Cleveland, Ohio – The picture was hanging on the same building opposite his old castle for those eleven seasons. But it will not stay. Nor LeBron James.
After a magical weekend back home, reconnecting with his old high school mates, staying at this Bath mansion just outside Akron and enjoying the love of his cherished hometown, the King once again trades freezing temperatures and hills of snow for sunshine and palm trees. He earned a place to play for the struggling Los Angeles Lakers chase.
Meanwhile, Cleveland are looking to snatch their first post-season berth without him since 1998—while Sean Kemp, Wesley Pearson and Zydronas Ilguskas were the franchise’s top players.
For much of the past two decades, the conversation surrounding the Cavaliers has swung between a pair of topics: how good they are with LeBron, and their top-down incompetence without him.
“It’s a rebirth for Cleveland,” said Darius Garland, acknowledging that he had not discussed the possibility of James returning. “Our guys want to make our own legacy. Putting Cleveland on the map without Bronn would mean a lot to all of us. New look, new feel. We’re building up some other things that we’ll be able to talk about later. We’ll keep growing and see what happens.”
The surprise Cavaliers, once again named by the forecasters pre-season to be one of the league’s top drunks for the fourth year in a row, entered the All-Star break with a record 35-23. They are 4th in the Eastern Province and only 2.5 games of first place. Due to the ease of the second half schedule, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse could host a homegrown playoff series.
There are many things these young people still have to learn. Experience is the best teacher. However, Cleveland considers himself a contender for the title. Nor is it just a sudden turnaround for one season.
“We take great pride in him,” said All-Star player Garrett Allen. “Obviously a different situation for Cleveland – finally not having LeBron and being one of the best teams. Proving and proving the Cavaliers comeback. We’re finally back. We’re finally ready to play basketball.”
All-Star Weekend provided a stage to showcase this ascent.
Wunderkind’s Evan Mobley, this year’s Novice Award winner, starred in both the Rising Stars—an annual showcase of the league’s best first- and second-round players—and skills competition, softly hitting the competition-winning half-court shot as if it were heating up. Garland called it a “unicorn,” while Allen said it was one of a kind. Our fellow ravens Cady Cunningham and Josh Jedi rushed on Mobley’s underworld skill set. Mobley’s James and Draymond Green are not surprised when Cleveland’s promising future is discussed.
“I think the biggest surprise team for me is Cleveland,” Green admitted. “I don’t think anyone would expect them to be this good, and they really do put it together. They have a great youth group. They’re putting it together now, but they’re going to be good for years to come.”
Isaac Okoro – a feisty, defensive-minded Cavs star who continues to evolve in attack and is another key piece – partnered alongside Mobley in the Rising Stars, helping Team Barry to victory.
Garland, the 22-year-old goalkeeper, looked like a budding star. Soft jumpers. Unlimited range. Smooth handle. Comfort under bright lights. Serenity next to the best players.
In his first-ever All-Star Game, Garland finished with 13 points and three assists in 24 minutes. He was on the floor at the start of the fourth quarter, as the LeBron tried to muster a win. Weeks before the festivities, James and Kevin Durant – captain this year – fought over Garland, with Durant trying to change a deal for him.
“I’ve been dreaming about this all my life,” Garland said after the 71st All-Star Game. “Getting it at 22, being so early, being so young, it’s so cool to be here with all the greats.”
One of the offenders of a revamped Cleveland defense and for the first time an All-Star, Allen nearly scored a double, scoring 10 points and collecting nine rebounds. He even crushed MVP candidate Joel Embiid late in the final quarter of Sunday night — retaliation after Embiid put Allen on a label in a final match against the 76ers.
Over the past few months, several members of the organization, including veteran Kevin Love, have pointed to Allen’s trade last January as a watershed moment.
The star-eyed Brooklyn stole Cavs Allen as part of the blockbuster James Harden. While Harden is now in Philadelphia, kicked out during the wild trade timeout day nearly two weeks ago, 23-year-old Allen is now the second-best in the East.
On Sunday night, when they were introduced to the home crowd by a tip, Garland and Allen became the first Cavaliers All-Stars duo in three decades when counting the times James was not involved.
“We have a whole bunch of new guys and we’re hungry,” Okoro said. “We have that determination, that toughness and we’re ready to show the league that we’re one of those teams. We’re proud of it. But we don’t think of it as trying to be a team that doesn’t have LeBron or anything. Just try to think of it like we’re a young group now.” Trying to win matches.”
Allen, Garland, Mobley, and Okoro (to a much lesser extent of course) are the foundation. There’s also newcomer Caris LeVert, injured Collin Sexton who has vowed to come back in better shape after knee surgery at the end of the season, and Lauri Markkanen, Cedi Osman and Love. He’s bought the once-decorated veteran and might win this year’s 6th Man of the Year award. The Cavs have found the right mix of promising youngsters and accepting veterans. The perfect blend of talent and chemistry.
“A brand new coming from Cavs,” Mobley added. “We are just here trying to play our best basketball. We have all the pieces and team chemistry we need to go as far as we want.”
Head of Basketball Operations Kobe Altman — the architect of the fun, connected, and democratic group — competes for the CEO of the Year award.
Coach JB Bickerstaff, who has modernized his attack and layout for a system around his long-ball lineup – in contrast to the league’s small-ball style – received glowing praise from fellow competitor coach of the year Eric Spoelstra of the East’s leading Heat team, which Durant led.
“I’ve known JB for a long time,” said Spoelstra, who got to know Bickerstaff through a friendship with David Fizdale. “He’s got a tremendous mind in basketball,” Spoilstra said.
“JB can build a culture, he can build a team that plays with the right standards and values. They respect him, you could say they are responsive to his leadership and his coaching. It is not an accident at all. They are very good. They are well educated and trained. They have a lot of young talent and JB manages to blend experience The veteran they have on this team is with plenty of youth as well. He grew up working as the son of a coach. He knows the game. He knows people. He knows how to communicate, inspire and motivate. He knows the Xs and the OS. Great talent and a great guy. Be very respectful of JB”
That level of respect at the league level became evident this weekend, with the best NBA relegated in town. Everyone has noticed this transformation. James included.
The 18-time All-Star, who will be a free agent in 2023, made waves over the weekend, leaving the door open for a third round with the Cavaliers. When he wasn’t spending time with his family, interacting with celebrities, honoring the legends that paved his way for him, and wowing fans with dunks, passes and a game winner to highlight these three memorable days, James was flirting. His old team while he was putting tremendous pressure on his current team. repeatedly.
“Cleveland really deserves this podium and this moment,” James said. “They’ve got two of their All-Stars in the match at DG and great friend, Jarrett Allen. And they have another All-Star guy, and that’s me. He’s awesome, man.”
Technically, James represented Cleveland this weekend. But he is not a member of Cavs. not now. Maybe not again.
James made that choice when he withdrew to Los Angeles in 2018, forcing the company to patiently dig out of the rubble.
With great discoveries, smart trades, an excellent player development program, respectful coaching and a rebuilding culture built on five core values, the Cavs are back.
For the first time in decades, the future of the LeBron and that of the Cavs have not been intertwined. They don’t have to be. they don’t Need him success.
The Cavs are carving their own place in the tradition of excellence. Exactly as they want.
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