Less than 24 hours after bringing Cleveland its first championship since 1964, LeBron James, some pundits say, may test the free-agency market this offseason, with the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers among his likely destinations.
Bleacher Report NBA insider Ric Bucher, however, doesn’t see it. He hasn’t spoken to anyone with direct knowledge of James’ intentions, but he can’t imagine the unanimous Finals MVP bolting Northeast Ohio for a second time.
“Look, he’s a heartfelt guy,” Bucher said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “For all the goodwill that he engendered, for everything that he said about what he brought back to Cleveland – and I know they have their championship – this, to me, in some ways would hurt maybe more than the first time he left. The first time he left, it was because, ‘I want to win a championship, and I don’t think I can win one here, and I’m looking at my legacy and my career and I want to win championships,’ and he went to Miami. The way he did it hurt people. But this would be, ‘I can win championships here. I still don’t want to live here. I still don’t want to be here. I still don’t want to be among you.’ I think on one level that would be far more hurtful than the way he left the first time.”
While James figures to stay, Kevin Love may not. He had 14 pivotal rebounds in Game 7 but still averaged just 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in the series.
“I would imagine that they are going to check the market and see what they can get,” Bucher said of the Cavs. “If I can get two two-way wing players, I can do that. Kevin contributed last night. He’s still very young. How happy he is in that third role, I don’t know. And the real question is do you build around him? I don’t think (his Game 7 performance) closes the door on them seeing what they can get; it’s a matter of what they can get that will decide whether they move him or not.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, must do some soul-searching after squandering 2-0 and 3-1 series lead. Draymond Green put the Finals loss on him, saying his Game 5 suspension changed the tenor of the series and allowed the Cavs to come back and win.
Bucher wouldn’t have necessarily blamed Green’s suspension for the Warriors losing the series, but if Green is willing to, perhaps we should as well.
“If he is, how can I not be?” Bucher asked. “I believe that, as he said, he learned something from it. I do think that if he plays in Game 5, the Warriors win and we’re having a completely different conversation today – or last week whenever they would have wrapped it up.”
Green, to be fair, had an unbelievable Game 7, finishing with 32 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and two steals. He also connected on six of his eight three-point attempts, helping the Warriors to a seven-point halftime lead.
Golden State, however, couldn’t close the deal.
“Game 7 was still there for them to win,” Bucher said. “Certainly he did everything he could to make up for Game 5 and then some. The performance that he gave last night – while we’re talking about what LeBron James did, in my mind, Draymond Green did everything, and maybe more, than LeBron James, except he didn’t have a Kyrie Irving to hit the game-winning shot for him. So ultimately, I wouldn’t go there if he didn’t, but I’m certainly not going to step back and say, ‘Draymond, you’re wrong.’ Because if he doesn’t get that last flagrant foul, then he’s not suspended. I would imagine that you’re going to see him play differently going forward so he does not put himself in danger of missing games.”