It Ain't Easy Being LeBron James' Teammate

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterApril 1, 2016

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, back, talks with Kyrie Irving in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Playing on the same team as LeBron James carries obvious advantages.

But it isn't as easy as most would think.

This has nothing to do with James the player, mind you. His presence alone can completely change the effectiveness of his teammates, vaulting them from reserves or role players to near-All-Star status.

This goes beyond the court. Playing on a team led by James means intense pressure, media scrutiny and the seemingly endless drama that is dug up by reporters, followers of the franchise and even LeBron himself.

Wherever he's been and will go in the future, a perpetual spotlight will forever be thrust upon James and all who share a uniform with him.

Two-Ring Circus

Perhaps no athlete on the planet has been as watched, loved, hated, idolized and studied as much as James over the past 15 years.

Sometimes this can go a bit overboard, even as LeBron himself has poked fun at it.

Mike Goldfarb @MikeGoldFool

LeBron mocking the media: "Why are you eating a banana LeBron? Does that mean you're gonna slip outta Cleveland?" πŸ˜‚https://t.co/jCpDfbOcSp

James has always had a flair for the dramatic and obviously brings a lot of attention on himself and subsequently his teammates.

There was the infamous Fit In-Fit Out tweet fest of last year, a move that's once again caught fire with James in recent weeks. His unfollowing of the Cavs on Twitter caused quite an unnecessary stir, as did his comment about one day about teaming up with friends Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

What's most of this amounted to? Well, nothing, and that's what can make life around LeBron sometimes frustrating for teammates.

"I'm getting used to how much things get blown up around here," Channing Frye told Bleacher Report shortly after his trade to the Cavs in February.

Perhaps this is true, but there's no denying James has played an active role in the off-court attention that Cleveland tends to receive. It's gotten to the point where both head coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin have had conversations with him about his unusual behavior.

Of course, this season wouldn't be complete without rumors that he may end up leaving Cleveland yet again, as Stephen A. Smith told ESPN Radio (via The Big Lead).

Does this kind of media spotlight and constant drama bother those close to him?

"I really don't read too much about it anymore. You can't get caught up in what's going on outside and from what is being said about this team," Matthew Dellavedova, James' teammate for the past two years, told B/R.

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 9: LeBron James #23 and Matthew Dellavedova #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 9, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

"What I've realized about the NBA, and this isn't a knock on you or anyone else, but what goes on on the inside is often, not all the time, but sometimes very different from what's reported or being said."

The media is allowed inside an NBA locker room for less than an hour on game days, with half of this availability coming before tipoff. During this time, many stars, including James, refuse to address reporters.

Although he doesn't speak, LeBron definitely makes his presence felt.

Teammates who are open to answering questions have to do so over James' occasionally blasting speakers, leading to shouting back and forth between player and reporter just to get a conversation in. No other Cavalier dares to perform his DJ session while LeBron is doing his mandatory postgame speaking, of course.

No one will come out and complain about having James as a teammate, as they shouldn't, but it goes without saying who controls every aspect of this franchise, for better or worse.

Title or Bust

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 31:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 31, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

James' career will be defined by championships, with those around him either transforming into willing partners or being shipped elsewhere (a la Dion Waiters). The pressure to win comes from all angles for James' teammates, but mostly from within the Cavs locker room.

"It's not so much the external expectation; it's more the internal expectations of the team and coaches and people on the inside," Dellavedova told B/R.

"You want to have those aspirations and goals, because that obviously means you've got a good team and a good chance of doing it [winning a title]. I think you have to welcome that and make the most of it because, you know, it's not always going to be like that. Whether you're on this team or another team, who knows what happens in two, three, four, five, six years? So you have to make the most of right now and do what you can."

Dellavedova joined the Cavaliers in the summer of 2013 as an undrafted free agent. That team, coached by Mike Brown and sporting No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, was a far cry from the franchise that just wrapped up its fifth (ever) Central Division title and is the favorite to reach a second straight NBA Finals out of the East.

At the time, James was still with the Miami Heat, a team arguably more scrutinized than any in league history.

"Winning in Miami was way more pressure than this," James recently told Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. "In Miami if you didn't win you bust, straight up."

The stakes are the same now. The main difference? James is 31 and may only have a precious few years remaining where he can carry a franchise. More than ever, it's up to his teammates to help shoulder the load.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 1: Kevin Love #0 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on against the Indiana Pacers during the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 1, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 111-
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

"I think it's definitely urgent to win with the team we have now," Kevin Love told Haynes. "There's definitely a sense of urgency, but I think that's a good thing. Bron's the best player in the world, man. I guess in some ways it comes with the territory."

This type of urgency means different things for different players. Love is 27, Dellavedova 25. If they don't personally win it all this year, one would presume they still have plenty of time left in the league. Again, it's the LeBron factor of playing next to one of the NBA's greatest that applies that extra pressure every day. Veterans of the team are letting others know this could be a once-in-a-career opportunity.

"It's something he [James Jones] has talked about," Dellavedova said. "Mo [Williams] talked about [how] you don't always get the chance to be on a team like this, so you have to make the most of it."

Kyrie Irving, the team's youngest player at 24, knows what a championship would mean for all involved.

"I know that I want to win based for my legacy, but also when you have a great player like that, such as LeBron, you want to win for him as well," Irving told Haynes.

"You definitely want to have an impact on what the success is for a championship run. I don't want him to ever feel that he has to shoulder as much of the load because as a leader of this team, I want to reflect some of that off of him."

Being James' teammate is an incredible opportunity, one that could be described as fortuitous, advantageous or even lucky. Just don't call it easy.

Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @CavsGregBR.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited. Stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise sourced and are current as of March 31.


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