BOSTON – This year’s Cavaliers season ended the same as last year’s – just sooner.
The Cavs walked off the court at the TD Garden losers to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, beaten by a team they were heavy favorites to beat.
It’s the kind of thing that could live an acidic taste in a person’s mouth.
Two years in a row. Two years the best team in the league two years exiting early by most people’s estimation. The lone difference: LeBron James shook hands with his opponents, wished them well and spoke to the media. ‘’They played an unbelievable series and they had a great game plan and they executed their game plan. I gave them good luck in the next series and congratulations on winning this one,’’ James said.
But it’s what he said in the post-game press conference that was more telling. No, don’t expect any grand revelation about his future. There’s only one sure bet: opting out of free agency. After that the future clouds up like a flash storm on a hot summer day.
James isn’t about to tip his hand regarding what he’s going to do next in his career once he makes that move. His actions have been well planned and deliberate throughout his career; expect it to stay that way. He remained vague during his press conference.
‘’I'll approach this summer with the right mindset and my team will approach it the right way. I haven't really thought about it just now,’’ he said.
James said that his goal continues to be just one thing – winning. That’s something all of the marketing deals and individual accolades can’t give him.
Kevin Garnett toiled for more than a decade for the Minnesota Timberwolves before he was finally traded to the Celtics and offered some advice.
‘’Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get youth back,’’ he said.
But there’s little doubt that James cherishes loyalty to his home town, but ultimately he should and will do what is best for him.
‘’(I’m) kinda still trying to figure out what went wrong in this series and things we did right. We'll see what happens.’’
Here’s guessing that the ‘’see what happens’’ involves changes to the coaching staff, meaning the exit of coach Mike Brown. Internal strife in recent days has been well documented and confirmed and James’ statements can be read as a quasi-critique of his current coach.
‘’A friend of mine told me today after the game, 'I guess you have to go through a lot of nightmares before you finally accomplish your dream and that's what's going on individually with myself,’’ he said.
But is Brown the equivalent of a nightmare? James didn’t exactly provide a ringing endorsement for him after the game.
‘’We had good game plans going into the game. Sometimes we could have made some better adjustments throughout the course of the game,’’ he said. ‘’ But for the most part we had a game plan and we tried to go out and execute it. Did it always work? No. Did it work sometimes? Yes.’’
Ultimately, coaches develop game plans and players carry them out. There’s no doubt that the players didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Still the major knock on Brown, who deserves heaping praise for getting an offensive stud to think defense first, has been that when it comes to in-game adjustments, he’s lacking.
James validated that perception with that statement. That is a message to owner Dan Gilbert, who had his own words for his team after Game 5. He wasn’t pleased with the effort or the intensity.
That starts at the top. Brown would not address his future in his post-game press conference.
“Dan Gilbert has been terrific to me from day 1 and I understand what my job is. I’m not thinking about that right now,’’ he said. ‘’What I’m concerned about and what I’m thinking about is how we lost the game. That’s my biggest worry right now.’’
Here’s guessing that list of priorities changes first thing this morning. And they will also change for the team and Gilbert. Because as long as James isn’t saying I’m getting out of here, the Cavs have a chance to sign him.
‘’It's all about winning for me. The Cavs are committed to doing that. But at the same time, I've given myself options to this point,’’ he said. ‘’Me and my team we have a game plan we're going to execute and we'll see where we're going to be at.’’