Kyrie Irving seems miserable, and LeBron James’ team IS miserable.
Remember when these two crazy kids played together in Cleveland, and everything seemed hunky dory? Or, at least as hunky as dory would allow?
This just in: The grass is not always greener, even if it’s Celtics green, and the Yellow Brick Road sometimes dead-ends into a vacant lot, even if it’s in Hollywood Hills.
This also just in: The National Basketball Association is turning into the National Miserable Association.
In other malcontent news, Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans, and the Pelicans were so upset with Davis for wanting out that they refused to trade him. Jimmy Butler is with his third team in three years, the Lakers’ youngsters act like they can’t stand playing with their old G.O.A.T., Scowling DeMarcus Cousins hates everything — and he’s only the second unhappiest player on the Warriors — Kawhi Leonard hated playing for the Spurs, Paul George twice nixed the notion of playing with LeBron, and the Cavs were so done with J.R. Smith that they are paying him to stay away from the team.
Me? I could do without the half-baked “Players Only” broadcasts of NBA games, but that’s a rant for another day.
Let’s get back to the two most important players on the Cavs’ 2016 world championship team, and what we are learning from their subsequent business decisions, which is primarily this:
When the players run the league, the league isn’t run very well. But we’re all stuck with it, so too bad for us. But it is more than a little entertaining to see millionaire basketball players irate about predicaments of their own making.
Irving, for example.
Because winning was less important to him than being The Man on his team, he asked the Cavs to trade him, which they foolishly did. It was Irving’s good, though undeserved fortune that the Cavs traded him to a quality team, where he is, indeed, The Man. A miserable one at that.
One would have thought that, in his years as a teammate of LeBron’s in Cleveland, Irving would have paid attention and taken some notes on what it takes to be The Man. But, clearly, Irving did not. Anyone who has seen his pouty, petulant attitude in dealing with the media throughout this mediocre Celtics season has seen an athlete utterly clueless about what being The Man means.
Irving is much better at being The Me than being The Man. He is the poster boy for the AAU-ization of the NBA, that being the propagation of the pampered prodigy over whom adults have fawned and for whom adults have enabled since the prodigy first flashed signs of prodigy-ness. Little wonder, then, that these wunderkinds grow up to become self-absorbed me-first freelancers.
It’s too late to rein in Irving now. He is what he is, and what he is is a handful. On the court, that’s a good thing. Off the court, not so much.
But Irving is not alone. There are plenty more hard-court prodigies living in their own private basketball bubbles.
That, by in large, is the group that is running the league. It’s the group that arranges the superteams, just as they did in AAU ball, when two or three buddies decided they would play together on the same team. The proliferation of superteams in the NBA roughly coincides with the immersion into the league of players with AAU roots.
LeBron was at the forefront of that trend, and, not coincidentally, has handled it better than anyone. LeBron, perhaps more than any player in NBA history, understands what it means to be The Man. He virtually invented it.
However, that doesn’t mean that he’s immune from missteps himself. He seems to be in the midst of one now. This is the first time in his career, going back to however far you want to go back, that a team has failed to respond to his arrival.
The Lakers, in case you haven’t been paying attention, are a mess. It’s not fixable now, so the Lakers, with the greatest player in the world on their roster, will not make the playoffs this year. That’s how screwed up it is out there. The Lakers are as bad with LeBron as they were without him.
He is, of course, the lightning rod for player-built superteams. LeBron created one when he left Cleveland and went to Miami. He created another one when he left Miami and came back to Cleveland.
Now he’s left Cleveland and gone to the Lakers, and the result has been a fiasco. Neither the team LeBron left, nor the one he went to will make the playoffs this year.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Because both LeBron and Irving are proving that when the players call the shots, it doesn’t always work.
- All about LeBron: Where does the Lakers star go from here?
- Commentary: A fitting end to LeBron James' first season in Los Angeles
- Jim Ingraham: Meet Kyrie Irving ... the Ultimate Un-Warrior
- Kevin Durant picks up MVP Award as Team LeBron rallies to win NBA All-Star Game
- Jim Ingraham: Hey, Kyrie, how's that whole 'Being The Man' thing working out for you?
- Celtics 123, Cavaliers 103: Boston doesn't have Kyrie Irving, but it doesn't matter as Cleveland crushed again
- NBA: Kyrie Irving tells LeBron James he's sorry he didn't listen better when they were with Cavaliers
- Celtics 128, Cavaliers 95: Cleveland has decent start but gets blown away in second half
- Commentary: So long, LeBron, and tanks for the memories
- Cavs: Season kicks off in Toronto tonight without LeBron
- Kyrie Irving on flat-Earth comments: 'I'm sorry'
- Commentary: All things -- good and bad -- must end, including LeBron James' time in Cleveland
- LeBron James has many options -- but none really clear-cut
- Cleveland thanks LeBron, who carries Lakers past Cavs
- Jim Ingraham: You must remember this Cavs fans, a King is still a King
- Return of The King: Cavaliers' turmoil continues as LeBron James comes to town for his only visit