We Cleveland fans should be used to this by now.
The Boston Celtics sent LeBron James and the Cavaliers back to Cleveland to admire all of their regular-season accomplishments and ponder their future.
……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.”
Despite his sixth career playoff triple-double, James is headed for another early offseason after winning a second MVP award and leading the Cavs to an NBA-best 61 wins and a home-court advantage they never got to use.
“The fact that it’s over right now is definitely a surprise to me,” James said. “A friend of mine told me, ‘I guess you’ve got to go through a lot of nightmares before you realize your dream.’ That’s what’s going on for me individually right now.”
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The LeBron watch began at 10:53 p.m., when Rondo dribbled out the last 14 seconds and the Celtics began celebrating their 4-2 victory in the best-of-seven series. James is eligible to opt out of his contract this summer, a move that would make the two-time MVP – and zero-time NBA champion – a free agent and set off a scramble for his services from New York to Miami to Los Angeles and, of course, back in Cleveland.
“I want to win. That’s my only thing, my only concern,” James said. “I’ve always prided myself – it’s all about winning for me and I think the Cavs are committed to doing that. But at the same time, I’ve given myself options to this point. Me and my team, we have a game plan that we’ll execute and we’ll see where we’re at.”
James scored 27 points with 10 assists, and his 19 rebounds matched a career-high and were the most he’s ever had in a playoff game. But he also had nine turnovers, and he may have been hobbled by an elbow injury that limited him to dunks and short jumpers, going 8 for 21 from the floor overall.
“I just told him, ‘Keep your head up, man. I’ve been there,”‘ said Garnett, who was a star without a title in Minnesota for more than a decade before joining the Celtics and leading them to their NBA-record 17th championship in 2008. “‘You have a very, very, very bright future. Continue to work and make decisions based on you and your family.”……
……It was the second straight year Cleveland has finished the regular-season with the No. 1 overall seed, and the second in a row that they have failed to get out of the East. Last year, they lost to Orlando in the conference finals, an exit that left James so shaken he skulked off the court without shaking hands.
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Or that, in referencing his pending decision in free agency, James flatly spun the usual tale of winning being the only thing, and that his team would make the best decision for him, but that in no way was he speaking of his actual basketball team?
“Me and my team, we have a game plan that we’re going to execute, and we’ll see where we’ll be at,” James said.
What does it mean that the team with the best record in basketball just lost to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, an outcome James claims doesn’t factor into his decisions?
“I didn’t play this season wondering what I was going to do in the offseason,” he said.
Nobody knows what it means. Probably not even LeBron. But still, that’s the question that fans, scribes and team executives alike will frantically try to answer.
One person does not a team make. James is a great talent, but he’s got a way to go before he matures. As for him staying in Cleveland, look for him to go to New York once they make him an offer he won’t refuse. Money talks, bullshit walks.