LeBron’s gone. The news has probably even reached J.R. Smith by this time.
When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, there were so many angry and distraught reactions, but not this time.
Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert never was more popular than he was for a few days right after The Decision, in 2010. But not this time. He seems to be drawing more heat than James.
There is less anger, less hatred and noticeably fewer promises to never cheer for James again as long as he lives now that he has become a Los Angeles Laker than there were when he went to Miami eight summers ago.
If there is a cloud of acrid smoke over northeast Ohio today it is coming from a combination of the weather and the usual sources of pollution, not from the burning of No. 23 Cavaliers jerseys.
It’s really a little surprising that Cavaliers fans are taking it as well as they have this time, especially when you consider how bleak the next few years are going to be for the guys in wine and gold uniforms without James.
Apparently, delivering the first championship in 52 years goes a long way in Cleveland. What’s done is done. For a second time.
Some people are fantasizing about LeBron playing for the Cavaliers a third time when his four-year contract with the Lakers runs out. They see him joining his son, Bronny, in the lineup, the same way Ken Griffey Sr. played alongside Ken Griffey Jr. in major league baseball.
That scenario would depend on the younger James, who enters high school this year, becoming an NBA caliber player and being drafted by the Cavaliers or coming to them in a trade in addition to his dad coming back to Cleveland again.
All of those things happening at just the right time seems unlikely. But here are five things that will happen and five things that won’t happen in LeBron’s years in Los Angeles.
Five things that will happen:
1. The Lakers will win at least 10 games more next season than the 35 they won this season. If LeBron can drag this year’s Cleveland roster to the NBA finals, that is certainly not out of reach.
Need more proof of a LeBron Effect? The Cavaliers went from 17 wins to 35 his first season out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. The Miami Heat went from 47 wins to 58 his first year with them and the Cavaliers had 53 wins when he returned in 2010-11 after having 33 the season before.
2. The Lakers will build a better roster around James than the Cavaliers did. Kawhi Leonard might be coming next season, maybe sooner. So are other people.
3. The Cavaliers will be bad for a long time, possibly so bad there will not be a lot of complaints on the nights when Fox Sports Ohio carries the Columbus Blue Jackets’ games instead of the Cavaliers.
4. The Lakers will reach at least the Western Conference championship game once during James’ four-year contract.
5. The Lakers will be in one of the NBA games nationally televised on Christmas Day.
Five things that will not happen:
1. LeBron’s legacy will not be diminished regardless of what the Lakers do as a team or what he does as an individual the next four years.
James doesn’t need another championship to define his career. The only players who have won more than the three NBA championships he already owns have played most or all of their careers with one or more of the four dynasty teams: the Celtics, the Lakers, the Jordan era Bulls and the David Robinson/Tim Duncan era Spurs.
Does anyone remember Michael Jordan’s statistics from his two seasons as a Washington Wizard? How many people know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 10.1 points a game his last season with the Lakers? Anybody remember Kobe Bryant shot 37 percent and 35 percent on field goals his last two seasons?
2. Lonzo Ball’s dad, LaVar Ball, will not cause a problem for LeBron. If he does, it will not happen more than once. Magic Johnson or LeBron won’t put a horse’s head in Lonzo’s locker but they might send a more subtle warning, like hanging a Memphis Grizzlies jersey in it.
3. James will not play all 82 regular-season games next season. Last season was the first time in his NBA career he played every game. It’s not clear if that happened because the Cavaliers desperately needed him on the floor all the time or he was proving a point to critics who said he took too much time off.
4. The Lakers will not reach the NBA championship series this season, breaking James’ streak of eight consecutive trips to the finals.
5. There will not be any shortage of LeBron coverage or Lakers coverage this season with the most famous, most gifted NBA player of the last 15 to 20 years playing for the league’s glamour franchise.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau