LeBron returns to podium; pleads for help?

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks after Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Sports Op-Ed

(WTNH) — LeBron James is the center of the sports universe during the NBA season, and he is even more in the media’s focus at this point of the season.

Game 3 of the NBA Finals concluded Wednesday night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered the same result as they did in Game 2, a loss. They are now down 0-3 to the Golden State Warriors.

The difference in Game 3 was that the Cavs made it more competitive. Had it not been for Kevin Durant’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, the Cavs would have been in great position to grab a win. The other noteworthy difference between the two games was the fact that LeBron actually showed up for a press conference following Game 3.

Before I get to my point, let’s throw in some disclaimers here for the fans of the Cavaliers, and LeBron James.

LeBron knows reporters want him at press conferences, and by and large he accommodates the media almost every time. And he did take some questions from a select few reporters in the locker room after Game 2. But he skipped the press conference, saying he was sick of the scheduling for the podium Q&A and it not starting on time. Other reporters covering the Finals have corroborated that, and by all accounts he could be telling the truth there.

However, I’m not giving him a free pass so easily on that issue. Which is why I was happy to see him back at the podium following Game 3. Its one thing to skip a regular season press conference, or even after Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs, hypothetically speaking. But this is the NBA Finals, where the two best teams in the league are competing for the title for the third straight season. When you talk NBA history, this is a period that will be brought up in discussion.

So why the sudden change of heart for LeBron after Game 3?

Not only did LeBron take questions from a full field of reporters, he was downright full-disclosure. At one point, it felt more like a Dr. Phil interview. He went so far as to point out that he’s never seen a team like the current lineup of the Warriors, saying that no team he’s faced before “has had this type of firepower.”

Now, LeBron can only respond to the questions that are given to him, and when asked what type of team he’s dealing with in the Warriors, you can tell he was being honest in giving accolades to them. While everyone appreciates the honesty, was there a hidden message that he was trying to get across?

His response last night suggests to me that LeBron was pitching the idea that his Cavs lineup can’t compete against the mighty Warriors.

lebron jr LeBron returns to podium; pleads for help?
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) talks to JR Smith (5) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

He could be thinking that despite his, and the Cavs’ best efforts, they can’t beat the Warriors. A noteworthy statistic from Wednesday night’s game was that LeBron and Kyrie Irving’s combined score of 77 points was the most between two teammates in a losing effort in Finals history.

Following Game 3, LeBron was asked by a reporter if the Warriors had taken the Cavs’ best shot at beating them. Part of his answer to that was, “It’s so hard to say. Personally, I gave everything I had tonight. So win, lose or draw, you live with the results.”

To be fair, LeBron did say the team will go in Thursday, watch tape, and find ways to be better. So he’s not giving in, and he wasn’t making excuses.

However, before the Finals even started this year, LeBron was asked how he felt about playing against four all-stars. He replied that it would be a challenge, but that he’s seen it before. He even implied that he might have had tougher competition when facing the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals with Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard,Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich. In his opinion, he said all five were Hall of Famers. So LeBron must have felt confident going into this series, if he had winning results against that Spurs squad.

See that interview here, posted by Cleveland Cavaliers on cleveland.com via Youtube.

I believe if LeBron still felt his current team was capable of beating the Warriors in this year’s Finals, especially at this point, we would have heard it in this latest press conference. He was humble. That’s nice. But I didn’t get the feeling that they were on the brink of figuring out how to take down the, in his own words, “juggernauts” known as the Warriors.

Which is too bad, because the Cavs played much better in Game 3. You would think he would be comfortable in talking more about how they were down 3-1 last year, and came back to win the title and therefore have more conviction in being able to do it again. The old, ‘we’ve been there before’ line, with proven success. Like the assertiveness he had in his team prior to the start of the Finals.

Instead, when specifically asked about coming from behind last year when people thought it was impossible, and comparing that to this Finals series, LeBron said he “doesn’t get involved in what people talk about.”

Ah …paging Blake Griffin, Mr Griffin, you are needed in Cleveland. Please have a seat so we can discuss some options for you while you mull over opting out of your contract with the Clippers.

That’s what I saw in LeBron’s presser yesterday. A plea for help. He said all the right things, but deep down, I couldn’t help but think that he was already moving on to next season in his mind.

Maybe he can change my mind by making history in the NBA Finals down 3-0, by doing what no other team has ever done.

If not, other notable players with the ability to sign with other teams next season (who may be seeing dangling carrots hanging all along I-90 in Cleveland leading to Quicken Loans Arena) include:

Gordon Hayward (player option), Chris Paul (player option), Kyle Lowry (unrestricted), Paul Millsap (player option), Danillo Gallinrai (player option).

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