The first reaction among area basketball coaches to LeBron James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was shock.
“This move by LeBron surprised me,” said Harker Heights High School head basketball coach Celneque Bobbitt. “I thought he might have stayed and kept playing because of the camaraderie he had with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.”
“I was definitely surprised when a friend texted me with the news,” said Alberto Jones Jr., Ellison’s head coach. “I thought he’d stay in Miami.”
“I was honestly surprised,” said Billy White Jr., Copperas Cove’s head coach. “I honestly thought he’d just stay in Miami, especially because of the way he and D-Wade interacted.”
No news conference was called by James on Friday to announce the return to his Northeast Ohio roots. Instead he wrote a 12-paragraph essay for Sports Illustrated. James ended the piece with “I’m coming home.”
“I think this will be a positive for the NBA,” said Jones. “If he does well, they’ll have that fairy-tale ending — the story about how LeBron went home and succeeded.
“Plus, I think shaking up the league will be good. It will be interesting to see where the other free agents land, where other players may be traded to. In about a week or two, we’ll have a lot of questions answered.”
The 4-year-old son of Jones, Alberto Jones III, is a big fan of James.
“My son told me today, ‘Oh, no, LeBron is leaving Miami,’” Jones said. “It will be interesting to see if he starts liking Cleveland now.”
White applauded James’ decision.
“LeBron is going back home to try and finish what he started,” White said. “He’s going back to his home state. That would be something special if he can succeed in his home area. To me, this shows his loyalty.”
Bobbitt said that beside the allure of returning to his hometown, winning played a big factor.
“It’s a clear-cut case of going to a better basketball team,” Bobbitt said. “Cleveland has Kyrie Irving. Cleveland got some good young guys in this draft.
“LeBron has a lot left in his tank. When he looked at the roster in Miami, he sees a lot of older guys. Sure, the San Antonio Spurs have a few old guys but they have plenty of younger guys ready to take over.”
The Spurs defeated Miami 4-1 in the 2014 Finals. All four Spur wins were blowouts.
“That series showed that team ball beats individual play,” Bobbitt said. “In the first 12 seconds of the shot clock for Miami, either LeBron or Wade would hold the ball without a pass. With the Spurs, you’d have eight passes in those first 12 seconds. LeBron wants to be a part of a better team and he sees a much younger and potentially more skilled team in Cleveland than Miami.
“I’ve always felt as a coach that I’d rather have six-to-eight guys giving me points rather than just have one or two scoring 90 percent of my points. The Spurs only needed to guard two guys.
“The Spurs brought the team concept back to life. And, for LeBron, I think it was a clear decision — go to a better, younger team.”
KEITH GLANTZ UPDATED ODDS TO WIN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP
Cleveland 7-2 35-1
San Antonio 9-2 9-2
Oklahoma City 5-1 5-1
Chicago 8-1 10-1
Houston 8-1 10-1
Dallas 40-1 40-1
Miami 100-1 7-2
Philadelphia 400-1 250-1
Copyright 2014 World Features Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com