In discussing reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers were "highly pissed" that veteran Kendrick Perkins wasn't re-signed this summer, Eric Freeman mentioned last week that LeBron James has gotten footloose and subtweet-free (or maybe subtweet-ful?) of late, running through a string of social media updates that have had many observers scratching their own heads while wondering what's going through LeBron's:
They started last week, amid a week that saw LeBron take a trip to his old Florida stomping grounds to work out with his old Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, which raised eyebrows, which elicited a curt response from James, who said he didn't care if people were upset at what some perceived as LeBron getting wistful for what he once had:
He continued his 140-character stream of consciousness over the weekend:
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All of this has left a lot of us asking, um, what the hell is LeBron talking about? Has his obsession with the Golden State Warriors club that beat Cleveland in last year's NBA Finals and in two games this season finally sent him off the deep end? Is he trying to send messages to his teammates without using any names, a la last season's "fit-in/fit-out" fiasco with forward Kevin Love? Or, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group claims, is James just having fun with those of us who pay much-too-close attention to this stuff, getting a kick out of the whirlwind he can cause with a few stray tap-tap-taps on his phone?
According to the man himself, the answer is ... well, something else?
It's worth noting that this isn't the first time LeBron and "A Beautiful Mind" have collided in the same sentence. Former Heat teammate Shane Battier once invoked the movie as a means of describing the "quasi-photographic memory that allows him to process data very quickly," a trait later blown out in great detail by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. Earlier this year, in rejecting the "coach killer" label after the Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt, James said he calls his own number and voices his opinion because he sees, grasps and processes so much: "What do you guys want me to do, turn my brain off because I have a huge basketball IQ?"
[...] he was sure to relay that there's a method to his messages. It's not just haphazard raving to his combined 47 million-plus followers on the social media platforms.
"They're for the educated mind," James said. "So if you have an educated mind, they hit home for you. (Sunday) night I tweeted that consistency and structure breeds perfection and if you take a short cut, or if you don't handle business then you come up short. I think everybody should understand that. It's nothing between the lines, it's just, life. You can't shortcut being perfect or trying to be as perfect as you can, or trying to get to a point where you just feel like you can succeed. So, for educated minds, it should be fine."
... So, you're not sending messages to your teammates?
[...] James said that any tension his tweets might be creating within Cleveland's locker room isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"If you don't have conflict throughout the course of a season (your team is lacking), even internal or external — sometimes, it becomes external, which you don't want to happen, but sometimes it happens and that's OK," James said. "I think conflict, it builds character. It builds even more trust. You're able to get on someone, someone's able to get on you and then the whistle blows and, let's get out and let's execute what needs to be done. I've always been like that since I was a kid.
"I got four best friends that used to get on my ass about being soft at times and not playing the right way and not being aggressive. Any time I wasn't aggressive when I was younger, they called me soft and I had to respond. I just come from a different style of basketball. I played outdoor basketball when I was a kid. If you didn't win, you might not play again for the rest of the day. Like, you might not play for the whole day if you didn't win. Conflict was just a part of basketball for me and for my friends growing up."
I wonder how much of that conflict involved, like, taping no-names-necessary notes about sacrifice, dedication and discipline on the asphalt and the fence behind the basket so everyone could see.
On one hand, James' point about the value of creative tension within a team construct, and of a teammate "getting on your ass" to hold you accountable, makes an awful lot of sense. It's what Draymond Green and his volcano heart gives Golden State in its times of crisis, and it's what Kobe Bryant was quick to warn the history-seeking Warriors not to lose after his Los Angeles Lakers handed the Dubs their sixth loss of the season on Sunday. On the other, though, how valuable can any tension created through undirected tweets be if it doesn't actually produce direct conversation about whatever issues sparked them in the first place? Like, isn't the point of "conflict builds character" to have the conflict so all parties involved can clear the air and grow from it? How does this lead to that?
As was the case with the Love stuff last year, it sure seems like a pretty confusing brand of leadership to me. That, of course, doesn't matter to LeBron; as he said Monday, he "stopped caring about what other people think [during his] second year in Miami." Which is good, because it leaves his beautiful mind free to conceive of brand-extending Instagram posts like this:
A Bitmoji LeBron dressed as Batman, taking off his cowl and looking somber, captioned with: "It's Not Who You Are Underneath, It's What You Do That Defines You!" Maybe, in this case, LeBron's talking about himself, suggesting we focus less on whether or not he's subtweeting and more on how he just carried Cleveland to three straight wins after a pair of disappointing defeats that led to renewed concerns about their title bona fides. Very cool stuff, LeBron. Message (we think?) received.
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