So LeBron James returned to the site of The Game (which, yes, now deserves capital letters, and yes, will have a YouTube link with any mention on this site). And things weren’t going so bad in the first half. King James had 15 points and the Cavaliers were down by just 5 points (they trailed by as many as 12 in The Game).
Unfortunately, LeBron was fouled by Nazr Mohammad (who will now be known as “the most evil player in the Association”) and sprained his left index finger. He wasn’t on the bench to start the second half, and when he returned, he was wearing a dapper mock turtleneck-suit combo. Which looked pretty damn nice, but wasn’t exactly helpful to the Cavaliers cause. They lost by 35. Ouch.
Now if this game proved anything to me, it’s that without LeBron, the Cavaliers are a team without an identity. No identity at all. Not even close. It’d be easy to take a cheap shot and say that without LeBron, they’re a D-League team or a CBA team, but that’s not true. They’re still a team with some quality NBA players who can rebound and play defense. But the entire Cavaliers offensive identity is LeBron. Option 1: give to LeBron. Option 2: set up LeBron. Option 3: post up LeBron. Option 4: clear out for LeBron. Option 5: let LeBron create, and maybe, just maybe, if the defense triple-teams him, he’ll kick out to someone else.
When you take away the only true offensive option on any team, they’re going to be pretty bad. I feel like, offensively, the Cavaliers without LeBron are worse off than the Lakers without Kobe Bryant. Because at least when it comes to the Lakers, they have a system -- the triangle offense -- that can mask the absence of Kobe to some extent (for example, look at the 2006-07 opener, when Kobe was out, and the Lakers beat the Suns 114-106). I have yet to see anything in the 2+ years of the Mike Brown era that resembles an offensive system, or plan that can work without LeBron.
The other thing this game proved is that LeBron is the MVP. He’s still averaging 31-8-8, and the Cavs are on pace to win 46 games. Without LeBron, they’re the 76ers. Not terrible (i.e. the Sonics or Wolves) but just boring and non-competitive in the grand scheme of things. LeBron is more than the straw that stirs the drink. He IS the drink.
Now the Cavs are listing LeBron as day-to-day, but the only “day” that matters to me is Sunday. If LeBron doesn’t play against the Celtics in Boston, not only am I going to be very disappointed, but the only thing I’ll be Witness to is a very bad Cavaliers loss.