Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman was nothing if not forthright in his assessment of LeBron James’ choice to move to the Lakers. Speaking with scribes just before the first game of the wine and gold in Summer League 2018, he candidly admitted the “level of hurt” that he felt when he, along with the rest of the world, learned of the news via an Instagram post by agent Klutch Sports. From his vantage point, the development at the close of the first day of free agency was akin to a gut punch from which he knew the franchise would take a while to recover.
Needless to say, Altman hoped for — even expected — the best prior to the hammer falling, his positive sentiments fueled by the conversation he had with James and Klutch Sports head Rich Paul literally within the first minute free agents were allowed to talk to potential employers. “At that time, [I] thought we were still in the mix, obviously,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin quoted him as saying. “I think he was still going through his decision-making process.”
Altman may well have been on the mark. That said, the fact that James merely shared a call with him and then spent three hours hosting Lakers President Magic Johnson in a face-to-face meeting spoke volumes of the direction the aforesaid “process” was heading. It didn’t matter that he calls Ohio his home, and that he has led the Cavaliers to four straight Finals appearances and one legacy-defining championship against significant odds. For all the history, he was clearly swayed by the myriad on- and off-court opportunities afforded him in La-La Land.
Still, Altman waxed optimistic, noting that the Cavaliers’ roster does boast of All-Star Kevin Love and a good mix of experience and potential that could contend in the weakened East. The heaviest of the National Basketball Association’s heavy lifters is gone, but in James’ place comes promise predicated on more prudent spending. Pundits may see them doing battle for the worst record in the league, but the outlook he sees is nowhere near as bleak. It’s his job, of course, to see the glass as half full. Whether he does it well enough to prove himself right is another matter altogether.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.