When LeBron James decided to take his talents to Los Angeles during this offseason, his massive ‘Witness’ image on the side of a downtown building wasn’t the only thing that vanished.
James also took with him all of the national relevance the Cavaliers enjoyed while he was wearing their uniform, Christmas day games, exposure for the team and the city on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV has all evaporated as the Cavs start their season on Wednesday in Toronto.
Oh, yeah the Cavs will play one of two nationally televised game this season when James returns with the Lakers on Nov. 21, but after that it will be your team Cleveland.
By contrast the Lakers with James will appear on national television 43 times compared to the Cavs 7, 16 of James’ Lakers will be on ESPN and the Cavs will only have two games on ESPN. The Cavs will not appear on TNT at all this regular season.
That goes to demonstrate the power and persuasion of arguably the greatest basketball player on the planet.
Even the ESPN beat reporters followed James to Los Angeles.
Nonetheless, the Cavs will begin this season with a new face of the franchise, the newly extended Kevin Love and a cast of hold overs from the four-time Eastern Conference champions such as JR Smith and Tristan Thompson.
Head coach Tyronn Lue returns for this fourth season as the head coach with an influx of trade acquisitions from a team that lost in the Finals to the Warriors in four games.
Former Laker Jordan Clarkson, former Utah Jazz Rodney Hood and former Sacramento King George Hill will be joined by veterans Kyle Korver and Channing Frye.
Expect a lot of playing time for rookie Collin Sexton, the first round pick from Alabama who enjoyed a stellar Summer League and also expect for former 5-star high school recruit Billy Preston, who never touched the floor at Kansas, to get plenty of opportunities on his two-way contract.
To state it modestly, the Cavs will have an uphill climb in the Eastern Conference that will also feature former Western Conference all stars Blake Griffin in Detroit, Gordon Hayward in Boston and Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.
However, during the preseason the Cavs clearly showed they are capable of competing with all of them and for some to contend this team will not make the Eastern Conference playoffs are mistaking.
Hometown kid Larry Nance Jr. had a breakout season for the Cavs last year after arriving via trade from Los Angeles. The son of former Cavs star Larry Nance is a lethal jumping jack, shot blocker and thunder dunker that Cavs fans will continue to fall in love with.
Cedi Osman has also shown tremendous strides of improvement and will compete for starter minutes as the season progresses and another former Lakers player acquired as a free agent David Nwaba is also expected to see playing time.
The pressure of LeBron James being at the epicenter, the pressure of winning an NBA title or reaching the Eastern Conference Finals are over now, but don’t expect the Cleveland fans to show up night in and night out for anything other than maximum effort.
After all that’s the least you can do.