Here’s what we learned from a memorable week in Cleveland.
The LeBron James rumors have started again.
There’s no avoiding the LeBron rumors after this past weekend. The former Cavalier went out of his way to repeatedly praise the Cavs, claimed to be Cleveland’s third all-star, took shots at the Los Angles Lakers and told his favorite journalists in Cleveland that he hasn’t closed the door on a return.
It’s easy to see how LeBron is frustrated. This is shaping up to be the third time in four years James hasn’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs which is not something that had happened to LeBron in his previous 13 seasons before joining the Lakers. LeBron still appears to be an outsider destined to lose a potential power struggle within the Lakers organization as hinted at by Marc Stein.
LeBron knows what he’s doing when it comes to dropping quotes to the media and we’ve never seen him be this straight forward before. This shows that he’s using the threat of the Cavs as leverage while also laying the groundwork for a possible departure through free agency in 2023 or an unprecedented trade if needed. You simply can’t keep upping the temperature like this before it reaches a boiling point. Tensions are only going to keep rising if the losing continues.
So what does this matter for the Cavs?
Every move the Koby Altman and company make going forward will be viewed through the prism of how this affects the possibility of a LeBron return — at least by some — even if the front office was always prepared for this contingency. As a result, the Collin Sexton and Caris LeVert extension talks this offseason become more complicated than they already were. Trading future draft picks for win now players in the off-season or during the 22-23 season isn’t something you would do lightly knowing that James could be back in the fold.
Even though we’d like to pretend the Cavs don’t need him anymore, the most feasible way for the Cavs to win a championship within the next decade is still by adding LeBron James. The rumors around a possible return should only ramp up the closer James gets to a resolution in Los Angeles. Needless to say, the March 21 game in Cleveland got a whole lot more interesting.
Evan Mobley can make anything basketball related exciting.
It’s hard to be impressed over a performance in an event as contrived as the Taco Bell Skills Challenge but Mobley has a way of doing the impossible. The rookie displayed a shooting confidence we haven’t seen much of this season when he went 6 for 8 in the shooting drill and secured the win by swishing a half court shot.
Mobley’s shooting has been the weakest part of his game this season as evidenced by shooting 26.5% from three and 67.2% from the line. Despite the low percentages, he’s still finding ways to score somewhat efficiently with a 51.8 effective field goal percentage while scoring 14.9 points per game this season.
Mobley may become a great offensive player even if he never develops an outside shot. However, he can become a dominate one if he can become a catch and shoot threat like he displayed on Saturday night.
Jarrett Allen is the best.
Most professional athletes aren’t relatable. I don’t know what it’s like to have millions of dollars and there’s a good chance you don’t either. But we can tell when athletes are genuine which usually makes someone much more likable.
Nobody appeared more genuine this All-Star weekend than Jarrett Allen. From the stories about finding out he was an all-star while playing Pokémon to his fit on Saturday night and his response, it’s safe to say no one is more comfortable in their own skin.
We need more Jarrett Allens in sports.
Jarrett Allen vs. Joel Embiid may not be completely one sided.
The NBA all-star game is one of the most unique sporting events. The first three quarters are entertaining but do not resemble any form of competitive basketball. That changes quickly as the fourth quarter, if it’s close, becomes some of the most captivating basketball played all year. The best players in the world sharing the court trying to win a glorified pickup game. There’re few things better.
Allen closed the game for Team LeBron due to his ability to guard Joel Embiid. Embiid had his way with Allen a few weeks ago when he dropped a 40 point triple-double in a win over the Cavs which included a disrespectful dunk over Allen.
Allen made up for it a little on Sunday night. Allen registered a block on Embiid in the fourth and held his own against Team Durant’s leading scorer in the final frame. LeBron might not have had a chance for a walk-off shot if it wasn’t for Allen keeping Embiid in check.
You don’t want to make too much of it, but it was encouraging to see Allen have some level of success against Embiid after what happened the last time they shared the court. The Sixers are a team the Cavs could face in the playoffs. How they do will likely depend on how well Allen can contain Embiid.
It’ll be interesting to watch this matchup play out over the remaining three matchups and possibly more this season.