Twentieth-century U.S. diplomat Averell Harriman once said he felt as if he had spent his entire life at a dinner party from which the guest of honor had already departed.
Well, he would have felt right at home on Monday afternoon during the Cavaliers' annual media day at the team's practice facility in Independence.
Twenty players were on hand. One player who had been there the past four years was absent — and his name was mentioned seven times during the first three minutes.
The same name was uttered 33 times during the first 49 minutes of group interviews. And that's not counting other references to him, such as the team's putative new leader, Kevin Love, calling him "the best player in the world" three times.
The identity of the missing man should be blatantly obvious. Since Sept. 9, 1994, his name has appeared in the Beacon Journal an astounding 11,474 times.
Ironically, the first mention was in conjunction with a football game:
“The East B I team ran only 11 offensive plays but scored on five of them to beat Patterson Park 34-8 last week in a Pee-Wee Football Association game.
“Lebron James scored three of the TDs, running 50 and 18 yards for two of them and catching a 28-yard pass from Michael Smith for the other.”
Yes, we spelled his name wrong (the “B” is uppercase), but it didn’t take us long to figure it out.
Today, he is among the most famous people on the face of the Earth. Google him and you’ll get 127 million hits.
So he wasn't there Monday, but he was.
The first two questions to coach Tyronn Lue were about how the team would look in the wake of LeBron's decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
Neither Lue nor anyone else had a definitive answer. But everyone agreed things will be very, very different, both on and off the court.
For starters, there was a lot more room for the media wretches to move around this year. Although a slew of area writers and broadcasters were on hand, ESPN was not. Neither was NBA TV. Nor USA Today. Nor the New York Times. Nor any of the many writers from China who attended in the recent past.
As reporter Joe Vardon of the Athletic said to Lue, "The spotlight is gone."
"I'm still here!" Lue shot back, smiling.
Lue, who struggled both physically and mentally last season, seemed rested and eager to start trying to put together a mysterious puzzle that now includes a bunch of veterans and a bunch of youngsters but not the best player in the game. He promised the team would be in better shape and run more, but said it would take time to sort out who plays where, when, for how long and how.
"Things are invented when there's a need," observed 16-year vet Kyle Korver.
Korver doesn't know what the new Cavs will look like, either, but said the players would need to unlearn some of their LeBron-era habits and learn some new ones.
"We're going to evolve," he said. "We will be playing a different type of basketball. If we don't, we're not going to be that good."
Although Korver wouldn't declare that Love is the new team leader — "We'll find out," he said. "We'll find out." — everyone else wearing wine and gold seemed certain of it.
The spotlight, dimmed though it may be, is very much on Love — and not only for his superb basketball skills. His willingness last winter to open up about his struggles with anxiety has turned him into something of a national spokesperson on mental health, including an extended interview last month on the "Today" show.
On the court, Love has moved up from the third offensive option three years ago (behind LeBron and also-departed Kyrie Irving) to the main man.
He also is expected to be the main man off the court, doing what he can to fill the massive leadership void left by the guy who wore No. 23. Love took a step in that direction during the summer, organizing voluntary workouts in Florida, just as LeBron had done in recent years on the West Coast.
Only one thing is crystal clear. As Korver put it, "Life's going to be a lot different going forward for all of us."
Including the fans.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31