29 Jun Cleveland Cavaliers 2015 Free Agency: All-in and Opt-Out
July 1 marks the start of the free agency period in the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers are probably on top of the list of teams who will be having very significant players as free agents. On top of their list is LeBron James whom they moved heaven and earth to get back last season. But aside from James, four other key players will be free agents this season, thus perhaps leaving in limbo last season’s battlery of “All-in”:
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 16, 2015
“All-in” was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ slogan during the 2015 NBA Playoffs. As Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena CEO Ken Komoroski said, via cleveland.com on 4.16.15:
“It’s our priority to be all in with our fans as the excitement surrounding the Cavs playoff run launches and continues to build. The additional festivities we have planned and everything our city has to offer will leave no doubt that we are all in this amazing journey together!”
Unfortunately, the Cavs’ manpower woes took its toll on the team as the Golden State Warriors used their own “Strength in Numbers” motto to outlast the injury-riddled Cavaliers and win the 2015 NBA title. Said winning coach Steve Kerr of the Warriors via espn.com:
“The injuries they suffered were just too much. This would have been a different series with Kyrie and Kevin Love.”
A Different Story
The complexion of the Finals series would have been entirely different had those two All-Stars played in the finals but as fate would have it, LeBron James was left out on his own aided by bench players who were suddenly thrust into the limelight. The Cavs fell two games short of winning the title and ending Cleveland’s Pro Sports title drought. But with the 2015 Finals now water under the Golden Gate Bridge, those talks are but part of history’s “What ifs?” enigmas. Nevertheless, it was a season to be thankful for and to be hopeful about for Cleveland, as LeBron said via ASAP Sports on 6.17.15:
“Well, I mean, we had many chapters. We had many chapters in the season. I don’t know. I mean, for me, it’s never a success if you go out losing. But I think we put ourselves back where this franchise needs to be, being a contender. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
They may have lost in the 2015 NBA Finals, but LeBron’s put the Cavs back to basketball relevancy and that is more important. Winning is a matter of time as long as they put in the work. That work, as described by LeBron James, begins on July 1 when the Cavs’ management try to shape their next roster during the free agency.
The irony of it all is that Cleveland’s “All-in” for the 2016 season starts with the words “Opt-out”. The irony however is only in words and vocabulary because the latter is only a prelude to the former. As espn.com reports on 6.28.15:
LeBron James will bypass his $21.6 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and become a free agent on July 1, sources told ESPN.com. The move, which was expected, marks the third time in the past six years that James will be an unrestricted free agent. This time is expected to have a different outcome, as James intends to re-sign with his current team, sources said.
When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, he signed a two-year deal that would allow him to be a free agent at the end of the first season. That first season is over and James is expected to exercise that clause. But as the report says, he does not intend to sign with another team. Instead, he wants to make sure that the Cavs management is “All-In” with giving him the right supporting cast to fulfill his promise.
A New Story
It’s a brand new story however because if James was the top priority last summer, the King is choosing a different path for this free agency, via bleacherreport.com on 6.28.15:
Sources told ESPN, however, it is James’ intention to stay somewhat removed from the Cavs’ free agency until other free agents are handled.
What does this mean? The Cavs will have other free agents this summer: J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and Kevin Love. All five were vital cogs in the Cavs’ success this season. In fact, the Cavs’ 2015 season turned around for the better when they added Smith and Shumpert from the Knicks. This is where it gets tricky because while the Cavs would want to keep all five, not all may be returning to Cleveland next season. Love should be the team’s top priority because if they let him walk away, they would have given up Andrew Wiggins for a one shot deal that fell two wins short of their goal. But will Love stay? What about the others?
When Opt-Out means All-in
— Jensen Karp (@JensenClan88) June 29, 2015
On the very day that LeBron James announced that he was opting out of his contract, he was photographed having a rendezvous with Kevin Love in LA. It’s odd for these two who aren’t supposed to be close buddies to be spending time together, especially if sources say it wasn’t official:
LeBron James & Kevin Love spent time together today in LA. Wasn't a free agent meeting, just hanging out sources said.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 29, 2015
Weren’t these two not supposed to be as close as the Splash Brothers are after Kevin Love said months back that Westbrook was his MVP? And didn’t LeBron say that he won’t actively recruit Love back to the Cleveland fold this summer? They say a picture paints a thousand words and well, that poolside photo does speak a lot. Regardless of the purpose of that meeting, it does show the two of them together: without a basketball game to play together and without a common team to play for ( they’ve opted out right?). That’s big for the Cavs and their fans because nothing brought them together on this day except mutually “hanging out” with each other. Or is it just that, really?
LeBron has gambled too much professionally, financially and personally in returning to Cleveland. He’s put his career and reputation on the line for this second tour of duty with the Cavs. It would be impossible to imagine that he would leave Kevin Love’s free agency in the hands of fate. That meeting wasn’t just about the margaritas, it was about the coming season and beyond. Again, I could be wrong, but this is what it means to go All-in by Opting-out.