Listen up, Cleveland...
You all know what might happen a few days from now, and as much as you don't want it to happen, it's important to start preparing for the worst.
LeBron James might not come back.
Now take a deep breath, and move on.
Believe it or not, there is life after LeBron, and despite how much you think you love him, you'll love the team that wins a championship without him even more.
Trust me on this—even if he leaves, the Cavaliers can and will remain competitive.
All they have to do is follow these 10 steps.
LeBron? Who's LeBron?
Oh, you mean LeBum.
That's right... LeBum!
Heck, even think of him as being French if it makes it easier to hate on him.
If that guy leaves Northeast Ohio; his backyard, the place where he told us to "witness" and "believe" as if he were some savior coming to the elevate the morale of a depressed people and put Cleveland on the pro basketball map the way His Airness did in Chicago, then we have every right to turn our backs to him.
And why not? After all, he turned his back to us.
Let's add a picture of his face to the dartboard, right next to Art Modell's.
Let's boo him every time he's in town and touches the ball in a game.
And hold up signs that read, "We all did your mom too!"
Ok, that's a bit harsh. But you get the point. The organization and its fans should make it a priority to root against him. Believe it or not, it will only make following the team that much more enjoyable.
It's not like you ever had cool colors, uniforms, or logos anyhow—why not just start over and make a fresh start?
After all, what does orange, blue, black, wine, and gold have to do with Cleveland?
The city's flag is red, white and blue.
Cleveland's main industries, historically, have been manufacturing and shipping. Thus, the city's flag also features an anvil, hammer and wheel, as well as an anchor and oars.
This is a predominantly working class, blue-collar city. Where does the wine and gold come in?
How about using That Guy's exit as a reason to change the look of the team to something that better resembles the city and its people?
Heck, if That Guy can change his uniform number and re-brand himself, why shouldn't the franchise?
The fact no one can give a clear answer to the question, "Why did the Blazers fire Kevin Pritchard?" all but confirms reports he and team owner Paul Allen didn't get along.
After all, pettiness seems like the only logical explanation, considering Pritchard had proven himself to be excellent at his job, and Allen fired him just one hour prior to the draft.
How do you fire your GM an hour before the draft and then ask him to stick around a few more hours so he can manage your team's draft-day decision-making?
Anyhow, you know how the saying goes: "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
The Cavaliers need to jump all over this opportunity and lock up Pritchard, a 43-year-old Indiana native and former NBA player, with a long-term contract.
Pritchard became Blazers GM with one month remaining in 2007 season. The team finished that year with a 32-50 record.
Over the next three seasons, the Blazers averaged 48-plus wins and reached the playoffs twice.
One can only imagine what the Blazers would have done last season had Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, and Brandon Roy not gotten hurt.
The Cavaliers will be undergoing some rebuilding and Pritchard is the right man to turn the franchise around.
Everything in sports these days is superstar-centric simply due to the fact entertaining players sell tickets and move merchandise.
You can be an incredibly successful team but if there isn't a sexy face to your franchise, fans seem to lose interest.
The 2007 San Antonio Spurs were boring to watch. That's nice. The 2004 Detroit Pistons didn't have any stars. Sure.
Ask their fans how they feel about those teams. Go to Detroit and ask the first guy you see rocking a Pistons jersey what 2004 felt like.
Bliss. I'm sure.
My point is, a basketball franchise doesn't need to follow the same instruction booklet every other team uses.
Just because the trend may be to get one superstar and surround him with adequacy, that doesn't mean a team can't be designed in a manner where the whole is the sum of its parts.
Do you remember the 1992 Cavaliers team? It came two wins from reaching the Finals. Who made up its rotation?
Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Craig Ehlo, Hot Rod Williams, Mark Price, John Battle, Steve Kerr, and Terrell Brandon.
All quality players. Young and old. No holes. No egos.
After the That Guy fiasco, the Cavs should take it back to building a team comprised of guys who just want to ball.
Look at the roster Pritchard put together in Portland. When key players got hurt, reserves stepped up and plugged the holes almost seamlessly.
That's how a team should be; not one in which the star falls and everything else collapses.
The 7'3" Lithuanian has never played anywhere but Cleveland and ranks as the franchise's best in games played, rebounds, and blocks. Only you know who has scored more points.
The fans absolutely love "Z," which makes it imperative the team re-sign him—he’s a free agent—and ensure he's a Cav for life.
