They're playing for keeps this spring with the Raptors' Chris Bosh and the Hawks' Joe Johnson already surveying the ruins of their teams before the Cavaliers' season, and, possibly their world, ended in a stunning loss to the creaky Celtics.
Actually, it really wasn't stunning as James was playing much of it left-handed.
Nevertheless, the world that kissed his feet right up to the presentation of his second MVP before Game 1 of the series, suddenly awoke to the realization he was clueless, heartless and/or a quitter.
With James refusing to make his elbow an issue … or, apparently, to get a simple anti-inflammatory shot … and coach Mike Brown, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and their players pooh-poohing it, it still came down to one of two possibilities:
A) The elbow wouldn't let James do more.
B) The arch-competitor with the mind-blowing game and serene self-confidence underwent a total personality change.
Of course, everyone went with B) total personality change, starting with Cavaliers management.
Confused, in denial, or both, team officials took James at his word, blaming everything on Brown, now a dead coach walking amid reports James and Shaquille O'Neal had had it with him … as players do with coaches when the bottom drops out.
After this series, James looks outward-bound, barring a sentimental turnaround that didn't seem at hand when he noted afterward that he loves Cleveland and added, "At the same time, we've had a great time together."
His love for the place is actually the Cavaliers' sole remaining edge because it's locked into its roster with no cap space, even without their crumbling statuary, 7-foot free agents O'Neal and Zyudrunas Ilgauskas.
James already passed up one chance to leave, but seven seasons later his last title is the Ohio state high school championship.
James can do better with lots of teams such as:
They are coming off their adventure with fired coach Vinny Del Negro, whom they decided to keep at midseason, leaving the team to underachieve under him before his angry run-in with shadow general manager John Paxson.
What could go wrong now?
2. Knicks— Minimal supporting cast with David Lee having to go to free up enough money, but they are the only team with two maximum slots.
That should get the Knicks an audience, with the possibility of James getting Bosh or Amare Stoudemire to come with him.
3. Heat —With Dwyane Wade, the Heat should get an audience too.
However, after the big two, they would have only Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal, et al.
Unfortunately, they had the season they had, after which Sterling stiffed Mike Dunleavy for the money he owed him, reminding everyone they're still the Clippers.
5. Nets —As former James confidante Sonny Vacarro noted, he's not going to Newark, even for a year.
In any case, the spring's not over. After the Suns' miracle rally, they're going all-out to re-sign Stoudemire, who was shopped right to the trade deadline but now looks caught up in the excitement.
Of course, losing to the Lakers would be a bummer, which is a bad way to leave things this summer.