Speculation on LeBron: We Do Overkill Well

Avery Johnson, the coach turned announcer, is "rooting for Cleveland.'' I'm rooting for a moratorium. Wishing there were not one mention of LeBron James until July. As if that's possible.

This will be the summer of our dyspepsia. We're going to be sick of the speculation. We already are.

That the Boston Celtics knocked the underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA playoffs Thursday night became less important than the fact Mr. James will become a free agent July 1.

He'll be one for a while, as you are going to be reminded almost hourly, especially in Cleveland, New York, Miami, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles, cities with teams believing they will be signing LeBron.

A year ago the supposition dealt with Brett Favre. Finally he joined the Vikings. Now we're saddled with LeBron, although that story might serve to push the one on Tiger Woods slightly to the side.

We do overkill very well in our media, if not in our minds.

ESPN already has posted a poll asking the viewing audience where it thought LeBron would be playing next season. How about Tierra del Fuego?

Buzz Bissinger, who wrote a book with LeBron - as well as the better-known work on Texas prep football, "Friday Night Lights'' - said on ESPN radio he figured James would leave the Cavs, probably for New York. That would delight not only all conspiracy theorists but NBA commissioner David Stern, who wants to see the Knicks become a factor again.

But Bissinger conceded he was guessing along with everybody else.

What I'm guessing is that those who hoped for a Kobe Bryant-LeBron James matchup in the Finals won't be terribly enthused, Stern included.

But that's the charm of sport. One-to-five shots occasionally run up the track. Control pitchers sometimes walk the bases loaded. And the team with the best regular-season record in pro basketball comes unglued in the playoffs.

Or as the great Jim Mora reminded when coaching the New Orleans Saints, "You think you know, but you don't know and you never will know.''

What we do know is the Cavaliers are finished for yet another season. What we don't know is whether LeBron is finished with the Cavs. Which is acceptable for the time being, other than the residual effect.

Meaning the headlines in the New York tabs, already hinting - or is that hoping? - the two-time MVP will be heading to Madison Square Garden. But with Dwyane Wade in Florida, why wouldn't James go to the Miami Heat? Then again, with the Russian billionaire having taken over the Nets and New Jersey probably getting the No. 1 pick in the lottery, LeBron might be better off there.

This is what we do in the news business. Dwell on conjecture. What might take place is more tantalizing than what actually did take place. Cavs lost? Big deal. LeBron's future? A very big deal.

What the Celtics-Cavs series emphasized is that one player cannot win championships by his lonesome. Dare we bring up even the sainted Michael Jordan, who needed Scottie Pippen and a supporting cast? The cast that supported LeBron for the most part was unsupporting.

James took a few knocks after Game 5, the one in Cleveland that probably decided the series, when he wandered about, eliciting claims LeBron intentionally was trying to lose to end his tenure with the Cavs. What nobody understood was how much his banged-up left elbow was a factor.

James played well enough Thursday, with 27 points (although only 8 of 21 from the floor), 19 rebounds and 10 assists. That he also had nine turnovers could have been because he tried to force the issue. For certain he tried.

"A friend of mine told me after the game,'' James said in a postgame interview carried by ESPN, " ‘I guess you're going to have to go through a lot of nightmares before you finally accomplish your dream.' And that's what is going individually for myself right now.''

What's going for the Cavs is easy to surmise. They're caught in a whirlpool of confusion. Home-court advantage was of no help, and neither was LeBron James.

"First of all,'' said James, when someone wondered if he had a particular team in mind, "I want to win. That's my only thing, my only concern.''

He won games in Cleveland but not the games he and the Cavs most needed to win. The last game perhaps was his last game with the team. Or perhaps was not.

Sorry. There I go echoing the very things I criticize. Root for a moratorium. Or Cleveland.


As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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