Mazurek: LeBron needs his own Scottie Pippen
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, February 9, 2017
If you’re looking for drama, there’s a number of shows you could turn too.
There’s “The Bachelor” — which I’m told is good — “The Mirror,” “Westworld” and countless others.
But if you want drama in the NBA, look no further than LeBron James calling out Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
James made waves a few weeks ago when he publicly criticized Gilbert for not spending enough money to find the best players to put on the court alongside him.
Specifically, James wants another point guard on the roster so he isn’t stuck carrying the ball up the court when Kyrie Irving takes a breather.
James makes some good points. He does play over 37 minutes per game and, at 32 years old, that amount of time on the court isn’t sustainable, especially considering how the Cavaliers are likely to make a deep playoff run yet again.
But James is also deluding himself.
Gilbert has actually spent the most money of any owner on his roster this season, and he is paying for it heavily in luxury taxes. I don’t see James offering to help out with that from his own pocket.
Also, is the best way to convince your owner to invest more money in the team to call him out via social media? James is clearly trying to get Cavaliers fans on his side, but is this really the most mature way to go about getting what you want, LeBron? You’re the face of the franchise; you shouldn’t be resorting to bully tactics.
The biggest issue here, however, is none of the above. It’s with what he thinks adding a backup point guard will do.
Allow me to clarify, LeBron: You don’t need a backup point guard. You don’t need to trade Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony. You need Scottie Pippen.
Not the actual Scottie Pippen, who is 51 years old and serving as a consultant for a struggling Chicago Bulls franchise. Rather, you need to find the Scottie Pippen of the current NBA.
There’s been a lot of debate about how to win a championship and what makes a championship team. Most of the contemporary opinions center around the concept of a “Big Three.” Boston had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The Spurs had Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan. James’ former Miami Heat team had him, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
And that’s the model the Cavaliers have been banking on. They kept Kyrie Irving and traded for Kevin Love shortly after James returned to Cleveland.
But LeBron James isn’t trying to win one championship. He’s admitted he’s chasing the greatest of all-time — Michael Jordan. And if James wants to catch the ghost, he would be wise to win the way Jordan won.
Jordan won six NBA titles without a Big Three. It was him, Pippen and solid role players — clutch 3-point shooters and serviceable big men.
If James wants to win three more championships, he needs to tweet at Dan Gilbert to completely rearrange Cleveland’s roster. Starting with Cleveland’s Big Three.
Get rid of Irving and Love. Irving is a great offensive player. And if you remember the old adage, “offensive wins championships … ” oh wait, it’s defense. And Irving is average when it comes to the defensive side of the court, whereas that’s why Pippen is a Hall of Famer. Sure, he could score, but he was a lockdown defender, proven in countless situations. Irving isn’t and simply won’t ever get there.
Use the money you’re paying him to go out and get one of the game’s best two-way players: Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard both come to mind as players that can score at will as well as lock down the opponent’s biggest threat.
Then, get rid of Love and use the money you were paying him to get the role players you need. You can do better than Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson give you good 3-point shooting and rebounding, and all the Cavaliers need is more of that.
I know Cavaliers fans won’t like this. “Why fix what isn’t broken?” they’ll say. And it’s true, Cleveland did just win a championship. But the Cavaliers barely won, and really shouldn’t have after being down 3-1. And more importantly, James isn’t getting any younger. There will be a time within the next three years when he falls off. It’s inevitable.
And when that time comes, do you want your championship hopes to rest on Irving’s defense or Love? Or would you rather have another superstar who doesn’t need to score 30 points every game to win and a bench chock full of consistent talent?
I’d rather have the latter, and so would Michael Jordan.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.