As the inevitable growing pains and the struggle for cohesiveness between King James, gunner Kyrie Irving and Minnesota’s former “Mr. Everything” Kevin Love led to losses, criticism and frustration, people started abandoning ship. The new social media flow was that Cleveland didn't have enough talent surrounding LBJ to be serious title contenders.
Remember when Shaq left LA and Kobe was balling with a band of boogas? In 2007, The Black Mamba marched into Jerry Buss’ office and threatened to take his show on the road if the Lakers didn’t get it together. The team was talking “rebuild” and steps backwards to go forward and Kobe wasn’t down with that. He was still obsessed with the haters who said, “He couldn’t win without The Diesel.”
The Lakers missed the playoffs in the first season after O'Neal was dealt for Lamar Odom,Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick, and were eliminated in the first round the two seasons after that. Meanwhile, O’Neal and the Heat won the NBA championship on 2006.
First, Bryant said on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York: "I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative, you know?"
Bryant, interviewed by Stephen A. Smith, was asked if there was anything the Lakers could do to change his mind.
"No," Bryant said. "I just want them to do the right thing."
"[The Lakers] obviously want to move in a different direction in terms of rebuilding," Bryant said, adding he could have opted to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers or Chicago Bulls instead. "Three years ago when I was re-signing they should have told me they wanted to rebuild."
Asked if he had any preference for a trade destination, he said "At this point I'll go play on Pluto."
Kobe didn’t really want to leave LA, he was just pissed that the Lakers traded Shaq for basically a bag of ball and left the cupboard somewhat bare, especially if “Titles in Tinseltown” was still going to be the Lakers theme.
Shortly after that blew over, the Lakers got Pau Gasol, which somehow reinvigorated Odom’s game and eventually Meta World Peace (Queensbridge finest) joined the mix. The results were back-to-back championships for Kobe.
Since “The Decision” LeBron gets little credit for his off-the-court basketball IQ. He is a student of the game and has reached his pentacle of greatness by studying the habits, failures and accomplishments of past greats and applying them to his multi-faceted game and unique personality.
Those two weeks in January when the Cavs were struggling at 18-14 and fifth in the Eastern Conference, LBJ took a time out. His body was beat up with back and knee injuries. It was James’ first extended absence of his career.
It seemed as if his difficult transition back to the future was getting worse. Irving was trying to get 40 every night, like his team was still a doormat with one legit stud. The overzealous grasshopper had to change his game and accept the fact that – in the vanglorious words of rapper NAS in The Message -- “there’s one life, one love, so there can only be one king.”
Love is just now finding his inner-Kevin McHale and James Worthy. It’s hard to be a dominant, unselfish, third-leg.
At the time, with James out, most believed that Cleveland was sure to lose more ground and some were emphatic with their suggestions that Cleveland didn’t have the goods to compete with San Antonio, Golden State, Atlanta and the other elite regular season squads. Chemistry aside, it was obvious that Cleveland was deficient defensively and in the perimeter shooting game. They lacked dynamic and younger players besides Kyrie who could match other teams' athleticism.
James took that time off to assert his “Kobe Moment.” It may not have been as publicized as Kobe’s on-air request to be traded, but it’s not hard to imagine what James, who only signed a two-year-deal with Cleveland, had to say when he sat down with Cleveland’s executive brass and demanded they go get the missing pieces for a legit title run. It was obvious that getting Kevin Love and riding the emotion of James' return wasn't going to be enough to carry the franchise to its first NBA title.
There’s nothing on record confirming that conversation went down, but by the time King James re-assumed his throne, the Cavs had provided him a dope 7-foot center in Timofey Mosgov, a stud defender with supreme athleticism in former Knick Iman Shumpert and his NY teammate, the enigmatic and much-maligned but supremely talented J.R. Smith. Smith is instant offense, has long range game and can lock down an offensive player when focused.
It’s like Lebron James went to sleep and woke up in Miami playing with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. We know that wasn’t a dream though. It really happened.
Not only did LBJ return from the DL with a kickass supporting cast, his fellow all-stars began to understand that sacrifice of self is the only way you win championships. Staying patient and focused on a singular task is the key.
The Cavs went 35-15 after the trade and finished the season as EC Central Division champs and a No. 2 seed entering the playoffs.
Over the course of a championship playoff run, every shining star will get a chance to sit atop the Christmas tree.
In Game 1 playoff action on Monday Irving was the “man” for Cleveland, dropping 30 and banging five treys in an easy 113-100 win over the outmatched seventh-seeded Celtics. The Celtics and Brad Stevens are a nice story, but the series itself will be no more than a feisty tune-up for Cleveland.
Love was doing his triple-threat thing too with 19 points and 12 boards. James chipped in 20 and was the maestro of the show. Everything fits like a glove now with the Ohio players. NBA Beware.