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Sport Opinion: Roll With the Winners! Will losses to Lakers, Clippers impact LeBron James' future?

10:10  13 march  2018
10:10  13 march  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

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Roll With the Winners : Will losses to Lakers , Clippers impact LeBron James ' future ? All eyes were on LeBron James , whose Cavaliers fell to the Clippers and Lakers during their only trip to Los Angeles this season.

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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

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LOS ANGELES – The key to LeBron James’ free agency was right there on his Nike sneaker on Sunday night.

You had to get past the out-of-place pink tone that fit neither his Cleveland Cavaliers color scheme nor the Lakers’ purple-and-gold that shone so bright in their 127-113 win. Ditto for the name of this particular model of the LeBron 15s – “Hollywood," with a release date that just so happened to coincide with James' only visit to the Staples Center to face this Lakers team that he might consider joining when July 1 rolls around.

But once you learn what the inscription on the side of the sole means – “RWTW,” as in “Roll With the Winners” – then you start to understand why these next few months are so crucial for the Cavs.

Put simply, they’re not worthy of being deemed winners at the moment. At least not the type that might compel James to stay put.

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The loss to the Lakers was their seventh in the 15 games since first-year general manager Koby Altman overhauled the roster at the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and all it took was one glance at James’ frustrated face midway through the fourth quarter to get a sense of the Cavs’ quandary right now.

On one side, there was former Cavalier Isaiah Thomas stealing the ball from James and finding Julius Randle for a dunk that pushed the Lakers’ lead to 21 points. And there was James, just a few feet behind Randle as he hung on the rim with so much delight, palming the ball after the whistle was blown and looking like he was about to throw a 100-mph fastball toward his associates who were sitting courtside.

James, who had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but was a minus-13, headed for the bench at that point, and didn't return for the rest of the game.

The timing of it all was too good to be true, what with Lakers executive Magic Johnson having just visited that same area a few minutes earlier in what was widely perceived as a one-night victory lap. Not to mention the irony.

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Johnson, who set the stage to have two maximum-salary slots this summer by way of the trade-deadline deal that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland and Thomas to the Lakers, wandered over to James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, and his business manager, Maverick Carter, right about the time the Lakers were running away with it. They hugged. They shook hands. And with press row just a few feet away, they knew full well what the optics might look like.

If the Cavs can’t turn this around, it's quite clear, all bets are off.

The injuries are a worthy excuse, as everyone from five-time All-Star Kevin Love (left hand, expected back later this month) to new addition Rodney Hood (back, day to day) to Cedi Osman (left hip, two weeks) and Tristan Thompson (right ankle, multiple games) remain out. It’s the kind of ill-timed rash of injuries that muddies these waters, with James fully admitting that conclusions about the revamped Cavs are hard to reach in times like these.

“Listen, at the end of the day you’ve got to (play with) whoever you’ve got out on the floor,” James said afterward. “You want to get the most out of whoever’s playing, but sometimes you just can’t overcome this many injuries that we have.”

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James was then asked if it’s hard to figure out if the Cavs are heading in the right direction.

“You don’t know,” he answered. “I mean, you don’t know.”

Added Cavs swingman Kyle Korver, who is one of five remaining players from the Cleveland team that fell to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 Finals.

“It’s hard to gauge (these Cavs), because we just have so many guys out,” Korver said. “We’re so low on big men right now. So when we’re small, they’re just kind of switching everything on us and we’re not able to – there’s not a lot of movement out there for us. That’s what makes basketball fun is when the ball is moving, bodies are moving and hopping. I think we’re just missing some smiles out there on the court right now. It feels very serious. We’re just kind of slugging it out. It’ll help once we get some healthy bodies back. And there’s not a lot of time, for sure.”

That sentiment is music to the ears of every one of James’ suitors.

From the Lakers to Houston, Philadelphia, and perhaps even the Clippers (who the Cavs lost to on Friday) and San Antonio, there is no shortage of teams hoping James’ angst remains this summer. Only James and his business team know how he truly sees it, but they have been adamant that there is no paired-down list and no clarity as it pertains to his uncertain future. Maybe a return to Miami could even be in the cards?

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Roll With the Winners : Will losses to Lakers , Clippers impact LeBron James ' future ?

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Ask the man in the arena – aka James.

The 33-year-old had another inscription on those pink shoes that carry with them so many different messages – “The man in the arena,” it read, an homage to a 1910 speech from former president Theodore Roosevelt during a visit to Paris that has long been a source of inspiration for James.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” the famous passage goes. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

They knew defeat on this night, though. And for a Lakers franchise that is daring to dream about James coming their way, that was enough.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick

Related slideshow: LeBron James through the years (Provided by photo services)


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