall. Despite playing 15 years in the league, he showed once again that he is capable of carrying a team all through the playoffs. He wants another shot at the title, but there is no question he is going to need help.

“I still have so much to give to the game,” the four-time MVP told media members. “When you have a goal and you’re able to accomplish that goal, for me personally, it made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. I still want to be in championship mode. I think I’ve shown this year why I still continue to be in championship mode.”

Where will James end up? That question will consume the NBA for the next month. There aren’t a lot of teams with cap space, but for a franchise changing player, teams will scramble.

The Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of cap room and an up-and-coming roster. They are also in the Western Conference, making the path to another ring extremely difficult.

Houston will try their best to talk James into joining James Harden and Chris Paul, but they are cash strapped, and once again, they play in the Western Conference.

Philadelphia is loaded with young talent and gives James one of his best chances to get back to the Finals. Prized big man Joel Embiid made his initial pitch to James Friday evening via Twitter.

Toronto may give chase. Same goes for San Antonio and Boston. This is the type of player that every team in the league would love to have.

James will consult his family and his team of advisors. In the end, he’ll be looking for the team that gives him the best chance of competing for a ring. As painful as it is for Cleveland, the Cavs probably won't be that team.

“We’ll see what happens,” pretty much sums it all up.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Warriors 108, Cavs 85

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry during playoffs

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry during playoffs

OAKLAND — Steve Kerr’s latest request of Steph Curry is short, simple and initially puzzling: Let ‘em score.

Three words, easily understood, but completely against the competitive instincts of an elite NBA player conditioned to accept defense as an essential part of the game.

Kerr isn’t telling Curry to neglect defense. Rather, the coach is advising his superstar to weigh his overall value to the Warriors in the NBA playoffs against the significance of committing fouls in hopes of preventing two points.

“Sometimes, he just gets in the habit of trying to strip the ball,” Kerr said Tuesday after practice. “So, more than anything, it’s just about trying to get him past that habit. I keep telling him how valuable he is. I’d much rather he just got out of the guy’s way and gave him a layup and kept playing.

“He’s much more valuable than two points. And we’ve got plenty of help; our defense is predicated on help.”

This, in the big picture, makes sense. While the Warriors seek to close out the Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday, advancing likely means getting a dose of potent Houston.

Anyone care to imagine Curry on the bench with foul trouble against the Rockets?

Curry’s impact against Los Angeles was neutralized by foul trouble in Games 3 and 4. Though having him on the bench for long stretches, saddled with foul trouble, is not ideal in this series, it would invite disaster should the Warriors advance and face Houston.

After committing four or more fouls just four times over the final 27 games of the regular season, Curry has been whistled at least that often in every game against LA. Picking up five fouls in Game 3, including his fourth early in the third quarter, limited him to 20 minutes.

So Curry, prior to Game 4, put a message on his shoes, “No Reach” -- a reminder to avoid a tendency that usually is his quickest route to foul trouble.

“I have confidence in my hand-eye coordination and hand speed,” Curry said. “That’s how I get steals usually, by being quick. But that’s how I get fouls, too, so I’ve got to balance both of them.

“The ones I’ve had trouble with in this series are ones that I shouldn’t even be in that situation to begin with. There’s help behind the play. I’m not even involved in the play, really. I’m just kind of lunging at it. That’s just a lack of focus.

“We could nitpick each one of them and understand exactly why. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to continue to stay on the floor on our normal rotations and not foul.”

There was progress in Game 4 insofar as Curry generally avoided reaching. And when he committed his third foul with 4:16 left in the first half, Kerr stayed with him.

Curry rewarded the coach by playing the rest of the half and the entire third quarter without a whistle. He played 35 minutes, committing four fouls.

Moreover, the Warriors won both games.

[RELATED: Beverley explains why he doesn't talk trash to Curry]

“If he’s got a couple fouls already, he should be able to play with those fouls,” Kerr said. “I’ve always trusted him. Since I’ve been here, I’ve generally played him with two fouls in the first half or three in the third quarter. I believe in letting a guy go, letting him play, a star player like that especially. The second half was a great sign that he’s kind of made it past that habit.”

The Warriors would like to think so.

They’d like to believe that building better habits in this series will make them stronger in the next one. History has shown they are strongest with Curry on the floor.

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Richard Jefferson gets paid to talk about basketball and express his opinions.

Over the last couple of years, he hasn't shied away from discussing his feelings about the Warriors and/or Kevin Durant.

On Tuesday, he was a guest on ESPN's show "The Jump" and KD's recent comments about the media was obviously a topic of conversation.

"You go back and look at the history of the game -- Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the amount of pressure that they had to save this league; Michael Jordan, no player to me has ever had so much weight on his shoulders; then you go forward to Kobe Bryant after the post-Jordan era; then all of a sudden Kobe kind of faded away because LeBron James was in the prime of his career.

"If you want that 'Best player, I'm going to be the guy to hold this league down the next five years' (title), you need to be able to handle this better than how he (Durant) has," Jefferson said. "We need you, the game of basketball needs you to be better at this."

So what did KD say exactly?

“They need me. If I wasn’t a free agent, none of this s--t would go on, right?" the reigning two-time Finals MVP told NBC Sports Bay Area's Logan Murdock. “ None of this speculation about who I am, what’s wrong with my mental, why I’m miserable, why I ain’t happy with life. Nothing.”

Last summer, Durant elected to sign another "1+1" contract with the Warriors in order to maintain flexibility and possess the option to become a free agent again this summer. Ever since, there has been rampant speculation about his future and incessant discussion about his state of mind.

Back in mid-November, Steph Curry said: "With how active our guys are on social media, it’s hard not to see that stuff. But it tests your character, makes you figure out how to compartmentalize stuff. Either you take it as entertainment or you get influenced by it. Whatever you think, however you are in real life, in terms of how impressionable you are, how insecure you might be, how confident in yourself you might be, that’ll all reflect in how you handle it.”

Things boiled over for Durant in early February when the 10-time All-Star broke his silence and lashed out at the media following the Warriors' win over the Spurs.

[RELATEDJerry West believes Warriors' weak point is very obvious]

Jefferson has the utmost respect for KD the basketball player, but believes he needs to tweak his approach to reporters.

"I think he's on the Mount Rushmore of this generation," Jefferson added. "But make no mistake, the game of basketball -- which has provided for me, all of us, all of our families and his -- needs him to be able to handle this better because that's what the title of 'king' means.

"When you are the king, when you are No. 1, that means you have a ton more responsibility that you have to handle or you're not fit for that."

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