Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/19/13
Whenever LeBron James comes to Cleveland, the discussion begins. Will James return to the Cavaliers? Will he remain with the Heat? Will he wind up in some other unsuspected destination? Theyre all legit questions. We have nothing close to the answers to any. All we know for sure is the Heat have won 23 straight games, or just 10 shy of the all-time NBA record, entering Wednesdays game at Cleveland. All we can assume is James has never been better. And were talking about a guy who has already won three league MVPs and one Finals MVP. Today, LeBron is more than just the best player in the game. Hes also a winner. He also plays with an edge, makes the right pass and hits the important shots. Hes no slouch when it comes to defense or rebounding, either. Oh, and in case James happens to be something less than his best (extremely rare these days), he still has Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh next to him. The Cavs, on the other hand, are a mess -- and not really via any fault of their own. For all of February, they looked like the promising team on the rise everyone expected. Then March hit, and the injuries stockpiled. Actually, the Cavs havent been devastated as far as the entire roster is concerned. But they are closing the season with another whimper following a sprained shoulder to Kyrie Irving and a bum knee to Dion Waiters. Thats the starting backcourt, the dynamic duo expected to lead the Cavs into the future. Now, we may have to wait until next season to see Irving or Waiters in action again. Thats no fun, and its the type of depression Cavs fans have suffered through way too much lately. Anyway, back to LeBron and the questions about his prospects. This is all we know: James can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in 2014. Depending on the Heats situation, its a distinct possibility. Also, the Cavs could have the type of cap space that could lure LeBron back to Northeast Ohio. With young talents like Irving, Waiters, Tristan Thompson and others, it too could be a distinct possibility. It could be nothing -- but it could be something. In fact, with Kyrie and the rest, the Cavs will likely be a tempting outfit for a number of free agents in the coming years. Honest. But while thats all nice, the Cavs cant (and dont) worry about that. They cant build their team around the idea that someone not yet named will come save the franchise. And again, theyre not. Bottom line: The Cavs must have a greater concern than that -- and that concern is none other than themselves. Time is almost now Since LeBron left in 2010, the Cavs have pretty much gotten a so-called free pass from reporters, fans, and passionate owner Dan Gilbert. And thats fair. As the Cavs will tell you, they are trying to build the right way. Nor can you really debate that general manager Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott have them headed on the right path. At least, it looks that way when the teams best players are actually healthy. Still, the Cavs are about to finish last in the Central Division for the third straight year. Thats a franchise first. So while James and the Heat are giving the sports world something by which to be utterly fascinated, the Cavs cant seem to get out of the mud. Theyre progressing, but in the impatient world of professional sports, not fast enough. The season ends April 17. After that, the pressure is on. When Grant, Scott and the Cavs arent winning next season, theyre losing. Theres no more rebuilding. Or as one opposing league executive told FOX Sports Ohio, The days of trying to put a positive spin on not winning games reaches an end for every franchise, injuries and youth be darned. The Cavs are pretty much there. The exec makes a valid point, because reasonable or not, thats just the way it goes in the world of professional sports. There comes a point when you must start attaching a number to your franchise. In this business, numbers eventually become the only thing that can validate progress. Developing talent and taking your lumps makes good sense when you are where the Cavs are today. Despite what is likely to be a disappointing finish (caused in great part to aforementioned key injuries), they have displayed some very promising signs. But in the NBA, you dont have long to turn those signs into a competitive product, a winning product. If the Cavs are to entice James or any other notable free agent, such a product has to emerge in 2013-14. Without a doubt, finishing last just won't fly anymore.
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