Leaving is the easy thing to do

Heading into this year’s playoffs, the conventional wisdom was that if the Cavs won a title, or at least made it to the Finals, LeBron James would likely re-sign to continue his quest for a championship. But if the Cavs suffered another pre-Finals flame out like last year’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Magic, he would sign elsewhere.

Well, we all know what happened. An aging but experienced (and cohesive) Celtics team basically dismantled the Cavs in the last three games of the series. Every Celtic knew his role and team flat out executed better, both offensively and defensively.

Where does this leave LeBron? He said after the game that his team had “a plan” and was going to execute that plan. Forget the fact that a few questions before he was asked if he had a plan and answered with a resounding, “No.” Of course he has a plan. He’s being disingenuous when he says that he hasn’t thought about the different scenarios that could play out this postseason and offseason.

He’s clearly not happy with Mike Brown. And he can’t be happy with Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal or even Mo Williams, who scored well in Game 6, but was very up and down in the series. Shaq won’t be back, and Brown is probably on his way out too. He had a tough task of trying to keep team cohesion with the mid-season introduction of Jamison and the late-season loss of O’Neal. But the bottom line is that over the past two seasons he’s had more talent than his opposition and hasn’t gotten it done. If Dan Gilbert thinks that firing Brown increases the possibility that LeBron will re-up, then he’ll do it in a New York minute.

Lately, we’ve been hearing the rumors that John Calipari is at the top of LeBron’s list, which is funny because he’s a far better recruiter than he is a coach, and recruiting isn’t going to help him at the NBA level. Over the past three seasons — two at Memphis and one at Kentucky — he has taken teams with superior talent and failed to win big games. He is a silver-tongued maestro at getting great prospects to play for him, but they’re usually gone after a year or two and end their collegiate careers with a loss. What about this spells NBA championship?

Cal doesn’t even need to come to Cleveland to coach the King. There’s also the rumor that the Bulls would hire him if they thought it gave them an inside track at signing LeBron. So even before the race for LeBron begins, there may be a mad scramble to pry Calipari out of Kentucky, where he’s spent just one-plus season with a revolving door of a roster.

There’s no doubt about it — LeBron loves this attention. His ego is justifiably immense, and as Adrian Wojnarowski wrote, LeBron and his entourage are going to milk this courtship for all it’s worth. Now that the Cavs’ early exit is complete, everyone expects the King to leave town…

…and that’s the easy thing to do.

If LeBron wants to play on a bigger stage, like New York or Chicago, or even Los Angeles, this is chance to do so. Nearly everyone would understand if he bailed on the Cavs given the way that the team played against the Celtics. Sure, LeBron is partially to blame — his Game 5 performance was pathetic and his nine turnovers in Game 6 largely offset his triple-double — but no one in his camp is going to point the finger at the King. In his world, he is never to blame. He has said that he has “spoiled” us with his usually wonderful play, so when he has a bad game or two, everyone acts like the sky is falling.

But the sky is falling, at least in Cleveland. To paraphrase Bill Simmons, if LeBron bolts, basketball is dead in The Forest City. It will deal another blow to an area of the country that is still reeling from the latest recession.

Does this matter to LeBron? Does he feel responsible to the city of Cleveland? Only he knows.

But make no mistake about it — the easy thing to do is jump ship. It wouldn’t be difficult to leave the incohesive, overpaid roster behind and start anew somewhere else. To stay is to keep fighting, to finish what he started, to embrace the adversity and frustration of the last few seasons and use it as motivation to finally bring the city of Cleveland a championship.

No matter how comfortable LeBron is in northeast Ohio, sticking with the Cavs is the tough thing to do.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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