Homecoming is just part of the LeBron James story

Sun SentinelJuly 12, 2014 

MIAMI - And then there is the moment when the sappy, poignant, manipulative movie is over, when the wife's eyes are welled, and you make the mistake in the parking lot, even before getting to the car, of trying to make sense of how it all was so contrived.

"But ....."

And then you think better. Because it is not the time.

That was Friday, when LeBron James wrote the script, one poignantly penned for Sports Illustrated in announcing his decision to leave the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This wasn't a free-agency defection. This was poetry.

This was the narrative that could not be broken, should not be broken. It was difficult not to well up, even if you were from Coconut Creek, Coconut Grove or Cooper City.

That's what Friday was for. That's how it had to be.

But then you move on, then you dissect.

Because if LeBron James was from Milwaukee or Detroit, would the heartstrings have tugged as strong considering the basketball side of those equations? Would the commitment to those regions of the rustbelt have been as profound if they happened to be the hometown, the city forsaken four years ago?

If there wasn't Kyrie Irving locked into a long-term contract, the possibility of landing a Kevin Love, enough attractive young pieces that either could be molded or moved, would "coming home" have trumped all else?

For that matter, what if, when tied 1-1 in the NBA Finals on June 8, there had not been three losses to the San Antonio Spurs of epic proportion? What if there instead had been a third consecutive championship and the opportunity to win a fourth in a row, something Michael Jordan never did, never gave himself the opportunity to do?

Would the player who arguably values legacy above all else still have walked out that door and back into the embrace of northeast Ohio?

What if Pat Riley had not turned the crushing weight of defeat into a defiant challenge, if Erik Spoelstra had been more bending with his approach in the Finals, if Dwyane Wade had not run out of knees?

What if instead of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger it had been Kyle Lowry or Marcin Gortat, had James had not grown so resolved to a maximum contract?

Would the comparative rosters at least have given pause?

For the Cavaliers, this was the perfect confluence, four years of regular-season failure, lottery success, James having an opt-out in his contract at just the precise moment of Heat instability.

For the Heat, there were missteps, but only to the degree of quality basketball people being true to themselves: Micky Arison operating a business with the type of efficiency James seeks from his own enterprises; Spoelstra remaining as true to his core basketball beliefs as James does to his own; Riley being as passionate about sweat equity as James is to his own ethos.

In his homecoming (and farewell) essay, James noted, "I don't want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn't get along. ... He and Riles didn't get along. .... The Heat couldn't put the right team together. That's absolutely not true."

And yet there, in the mid-verse, was compunction to raise such reasoning.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter.

In feel-good stories, the little things tend to get in the way.

In the end, Harry meets Sally, no one winds up Sleepless in Seattle, the officer proves to be a gentleman.

No need to dissect the plot here either.

At one point during the Big Three championship run, Joakim Noah called the Heat, "Hollywood as hell."

And now a Hollywood ending so compelling it is best just to accept, and move on.

UNEXPECTED COMPASSION: Recall, if you will, how a year ago, in the wake of comments from Danny Ainge about how the Heat and LeBron James are officiated, Heat President Pat Riley offered up a statement that said, "Danny Ainge needs to STFU and manage his own team." But Thursday, when the Celtics president was asked to ruminate over Riley's torment about James' indecision, Ainge took a different road. "I don't take any pleasure in anyone's pain," Ainge said at the Orlando Pro Summer League. "I know this is a tough business and free agency is all part of what we go through. I certainly don't take any joy in seeing great players leave organizations that have been good to them." Ainge, of course, helped facilitate the creation of the salary-cap space the Cavaliers needed for James with Boston's three-team trade with Cleveland and Brooklyn.

PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy touched on a variety of subjects during an impromptu media session at the Orlando Pro Summer League, including now serving as both coach and personnel chief for the Detroit Pistons. He was asked if he learned anything as a Miami assistant coach while Riley wore both of those hats. "I don't know that at that point I was taking notes and keeping a book on it, you know," he said. "But I certainly did see it. So I have an idea of how it works and everything else. And I think that's been tremendously helpful here. I think back on that stuff quite a bit and what it meant."

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