When LeBron James went to Cleveland the first time, the Cavaliers didn’t have a winning record until his second season, didn’t make the playoffs until his third and didn’t make the NBA Finals until his fourth.
It shouldn’t take that long this time.
For all of James’ talk about how much he wants to go home and raise his family in Ohio, he wouldn’t go back if he didn’t have a chance at a championship, and the Cavaliers have a young nucleus that could help him achieve that — especially if they can supplement the roster through free agency.
Point guard Kylie Irving is only 22. Power forward Tristan Thompson is 23. Shooting guard Dion Waiters is 23. They’re joined by Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. All four are quality players who can get better by playing with James.
James is only 29, but has gone through 11 NBA seasons, including five long runs to the NBA Finals. That’s a lot of wear and tear on his legs.
So, if he is going to lead another team to the Finals, it probably needs to be sooner rather than later. Cleveland — despite struggling through a 33-49 season last year — is as good a place as most.
And all of us who enjoy seeing great athletes perform great things should hope it works out for James.
Sure, four years ago, the ESPN-produced show, “The Decision,” was a turnoff. So was the Miami Heat party in which James talked about winning six, seven or eight championships. He got that stuffed back in his face that season when Dallas beat Miami in the Finals.
He took the hit, worked hard, continued to get better and won a couple of NBA titles. He endured and learned. He apparently listened to the criticism. Notice that ESPN has had nothing to do with his latest announcement, and he is claiming there won’t be a press conference or party this time, either.
A more mature LeBron James has returned to Cleveland, and that’s a good thing.