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Over the weekend, LeBron James left the door open for a possible return to Cleveland when he hits free agency the offseason after next. However, that doesn’t fit the Cavs window for several reasons.
As fun as it would be to see James donning Cavs colors one last time — and I’m not talking about a one-day retirement contract — LeBron returning to where it all began is suddenly more unrealistic than in years past, if only because where the Cavs are in their rebuild.
As James noted in his comments, he’s been watching from afar and is very impressed in what Koby Altman has built through the NBA Draft and the trade market.
“The door’s not closed on that,” James told The Athletic on Saturday. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”
James is ‘free’ in the 2023 offseason, coming off his age-39 season. He’ll likely be near the end of a marvelous NBA career at that juncture. James commented on the Cavaliers’ roster-building strategy this week, coming off impressed to say the least.
“I think Koby and those guys have done an unbelievable job drafting and making trades,” James said. “I think big fella (Allen), that acquisition was amazing for them to make that trade. Obviously, Darius Garland is a big-time player. And I think the role that Kevin (Love) is playing right now has kind of uplifted those young guys, seeing a veteran that could sacrifice, a champion that’s won a championship, all the things that he’s done, to come off the bench and play this role. I am not surprised by anything that they’re doing right now.”
So, could James actually return to Cleveland? Anything is possible, as LBJ has proven. In the past, he’s basically been able to choose his desired location.
But a Cavs’ send-off is tougher than it seems.
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In Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, the Cavaliers already have two All-Stars of their own to keep in mind, with Evan Mobley quickly developing into a star player himself. That young core is stable enough and already good enough to reach a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Assuming that sort of stability holds and the roster improves, is it worth shaking things up by bringing in a close to 40-year-old James?
“Our guys want to make our own legacy,” Garland said Saturday, per The Athletic. “It’s a new look, a new feel. It’s a rebirth in Cleveland. It would mean a lot to all of us.”
That doesn’t sound like Garland would welcome the return of The King with open arms. Sure, it’d be great for the fans to see James reunite with the city he loves, and play with an exciting young squad, but would he be willing to take a backseat and help develop a team that’s arguably a contender in the making?
When LeBron signs with a franchise, he’s accustomed to getting his own way. That starts in the front office and roster building. The man knows how to make an entrance, and he usually brings some of his friends with him.
That might not fly this time around.