Darius Garland Laughed at Idea of Discussing LeBron James Returning to Cavs

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 20, 2022

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)
AP Photo/Nate Billings

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland isn't buying the idea LeBron James could return for a third stint with the Cavs.

Garland laughed when asked about that prospect by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic and said he doesn't expect it to happen. He added the current generation of Cleveland players are focused on making the playoffs without LeBron having to lead the way.

"Our guys want to make our own legacy," Garland said Saturday. "It's a new look, a new feel. It's a rebirth in Cleveland. It would mean a lot to all of us."

James, 37, wouldn't discount the possibility of a return to the Cavaliers, telling Lloyd the "door's not closed on that," but he added the only true focus for the latter stages of his career will be trying to play at least one season with his son, 17-year-old Bronny James.

"My last year will be played with my son," he said. "Wherever Bronny is at, that's where I'll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It's not about the money at that point."

Bronny is eligible for the 2024 NBA draft, and LeBron's declaration adds a unique layer to how he'll be judged as a prospect over the next two years.

Although there would be a certain amount of symmetry if Cleveland drafts the younger James and thus brings back LeBron to close out his career, the strength of the team's core makes it unlikely.

Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have carried the team to a 35-23 record this season. The team also picked up Caris LeVert ahead of the trade deadline and will eventually get Collin Sexton back from a knee injury suffered in November.

So the Cavs, for the first time in decades, are in a good position to find long-term success without James as a cornerstone piece of the roster.

That doesn't mean the front office would turn down a reunion if it becomes a possibility, but it's no longer a must-have component of a winning squad.