It wasn’t the ending anyone expected during the regular season. After an awful performance in game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have enough in the tank to fend off the Boston Celtics.
Kevin Garnett scored 22 points and added 12 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 12 assists to beat Cleveland 94-85 in Game 6 on Thursday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. They’ll play the Orlando Magic, who are undefeated in the playoffs.
“Winning is gratifying,” Garnett said. “You’re playing the best team in basketball; the challenge is there; you don’t have to dress it up. One thing we don’t lack is confidence. We’re a veteran team and we understand when it’s time to lock in as a group. I think we did just that. I think the experience is taking over.”
So does this mean the end of LeBron James’ tenure in Cleveland? His body language at the end of the game seemed to say so. Despite shaking hands with damn near everyone in the arena afterward, he couldn’t get out of that Cavs jersey fast enough. Fans and commentators have been speculating for weeks as to where James will go if he doesn’t resign with the Cavaliers and losing this series has sent that discussion into overdrive.
Along with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire LeBron is one of the most high profile free agents this summer. Teams like the New York Knicks have been clearing salary cap space to sign at least one, if not two of these stars to their teams in the off-season. But the signings will have to be about more than money. Getting the right pieces to surround their acquisitions will be key.
Will loyalty win out or will the allure of playing in the Big Apple prove too strong for the 25 year old King James? Even if the Knicks can land LeBron and Chris Bosh they still have issues at the point and Tracy McGrady is on his last legs. LeBron and D Wade would still leave a hole at center, so the Knicks are not a lock even with two stars. (Ain’t that a itchbe?)
While some may point to LeBron’s relationship with Jay-Z as an enticement for him to go to the New Jersey Nets I’m not sold. Devin Harris is a great point guard and Brook Lopez is a good emerging center but for that he might as well stay in Cleveland with Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Big Z.
That leaves the Windy City. The Chicago Bulls have many more quality pieces with Derrick Rose, Loul Deng and Joakim Noah, but does LeBron want to play in the shadow of Michael Jordan?
We won’t have any answers for a little while and there is still the small matter of an NBA championship to be won (it’s going to be Lakers vs Celtics, Lakers in 7) but it’ll be lots of fun playing the guessing game for the next few months.