The Cavaliers might be back in the NBA Finals, but there was a point where even LeBron James wasn't sure what direction Cleveland was going in. The Cavs had a very up-and-down regular season, especially before the trade deadline, but James' frustrations with the Cavs can be traced all the way back to the summer.
It's been reported that James didn't want the Cavs to trade Kyrie Irving despite his trade request. In an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, James admitted that he called the team requesting they don't trade his star point guard. When they chose to do that he saw it as a negative for the franchise.
"Even if you start back to the summertime where I felt like it was just bad for our franchise just to be able to trade away our superstar point guard," James said. "A guy that I had been in so many battles with over the last three years and obviously I wasn't a part of the communications and know exactly what went on between the two sides. But I just felt like it was bad timing for our team."
"So I felt like the odds were against us from the summer," James continued. "And then you know we come into the season and our All-Star point guard that we got from Boston [Isaiah Thomas] wasn't able to play until January. We just had so many things going with our team. We shuffled in different lineups, we shuffled in different players, we made a trade at the deadline, and I can't sit here right now and say that the Finals was a part of my thinking."
Everything ended up working out for the Cavs. They made trades in the middle of the season that revived some life into the team and James was able to flip a switch to carry the Cavs to a comfortable position in the playoffs. Once Cleveland reached the postseason, it was familiar territory for James.
It's rare to see a player admit they had doubts about the season. Most players in this situation would just say they always believed in their team, but James is a different player. He's done everything he can for the Cavs and he's reached a stature where he can admit the Finals weren't on his mind during some of Cleveland's rougher stretches.
What does this all mean for his likely free agency this summer? James is staying quiet on that and won't talk about it until the end of the season. However, he's admitted frustrations with the Cavs' decision-making last summer. Those decisions eventually fall at the desk of team owner Dan Gilbert. He was the one that made the call to let former Cavs GM David Griffin leave without a contract, and the Irving trade happened shortly after. Will all this have an impact on his decision?
When Nichols asked if James' relationship with Gilbert would affect his free-agency decision, James said:
"We're going to see."
This is going to be a very interesting summer in Cleveland.