Smith: I Think LeBron Is Leaving Cleveland No Matter What

After a stunning Game 1 loss, James is "just riding it out," Sekou Smith said, and when it's time to leave, he's "going to be gone"

Tiki and Tierney
April 16, 2018 - 6:35 pm

USA Today Images


LeBron James posted a triple-double in Cleveland’s 98-80 loss to Indiana in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday, this despite taking essentially the first quarter off. James was on the court, of course, but he didn’t attempt his first shot until more than 10 minutes into the game.

By that point, Cleveland trailed 25-8.

“Nobody fears them anymore,” NBA TV analyst Sekou Smith said on Tiki and Tierney. “Nobody is going to sit back and let LeBron (force) the issue with them. They’re going to take it right to him. The attitude of the Pacers and Victor Oladipo, showing no signs of respect or fear, going right after the Cavaliers. This has been a weird season from the start for Cleveland, and I thought Game 1 only made it weirder. Just a really strange way to operate as a group, and for LeBron as the leader of that team, to go out and be so focused on LeBron all of a sudden as opposed to lifting up the rest of those guys is just strange.”

James averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.6 rebounds this season, but the Cavs won just 50 games – their fewest since James’ return to Cleveland (and their fewest with James in a Cavs uniform since 2007-08).

LeBron’s defense, or lack thereof, may have been one reason for the dip in record.

“Have you watched him on defense this year? He’s been terrible,” Smith said. “He hasn’t played to the level we’re used to seeing him play on the defensive end – to the point where it’s alarming. It’s not just fatigue, too many minutes, the burden that he carries. LeBron is not a casual guy. He doesn’t do anything casually. Go watch his highlights. This has been perhaps his best, most well-rounded offensive season of his career and I would argue the worst defensive season of his career.”

Either way, the Cavs need to win Game 2 on Wednesday. If Cleveland bows out in the first round, LeBron is gone.

The again, he may be gone regardless.

“In my gut, I think he’s out of there no matter what,” Smith said. “I think LeBron is the kind of guy who doesn’t make decisions on a whim. He’s going to have his business calculated and do whatever he thinks is best for LeBron based on research and intel. If he thought he could make it work in Cleveland, I think we’d have seen some signs already that that was the case. But for them to trade six guys away and do all the different things they’ve done – supposedly without him having a say or veto power – that would make me nervous if I’m a Cavaliers fan, that this guy has decided already that he’s going to go elsewhere. That’s what it looks like to a lot of people, that LeBron is just riding it out, and that when it’s time to get out of there, he’s going to be gone.”