It’s been no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been struggling since the turn of the year.
Posting a losing record in January, the first losing month for LeBron (min. 10 games) since 2006, there has been a lot of speculation as to if the Cavs can possibly repeat against a revamped Golden State Warriors team.
This sudden stretch of losing for the defending champs has also caused some possible internal problems to be brought to the forefront by the media and by LeBron James himself.
He recently made some comments regarding his team’s status as being “top heavy” and the need for them to attain another “playmaker” in order to balance things out.
For anyone who has followed LeBron and the Cavs for the last three seasons, you know that come this time, right before All Star break, the Cavs tend to struggle and everything seems to be crumbling down in the eyes of the media.
LeBron has made it a habit to publicly point out his team’s struggles when this stretch ensues as a way to possibly fire up his team and let management know that it’s time to make some moves. He’ll usually insinuate these sentiments by saying things like “we’re not where we need to be” or “we’re not a championship team right now.”
This year, however, things have been a little different.
With recent losses to teams like the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Kings, the Cavs look like a team that can’t even make it out of the Eastern Conference. LeBron, some of his teammates, and especially the media have been all over this and it has sparked some criticism that seems unwarranted in Lebron’s eyes.
One of the NBA’s biggest critical personalities is Charles Barkley who used his platform on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” to express his feelings about Lebron’s recent comments about his team’s needs.
“He’s the best player in the world,” Barkley said. “Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete?”
He also stated,
“The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history. He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted [Iman] Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver…”
To this LeBron reacted in a big way, claiming that he is “fed up” with biting his tongue when it comes to these things.
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” LeBron said. “I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying. All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.”
What’s interesting about this is how personal it has seemed to get.
The media/player relationship has never been the best in sports, especially when former players become a part of the media.
As a former player, you understand things much differently than just the average media person. Therefore, your criticism will be treated differently from current players because your resume while playing the sport you’re commenting on is documented and up for debate as well.
With this understanding, I believe that Barkley’s comments about James were honest, but only partially correct.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
On the surface, Barkley is right in that as the defending champs, and in Lebron’s case as the face of the franchise, to publicly reprimand management and say that your team really only consists of three players was wrong. Barkley described it as “whiny” which is a sentiment that many people share about James due to his penchant to complain to the refs for missed foul calls. Whiny was a wrong choice of words with the right premise. For LeBron to say that his team is too heavy implies that the supporting cast isn’t there and isn’t making an impact which is totally wrong.
Where I find Barkley’s comments to be wrong is when he said that because James believes he needs another playmaker or more roster help means that he is unwilling to compete.
When you look at a roster like the Warriors that is filled with four bonafide options to score and make plays, it’s understandable as to why LeBron expressed the need for another playmaker in order to match up with them in the Finals. Most teams who win championships typically make moves in the offseason, or around the trade deadline, that prove to be key in their subsequent championship run.
The Cavs need another move like this as the deadline approaches this season in order to bolster a roster that does lean more towards James and Irving carrying the load like they did in the Finals last season. This season, with the addition of Durant to the Warriors, that logic probably will not work and therefore, another legit playmaking option is needed.
So, both are right and wrong in this instance depending on how you look at it.
LeBron is right to defend himself because he has been the consummate role model and face of the league since he entered it in 2003 while Barkley wasn’t quite the model citizen. LeBron has three rings to show for this while Barkley has none.
So going back to the resumes, they don’t match up and after years of this kind of criticism from Barkley, because he was a former player, LeBron decided it was time to publicly throw it back in his face. This is what tends to happen when a former player-turned-media personality publicly criticizes another player because the former player is supposed to understand how hard it is to do what they do.
In this case, Barkley has no sympathy for James, which is perfectly fine, but what James said in response was perfectly fine as well, it just wasn’t done on the right platform amidst a losing stretch for his team.
Do you think James was wrong to publicly lash out at Barkley? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.