You're forgiven for the whiplash from going from yesterday morning's presumption that LeBron would lead the Cavs to a Game 5 win at home over Boston -- and presumptive series-clincher -- which, at the very least, would punt "Is LeBron staying or leaving?" to the East finals when the Cavs get bounced by the Magic.
But no. LeBron had to go and play the worst game of his career -- in the biggest game of his career. As I argue in today's SN column it's not about questioning LeBron's talent -- it is about questioning all the assumptions about him staying that were valid right up until last night's humiliation.
Presuming the Cavs finish choking away this series -- dangerous, I know -- I think that circumstances have flipped in the last 24 hours: That LeBron is now more likely than not to evacuate Cleveland for New York.
My rationale is fairly simple: If the best he's going to do in Cleveland is the 2nd round of the playoffs -- merely making them, not winning them, mind you -- then he might as well try again somewhere else, because that's as bad as missing the playoffs altogether, especially when you have the regular season's best record.
In other words, he has just a good of a chance of winning a title in New York -- or New Jersey or Miami or Chicago -- as he does in Cleveland. I buy into him giving the Cavs a hometown discount on the emotional factor that will go into his decision, but not THAT much of a discount. Not a 2nd-round exit discount.
As bad as LeBron played, it's obviously not all LeBron's fault -- let's put some blame on an overrated coach and an overrated GM. (Compare the Cavs' panicky moves to the confident built-for-playoff-domination moves made by the front office in Orlando.) All the more reason to bolt Cleveland for New York, where D'Antoni can coach and Walsh can construct a roster.
One thing remains constant: Where he is at right now, this morning, LeBron is no closer to winning an NBA title than any other schlub in the league without a ring.
Cripes, the fans in Cleveland were BOOING. Modest props for a fair reaction to an embarrassing performance, but they gotta take the long view when it comes to booing LeBron to his face in his own building. But it's a fair reaction: If this team can't even get past Boston in the 2nd round, what's the point?
Complete SN column here, including fun with Barry Zito (and Cliff Lee!), more mockery of this Brian Cushing situation, a bit of skepticism about Steve Lavin and more.