If you need to know why Kyrie Irving left Cleveland for Boston, just listen to LeBron James’ press conference on media day. James, the man many consider as the best player on the planet, runs the show in Cleveland. He’s the king of Ohio. He’s got the ball in his hands on the court, he’s got coach Tyronn Lue’s ear, and he has major input on all basketball-related roster moves. On paper, Koby Altman has the title of general manager. But every final decision needs King James’ stamp of approval.
Kyrie knows Cleveland will never be his town. Kyrie knows the Cavaliers will never be his team. As long as LeBron is running the Cavs’ household, Kyrie will always be the “kid” seeking parental approval. And that’s how LeBron see’s Kyrie. Even though they only have a seven-year age gap, LeBron treats Kyrie as “the kid.”
“I tried to do whatever I could do to help the kid out and be the best player he could be. Tried to help him be a better leader, be a better scorer, a better floor general, a better defender, a better passer, getting guys involved, a better leader vocally,” James said. “I tried to give him everything and give him as much of the DNA as I could.”
LeBron sounded like a parent teaching his son on how to grow up to be a man. Well, that “kid” is all grown up now and ready to fly on his own.
“The only thing I’m upset about is that he took a lot of the DNA and the blueprints up to Boston, that’s the only thing I’m upset about really,” James said. “Other than that I wish the kid great health. The kid wanted to do what was best for his career and I give credit to our GM, Koby (Altman), and our ownership for granting that for him. Other than that, I don’t have much more to say. It was so many different emotions. I tried to do whatever I could to help the kid be as great as he could be. That’s it.”
LeBron remains in Cleveland. Kyrie is now in Boston. Battle lines have been drawn for two basketball alpha males. The Celtics and Cavaliers are on a collision course in the postseason and NBA fans can’t wait to see it.
OneManFastBreak.net projects which eight teams will make the Eastern Conference playoffs:
1-BOSTON CELTICS: The Celtics were ahead of schedule when they finished with the best record in the East (53-29) last season. Isaiah Thomas and Co. reached the conference finals, but got dispatched by LeBron and the Cavs. Cleveland exposed Boston’s weaknesses during the series and that playoff loss got the ball moving on a blockbuster deal that could shift the balance of power in the East. Team executive Danny Ainge charged up his cellphone and got to work. His first major move was signing free agent Gordon Hayward. Hayward, who played for coach Brad Stevens at Butler University, is a 20-plus scorer who is just entering his prime. Then Ainge made shockwaves across the basketball landscape by trading Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a couple of draft picks to Cleveland for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. Essentially, it was Thomas for Irving. Armed with two bonafide All-Stars in Irving and Hayward, two superb role players in Al Horford and Marcus Smart, and two young studs in Jaylen Brown (20) and Jayson Tatum (19), the Celtics could threaten the Cavs as the top dog in the East. Prediction: 55-27
2-CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: For someone who just lost his All-Star running mate and months removed from a stinging NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, LeBron James seems to be in a good mood these days. He was seen working out at UCLA with his new BFF Kevin Love and has been reunited with his old BFF, Dwyane Wade. Must be good to be The King. The Cavs completely retooled their roster during the summer. Aside from the megadeal with Boston, they also added veteran guard Derrick Rose. Even though D-Rose and D-Wade are past their prime, they’re still capable scorers who can carry the offense when LeBron sits. Jae Crowder is a solid two-way player who can play either forward position. The big question mark is the health of Isaiah Thomas. The former Celtics guard is scheduled to return in January. If he is anything close to the Isaiah Thomas in Boston, then the Cavs could roll out a lineup of five All-Stars that could destroy the East. If not, then the Cavs drop a peg and chase Boston for the best record in the conference. Let’s assume Thomas will be back close to form. Prediction: 54-28
3-WASHINGTON WIZARDS: John Wall gave Wizards fans a taste of playoff drama when he sank a walk-off 3-pointer against the Celtics. Now Wizards fans expect a little more out of their superstar point guard and backcourt partner Bradley Beal. Wall and Beal have flourished in Scott Brooks’ Princeton-style offense. Washington’s dynamic duo both averaged 23.1 points per game, but Wall greatly improved his player efficiency rating (23.2) and became a much better playmaker as he got more comfortable in Brooks’ system. The Wizards ranked fifth in scoring (109.2) in 2016-17, but if they’re going to challenge Boston and Cleveland they need to improve on their 21st ranking on defense (107.4). Prediction: 52-30
4-TORONTO RAPTORS: If it weren’t for the Cavs, we may be talking about the Raptors in a different light. The Cavs are the Raptors’ No. 1 nemesis, losing twice to LeBron and Co. in the postseason. Toronto lost 4-2 to Cleveland in the 2016 playoffs and got swept 4-0 in the 2017 playoffs. This season the Raptors will get a Cavs reprieve. But the end result should be the same. This time they’ll get bounced in the second round by the Celtics. Prediction: 49-33
5-MILWAUKEE BUCKS: The Bucks will go as far as MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo takes them. Giannis, 22, made great strides last season as face of the franchise. The Greek Freak carried Milwaukee to the playoffs, raising his scoring average to 22.9 and posting career highs in rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), steals (1.6), and blocks (1.9). Scary part is Giannis still has room to grow. If coach Jason Kidd can find a consistent second scorer to help Giannis, the Bucks could challenge the Raptors and Heat for the fourth spot in the conference. Shooting guard Khris Middleton is healthy again and forward Jabari Parker is targeting February for his return from ACL surgery. When all the pieces are there, the Bucks will be a tough out in the playoffs. Prediction: 48-34
6-MIAMI HEAT: Head coach Erik Spoelstra showed why he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA when he nearly got the Heat into the 2017 playoffs despite starting 11-30. Miami made a complete turnaround, finishing 30-11 and coming within a whisker of making the eighth seed. That late-season surge should carry over into 2017-18 as the Heat should finish in the top five. After getting spurned by the top free agents, Heat executive Pat Riley decided to keep it in-house and stay within the Heat family. Riley re-signed Dion Waiters and James Johnson to long-term deals, allowing the Heat to keep the core group that came together in the second half. Riley described Waiters as “a player that has no fear in taking the last shot.” If Waiters can fill the role of closer and learn how to consistently play off Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, the Heat has the potential to challenge the Raptors for the fourth spot in the conference. Prediction: 45-37
7-DETROIT PISTONS: After greatly underachieving the past two years, it’s time for the Pistons to finally grow up. It starts with 24-year-old Andre Drummond. This is Drummond’s fifth year in the league and if he’s truly one of the game’s best centers then he needs to carry the franchise on his back and lead it to the playoffs. Avery Bradley is a much-needed addition to the starting lineup. Bradley, considered by many experts as the best on-ball defender in the league, brings toughness, leadership and playoff experience to the Pistons. Bradley can lock down the opposition’s best guard, allowing coach Stan Van Gundy to hide Reggie Jackson on defense. Prediction: 38-44
8-CHARLOTTE HORNETS: The Hornets got some bad news during the preseason when swingman Nic Batum tore ligaments in his left elbow and is expected to miss six weeks. This puts a lot of pressure on point guard Kemba Walker, who is coming off a season in which he knocked down 240 threes and posted a career-best 23.9 points per game. The acquisition of center Dwight Howard should help improve an average defense. Prediction: 36-46
Last three out: Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, New York Knicks