Over the weekend I read this piece by the chronically underrated Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. It talked about LeBron James' stony reaction to the Cavs' exit from the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the Orlando Magic.
Now, much of the story focused on how happy LeBron was in Cleveland, in particular questioning his confidence in his front office. That's a familiar theme, one answered at least superficially by Tom Withers' AP article today.
However I'm less interested in LeBron's eventual team and more interested in LeBron himself. The root of my interest, I supposed, stems from memories of the early 90's. The Blazers had a fantastic team with Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter...you know all the names by heart. They hammered on everybody in the regular season. In 1990 they got to the NBA Finals but couldn't get past Isiah Thomas and the Pistons. In 1991 it was Magic Johnson in the Western Conference Finals. In 1992 it was Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals once again. Each step of the way the Blazers had a great team with a chance, but a superstar stood in their way. Had Clyde remained healthy and they continued their run it seems extremely likely that Jordan would have remained that roadblock as long as he stayed on the hardwood instead of the outfield grass.
This is my fear with LeBron. I think the Blazers are going to ascend into the league elite. I think that's going to happen soon. I think they'll need a couple seasons yet before we can put them in legitimate Finals territory. A couple years smells an awful lot like LeBron time. Any team he's on has to be considered a threat. Even though he's angry and disheartened now you don't have to stretch very far to see him holding up a trophy someday. Does anyone else have nightmares of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge walking off the court on the other end, heads down and shaking?
My first question: Who do you think LeBron is? Can he have a Jordan-type effect on the league where once he ascends the podium he's going to kick everybody else down the stairs until he's good and ready to step down? If not, how far short does he fall? Should we be scared of this guy? (Understanding, of course, that there are plenty of more immediate threats to fear first. Just projecting ahead...)
My second question: What do you see happening 3-5 years down the road if and when the Blazers come up against LeBron? Do you foresee any possible solution?
My final question: Assuming LeBron's free agency does give him some measure of mobility, are there any situations which frighten you more than him remaining in Cleveland? What would be the worst-case scenario for the Blazers were they to be Western contenders and have to play against him?