Johnson signed with the Miami Heat to give the team that features Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic an outsider shooter heading into the playoff push, but James did not hide his desire to see Johnson in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.
James said, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com, “All I care about is winning. That's all that matters to me. A piece like Joe, you know what it does to your team and if he was concerned about playing time or concerned about starting, then I'll sacrifice. I'll sacrifice to get a guy like that to help us try to win a championship."
The sacrifice James spoke of was apparently moving to power forward. Haynes cited sources that said James told Cleveland management and even Johnson himself he would be willing to move over to the 4 to accommodate the shooter in the Cavaliers lineup.
James even envisioned what the rotation may have looked like with Johnson aboard, per Haynes:
You get a guy like Joe Johnson, you get a guy that can change your team for the better. I wouldn't have a problem with [moving to the 4].
If he wanted to come in and start and we wanted to keep J.R. [Smith] in the starting lineup and if Double-T (Tristan Thompson) or Mozzy (Timofey Mozgov) had to come off the bench in order for Joe to start and slide Kev [Love] to the five, I would have done it.
James truly seemed ready to do anything to finally bring a championship to Cleveland, per Haynes: “Man listen, I’ll do anything to win. I’ll kidnap my momma to win.”
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem necessary, as Cleveland has done plenty of winning this season. As of Wednesday, it is the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference at 44-18 and two games ahead of the pursuing Toronto Raptors.
Considering the Cavaliers made the NBA Finals last season as the No. 2 seed in the East behind the Atlanta Hawks, they are in a favorable position with 20 games remaining.
However, the timing of James openly wishing for another player is interesting, since Chris Mannix of The Vertical recently reported there were chemistry problems between the future Hall of Famer and teammate Kyrie Irving. Fellow superstar Kevin Love has also had problems fitting into the offense at times since joining Cleveland before the 2014-15 season. He even had a poolside meeting with James this past offseason to talk about basketball issues.
What's more, everything in the league is viewed through the dominant prism of the Golden State Warriors this season, including the four-time MVP’s chances of adding a third championship ring to his resume. Adding a piece like Johnson, who is 10th on the NBA's all-time list of made three-pointers with 1,805, per Basketball-Reference.com, would have bolstered Cleveland's outlook heading into the playoffs.
Cleveland lost the NBA Finals a season ago to Stephen Curry’s squad, and the Golden State Warriors look even better in 2015-16 at 56-6.
The fact James was willing to move to power forward—a position Haynes said “he has never been keen on” because of the physicality that is required to bang around down low—is a testament to his understanding that something has to change for Cleveland to surpass the Warriors in a Finals rematch.
Perhaps adding a shooter like Johnson would give the Cavaliers enough lineup variations to match up with Golden State’s small-ball attack that frequently features Draymond Green at center.
Unfortunately for James, he can only pine for those possibilities because Johnson took his talents to South Beach.