Cavs move on without LeBron
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Surrounded by cameras and familiar faces Mo Williams hadn’t seen in months, Cleveland’s guard looked up, stretched his arms out to both sides and announced what the world has known about the Cavaliers since a fateful decision this summer.
“There is no LeBron in this building,” Williams said Monday, his voice carrying across the practice floor of Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Whether we believe it or not, he’s not coming back. This is who we’ve got. I don’t see the big TNT trailers, the ESPN trailers.
“This is what we’ve got. This is the hand we’re dealt, and we have to play the best we can.”
Like it or not, the Cavaliers are moving on without LeBron James.
For the first time in eight seasons, James, who revived the Cavs and carried them closer than they’ve ever been to an NBA title, was not at media day Monday as the Cavaliers embarked on a new – and daunting – era minus their homegrown superstar.
James was in Miami, where the two-time MVP’s talents will be on display this season with Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
His departure rocked Cleveland, the Cavaliers’ franchise and their fans, who are still struggling with the separation.
Williams was particularly troubled by James’ decision to leave. Teammates for two seasons, Williams was so hurt that he reportedly considered retirement.
In an interview with Yahoo! Williams said he lost some of his love for the game and thought about walking away from it.
“That’s how bad it got,” Williams said in the story. “I contemplated it. I really sat down and envisioned life after basketball. I really saw myself not playing.”
In his first comments since the article was published, the 27-year-old Williams, who has three years and $26 million left on his contract, backtracked on talk of quitting anytime soon.
“At some point, you have to think about what you’re going to do after you play,” he said. “It makes no sense for me with three years left on my deal to give money I’ve felt I’ve earned back. It don’t make sense, and the article wasn’t even about me retiring. It kind of got blown out of proportion.”
Williams explained that he had posted a comment on his Twitter account that may have been taken out of context, complicating matters. What is perfectly clear is that Williams was deeply affected by James’ decision and experienced the same sense of loss and betrayal as any fan.
“I felt the same exact pain,” said Williams, who will be limited in training camp by a groin injury. “I feel the same love for this organization and this team as they do. So yes, it was a time where I felt their same pain. But at the same time, when you get here and get around this organization and the new team and the new coaches, you feel excited. You get to turn things around and start something new.”
New was in abundance as the Cavaliers convened for the first time since losing to Boston in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Summer of LeBron changed everything.
Coach Mike Brown was fired and replaced by Byron Scott, who has turned teams far less talented than the one he inherited in Cleveland into winners and is excited about the Cavs’ upside. General manager Danny Ferry decided not to renew his contract, and assistant GM Lance Blanks left for Phoenix’s front office.
Center Shaquille O’Neal left after one season for Boston and guard Delonte West, whose off-the-court problems hindered the Cavaliers more than they will acknowledge publicly, is also wearing Celtics green.
These Cavs are not the same Cavs, and GM Chris Grant said any perceived post-LeBron hangover is unfounded.
“We’re looking forward to moving forward,” he said.
Maybe, but there’s no escaping a look back in the rearview mirror.
Shortly after James announced his decision during a now infamous hourlong TV special, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert accused the 25-year-old of quitting on his teammates.
Williams was asked if James quit.
“No,” he said. “This game is too competitive to quit. We ain’t playing checkers. This is basketball. You play this game long enough and anybody who’s competitive understands no matter what’s going on with you, people don’t just quit. I don’t care who you are.”
Although their national profile has lessened in the aftermath of James’s exit, the Cavs believe they still can compete at a playoff level. For months, they’ve read the unflattering predictions they’re about to slide back among the league’s also-rans.
Scott finds the negative talk inspiring.
“I kind of love that,” he said. “I’ve been an underdog my whole life. In my conversations with guys this summer, they felt the same way and that’s a good thing. So hopefully we can bring that into training camp and it’s going to carry over into the season.
“We’re going forward. We’re moving on. It’s a new era.”