At 35, Ilgauskas doesn't have much—if anything—left in the tank. Still, signing him for cheap just to keep as a backup will appease die-hard fans.
What better way to tell That Guy to go, um, fly himself?
I'm just kidding.
Getting rid of West as soon as possible is a must.
1. Jamison is 34 years old and on the decline.
2. As we saw last season, Jamison didn't exactly work out in Cleveland. Granted it's not easy for a guy to be thrust into a new team and system and perform as expected, but when you're a two-time All-Star making $15 million, you have to do better than 15-and-7 with erratic shooting and shaky defense.
3. Without a sure-fire No. 1 on the team, Jamison becomes the go-to guy.
Jamison is owed $28.4 million over the next two seasons; the Cavaliers are only $7 million under cap.
Why not trade Jamison to Denver for Kenyon Martin's expiring contract? After all, the move would save Cleveland $12 million and free space for next season.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets need any excuse to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay. Jamison is clearly an upgrade over Martin and makes the team an even more potent scoring force and playoff threat.
J.J. Hickson would take over starting power forward duties.
The word out of Portland is the team is interested in acquiring Mo Williams. I can only imagine this means the Blazers have no intention of picking up Miller's $7.8 million option for the 2011-12 season.
Cleveland would benefit from bringing back Miller for a one-year rental. After all, it's more money off the books for next summer, and Miller has his best seasons in a Cavaliers uniform.
The 34-year-old Miller is a classic floor general who fit the Cavaliers' need for a leader.
Golden State won't let sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, a restricted free agent, go unless they're priced out of the running for his services.
The Cavaliers are currently around $6.8 under cap; thus, they can't offer Morrow more than a five-year, $34-million deal.
If recent deals are a good indicator, the 24-year-old Morrow could be looking at something closer to a four-year, $36-million deal.
Should the Cavaliers not be able to land him, they should turn their attention to J.J. Redick (with promise of a starting job) or Shannon Brown.
The goal would be to land the best available, low-cost, high-potential scoring guard.
Hey, it worked in 2003 when the Cavaliers gave up on the season, landed the top pick and drafted That Guy.
Why not do it again for a shot at another Ohio boy?
Columbus' Jared Sullinger is an absolute beast of a player. The 6'9", 260-pound Ohio State freshman was voted this past season's Naismith High School Player of the Year.
Anyone who watches Sullinger play cannot come away thinking he's anything but the next great power forward in the NBA.
This isn't some raw, freak athlete like Derrick Favors. Sullinger is a highly skilled basketball talent.
He took home MVP honors at the McDonald's All-American game after scoring 22 points in 24 minutes. He shot 7-11 from the field, including 2-3 on threes, and went 6-6 from the free throw line.
Sullinger is currently ranked on both DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net as likely the fifth pick in next year's draft. Obviously, it's too early to be sure, but Sullinger has looked like a No. 1 pick thus far.
Drafting him allows the team to trade Hickson for a starting point guard.
If Cavaliers organization takes all of the steps I've highlighted in this article, this whole experience will look in the rearview mirror like nothing more than a bump in the road.
Just look at the New Jersey Nets.
They were a joke until they landed Jason Kidd, after which they became one of the decade’s most successful teams. Once it became apparent the team had peaked and was starting to sour, the roster was gutted and draft picks were collected.
The Nets tanked last season to land the third overall pick, which they used on Derrick Favors.
Look at them now. The sky's the limit.
My point is, instead of doing what most teams foolishly do when things are going south—which is hang on and try to prevent an inevitable rebuilding period—the Cavs should embrace reality and use it to start over as soon as possible.
If you follow the steps I've highlighted, you will have:
- A completely new look and attitude.
- A good GM running the show for years to come.
- Jared Sullinger or a comparable stud draft pick.
- $33.2 million in cap space for the summer of 2011.
Your starting lineup for 2012 could be:
C: Anderson Varejao
PF: Jared Sullinger
SF: Tayshaun Prince
SG: Jason Richardson
PG: Jose Calderon
BE: Anthony Morrow
BE: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
BE: Jamario Moon
BE: Daniel Gibson
BE: Charlie Bell
Wouldn't this be a better all-around team even though there's clearly no bona-fide No. 1 superstar? I think so.
Have faith, Cleveland. You have options.