Can LeBron James and The Gang of Four save the Cavs from themselves?
Just what the Cavs need, right? Another subplot. The Cavs are Team Subplot. But this subplot is seismic in nature, to the point that it’s a subplot that’s become the prime plot for the remainder of this exciting, tedious, electrifying, chaotic, sloppy, sensational Cavs season.
And it’s not over yet.
In fact, it’s just starting — and not a moment too soon.
A month ago, they were dead in the water, devoid of spirit and spunk.
The franchise had flatlined. It had lost its way, egregiously so, due to one of the most monumental self-inflicted wounds ever.
As detailed by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the palace intrigue was triggered by an impromptu meeting last summer, shortly after GM David Griffin was put out to pasture. At the meeting, according to McMenamin, were Cavs front office personnel, coaches and team support staff members.
In other words — loose lips sink saps — way too many people, given the sensitive subject at hand, which was: What should the Cavs do if, during the summer, they received trade offers for Kyrie Irving?
You don’t need to be Frank Lloyd Wright to connect the dots from there. Word inevitably got back to Camp Kyrie, whose camp counselor, with his legendary divatude, wasted no time in requesting a trade.
At that point, the Cavs had two options:
Don’t trade Irving.
The Cavs, despite operating from a position of strength, since Irving still had two years left on his contract, immediately searched for the nearest eight-ball — and positioned themselves behind it.
They traded Irving.
And then all hell broke loose. For six months.
It got so bad that a team that was expected to return to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year simply stopped playing. Quit.
Desperation is the father of Desperation Jr., so Cavs GM Koby Altman responded the way any rationally thinking GM faced with a team that had quit and a LeBron James doomsday clock ticking ominously toward midnight should respond:
Altman traded half the team.
Incredibly, it worked.
Altman traded six players and a first-round draft pick for four players and a reason to believe.
The Gang of Four.
All that Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. are being asked to do is to undo the Irving trade. Make the Cavs whole again. And great again. So far, so good.
The Cavs are 6-1 since Feb. 7. They are 5-1 since Altman’s Swapapalooza, and 4-1 with The Gang of Four in uniform and playing.
The team is energized. The fans are energized. But most importantly, LeBron is energized. Since The Gang of Four joined him, LeBron is averaging a triple-double. A monster triple-double: 26.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists.
A global icon unchained is something to behold. More than at anytime this season, or perhaps anytime during his career, LeBron is making it look like a man against boys. He seemingly does whatever he wants to do, scores whenever he wants to score, and keeps on doing both until he and The Gang of Four prevail.
How should we interpret this?
One of two ways:
One, LeBron feels the Cavs once again have a chance to win it all, in which case he’ll probably stay in Cleveland.
Or, two, LeBron feels the Cavs once again have a chance to win it all, in which case he’ll probably leave Cleveland because his work here would be done.
Either way, let’s enjoy what he, The Gang of Four and selected other Cavs — Cedi Osman is the most charismatic three-points-per-game scorer in the NBA — are doing.
All of a sudden, defense is a thing again. They actually care!
In the win over Memphis on Friday night, the defense forced a season-high 23 turnovers and had a season-high 13 steals. Hey, look! They’re guarding!
Nance Jr. scored 15 points, with eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks, four steals, and he barely played half the game (27 minutes).
The Cavs are fun again!
But the business is still serious. The stakes still enormous. The pressure on LeBron and The Gang of Four still burdensome.
He and they are being asked to turn around a season, to recalibrate the focus, the intensity and the pulse of the franchise — on the fly.
They are attempting to do what’s rarely, if ever, been done before.
A championship contender has completely redefined itself at midseason, and is trying to not just recover from one of the worst decisions in franchise history, but to acknowledge the blunder, reboot and claw its way out from under the national ridicule to return again to The Finals of the Golden State Warriors Invitational Tournament.
Those are the marching orders for LeBron and The Gang of Four:
Save the Cavs from themselves.
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