LeBron James supposedly unfollowed the Cavs on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. And this is major news.
You know, in this business all journalists are supposed to be neutral. Sportswriters go to practices, attend games, speak to the players in locker rooms and tell stories based upon that special access. Once everyone has fulfilled their obligations, the players and the media get to go about their normal lives until reconvening again the next day … then the next … and the next. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.
The social media age has brought about massive change. If you want to cover the Cavs, you had better be wired into LeBron’s social media accounts 24/7, no matter if it interrupts your sleep patterns, your eating habits, your TV watching habits, your family relationships, your bathroom breaks. You are never not on call.
Memo to all journalism students who aspire to be sportswriters: GET OUT!
The hubbub over the past few days over what message LeBron may or may not have been sending through his social media maneuverings is a case in point. When someone asked him about it after the Cavs’ 33-point dismantling of the Nuggets on Monday night, he replied with two words: “Next question.”
So everything remains open to interpretation, and countless man hours are being wasted by journalists and readers trying to figure out what all this means.
Sort of makes you want to root for the Toronto Raptors, who are just one game behind the Cavs in the loss column, have already won the season series (and the accompanying tiebreaker), have a more fervent fan base, a better backcourt and two better centers. One can only wonder what might happen if DeMarre Carroll can return at something close to full strength and be something resembling a LeBron stopper. (Of course, we all know there is no such thing. Except for the air conditioning guy down in San Antonio.)
Sadly, one of the rules of this business – in America, but definitely not overseas – is that there is no cheering in the press box.
So let’s just go ahead and take a sober look at what is important, including how these two teams match up against each other, as we wait to see which of them finishes atop the Eastern Conference.
We will begin our list in degrees of importance:
1. If LeBron James fails to bring a championship to Cleveland once again, he is a failure. Everyone should unfollow him.
2. The Raptors have a better backcourt than the Cavs. If you had a choice between Kyrie Irving (19.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) and J.R. Smith (12.3 ppg,) vs. Kyle Lowry (21.9 ppg, 6.4 apg) and DeMar DeRozan (23.8 ppg), who would you take?
3. At power forward, Kevin Love is on a downswing and Luis Scola is on an upswing. Which of them has made more 3-pointers in March? I’ll give you a hint. The guy with 11 is from Argentina. The guy with 10 is from Oregon.
4. Who is a better center, Jonas Valanciunas or Timofey Mozgov? And who is a better backup, Bismack Biyambo or Tristan Thompson? When you talk about doing the traditional things that centers are supposed to do, like scoring off offensive rebounds and/or blocking shots, it’s not even close. Edge to the Raptors.
5. Who would have a bigger homecourt advantage in a Game 7? Well, every single fan in Cleveland is convinced that he/she will never see a championship in any sport in his/her lifetime, along with the lifetimes of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In Toronto, there are tens of thousands of fans who will stand outside the arena in the cold to watch the game on a big screen. Advantage: Raptors.
So, yes, there is still a long way to go before we find out which of these teams finishes first in the East, and whether both can make it to the conference finals. (Hey, Cleveland might have to play Miami in Round 1 or 2, and we all know LeBron can’t win there.) You should use a roulette casino guide to pick the winner of that series, because the odds are not as stacked as you might imagine.
All I am saying is this: I am as guilty as anyone of prematurely crowning the Cavs as Eastern Conference champs. But this business over LeBron’s social media accounts is just the tip of the iceberg. They fired a great coach in David Blatt when things were going great. There is chatter that Irving is unhappy. Love is a shell of his former self. The next playoff game that Tyronn Lue coaches will be his first.
So that statement that all roads to the championship lead through Cleveland may turn out to be false. The road to the title may run through the customs line at Toronto’s airport.
More on this issue in this interview with CineSport’s Brian Clark:
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.