You can take the LeBron out of Cleveland, but you can't take the Cleveland out of... Cleveland. Unfortunately for LeBron James, the honeymoon for his return to Ohio seems to have a quickly approaching expiration date. The Cavaliers have become increasingly inconsistent, and even as they remain the first seed in the NBA Eastern Conference, their realistic chances of winning a title this season seem to diminish by the day.
It turns out the credits from LeBron's Miami Heat University degree didn't transfer to Cleveland, so he'll have to do the work all over again. It's a shame. Trump University students feel your struggle, LeBron.
The truth is, LeBron will never duplicate in Cleveland what he had here in Miami. Here's why.
5. Quality veteran players don't want to join LeBron in Cleveland.
"Quality" is the keyword here. Richard Jefferson is like the Dr. Publix to Shane Battier's Dr. Pepper. Ray Allen chose posting pictures of himself squeezing fresh orange juice and taking afternoon jogs over moving his family to Cleveland. The Cavs weren't even in Joe Johnson's top four. Whether it be the organization itself, the city, the makeup of the roster, or a combination of all those things, players aren't flocking to Cleveland, circumstances be damned, as they did to Miami.
The difference between Miami and Cleveland in the winter is about the same as the difference between Channing Frye and Ray Allen. The basic ingredients aren't the same, so the product isn't the same.
4. Erik Spoelstra kept control of his team in ways David Blatt and Tyronn Lue have not.
Throughout LeBron's latest stint in Cleveland, there has been one constant: One of the babies is always crying. One week, Kevin Love is the weak link, and he's too worried about his Banana Republic black-and-white photo shoots to be a champion. Lately, it's been Kyrie Irving, who is too immature and won't fall in line. In between, it's been LeBron himself throwing passive-aggressive hissy fits and giving less than 100 percent on the court. None of this happened in Miami. That's because Erik Spoelstra wouldn't have it. There was no sugarcoating things or handling players with kid gloves. Coach Spo had the backing from Pat Riley to tell it like it was.
In Cleveland, by contrast, LeBron is
3. Miami's Big Three > Cleveland's Big Three.
You can try to cook hibachi at home, but it's never really the same as it is at Benihana. You can't just go to Publix, buy the same ingredients, and make it like the pros. Likewise, LeBron will never be able to re-create the original Big Three. Instead of keeping a young star in Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs traded for Kevin Love, who would basically be their Chris Bosh. Nope. He's not Chris Bosh, because Chris Bosh is Chris Bosh. Remember the first Dumb and Dumber sequel? NO, YOU DON'T! Because Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels weren't in it, and that's stupid! If you do remember it, congratulations, because you watched the Kevin Love of Dumb and Dumber sequels.
2. You can't clone Pat Riley. We've tried.
On the list of reasons why Miami is a better place to play basketball than Cleveland, Pat Riley ranks just behind the sun. Before Riley came to the Miami Heat, the team was a cute little kitten, basically there for other teams' amusement. Since Riley got to Miami, the Heat has been more of a lion, plotting its attack and eventually prevailing. In Cleveland, everything is willy-nilly. It's a web of nonsense. Decisions are made based on what LeBron likes and if the player is represented by his friends. LeBron wants the best sword, but instead of going to master swordsmith Hattori Hanzo, he watched a couple of YouTube videos and tried to make it himself. You're not Hattori Hanzo, LeBron.
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1. These Cavs don't have the pressure or the expectations the "Heatles" had.
For four years, the Miami Heat was the show. The team was the biggest draw in sports. Every night was a playoff game. Every off-day was filled with speculation. Every hater took a shot, and it brought the Miami Heat together as a team. When the playoffs came, a tight game in the fourth quarter was nothing. In Cleveland, when the going gets tough, the Cavs have a group of players with a mere fraction of the experiences that those LeBron Heat teams had. It may not show up in the regular season when the Cavs can power through lesser teams most nights, but it will always show up in the playoffs.
There is no duplicating the 2010-2014 Miami Heat. LeBron can try to re-create it in Cleveland, but it's impossible to accomplish.