Apparently, the deification of LeBron James is complete.
This is no king, mind you—he’s a god, or at least a demigod, if Yahoo! Sports is to be believed.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, are just so much chattel, destined to languish in the mud pits of the NBA countryside now that their nobleman hath left.
In their rather thorough 2010-11 NBA Preview magazine (now on newsstands), the omnipresent media empire—behind the expertise of their respected basketball correspondent, Kelly Dwyer—predicts that the Cavaliers will win 12 games this season.
You read that correctly: 12 games.
That Dwyer feels they’re destined for the cellar of the NBA Central Division should be obvious; however, it’s much worse than that.
They’ll be the NBA’s worst team, he says. Not only that, they’ll be worse than they were in their expansion year of 1970-71.
I remember that team. Walt Wesley, a four-year journeyman center, was their star, if you could call it that. The roster sported such hopefuls as John Warren, Luther Rackley, and Dave Sorenson.
Not exactly household names, there.
John Johnson, fresh out of the University of Iowa, showed promise as a rookie. Bingo Smith would go on to become a local legend of sorts, to the point of having his number retired by the franchise.
But it was a bad, bad team. The fledgling Cavs lost their first 15 games, won one, then lost another 12 in a row.
After that 1-27 start, the Cavaliers turned on the juice, finishing with a 14-40 flourish that practically had their fans’ heads spinning. It made their final record 15-67.
Dwyer thinks this year’s edition won’t even be that good.
Look, I’m not interested in kidding myself, or anyone else. The departure of James is a huge setback—not only in terms of talent, but psychologically, for the team and the entire region.
I’m still amazed that James didn’t get that, considering he’s from Northeast Ohio. It’s not unreasonable to suggest, looking back, that he just didn’t care.
However, to say that the Cavaliers will win only 12 games is an astonishing indictment of the players left behind.
If I were them, I’d take it personally. At some point, they have to.
The buddy system takes you only so far. The players can say they understand what LeBron did, claim they have no hard feelings, and wish him well if they want to.
But the guy abandoned them. The “All for One” slogan that adorned their arena and marketing campaigns was misinterpreted by their former teammate.
In his world, they were the “all.” He was the “one.” They didn’t give him what he apparently felt he deserved, and so he bolted.
And took 50 wins with him, if Dwyer is to be believed.
Byron Scott doesn’t believe it. He’s said on a number of occasions that this Cavaliers team has more talent, without James, than either the Nets or the Hornets did when he became their coach.
I don’t believe Dwyer either—there is enough talent and experience to field a competitive NBA team: Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, Jamario Moon, Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson—all are playoff tested, all accustomed to winning.
Where the prediction could come true would be if his strong recommendation is followed by the Cavs: Dwyer believes Cleveland should jettison the contracts of Williams and Jamison while they still have trade value, and set about the task of rebuilding.
If GM Chris Grant does that, and gets reserve players and/or draft picks in return, then yes, things could get much darker before the dawn.
Barring that, however, this Cavs team should win double what Dwyer predicts just by showing up.
If they don’t believe that as training camp approaches, then they shouldn’t show up at all.
Enough of the disrespect. The Cavaliers need to get fired up and play the 2010-11 season with a chip on their collective shoulder.
The LeBron James era is over. What comes next is up to them, and Dwyer is the latest in a long line of doubters whom they need to prove wrong.