After a total of 11 seasons in Cleveland, LeBron James decided to move on and sign with the Lakers.
He led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and was a big reason the team saw as much success as it did in the playoffs, winning the Eastern Conference finals. But, James was faced with a decision as he could opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer. He informed the Cavaliers on June 29 that he was going to opt out, but Cleveland still felt it had a chance to land him.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman explained that he found out James was heading to L.A. when he got a call from James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, on Sunday evening, shortly after Klutch released the news on its Instagram account. The three had a phone call once free agency began July 1 at 12:01 a.m. ET, but what he didn’t know was that James was going into a three-hour meeting with Lakers president Magic Johnson right after they talked on the phone, according to ESPN.
Now that a few days have passed, the Cavaliers have had time to reflect and were willing to open up about losing James, saying they are “hurt,” but the team isn’t taking it personal.
“When you first get hit with it, there is a level of hurt,” Altman told reporters Friday, via ESPN. “You’re hurt because of what you went through for the four years with him and what he meant to us. But I was extremely thankful, at the same time. I realize what we accomplished this year and the last four years, and we did a lot. I mean, it was four incredible years led by him, and I’m very thankful for the years he gave our team, this organization, the city.
“I don’t think it was anything we did right or we did wrong,” Altman added. “He deserved to make this decision for him and his career and what he wanted to do. So we can’t take it personal. We’re not bitter. We’re thankful and happy that he spent the last four years with us.”
Coach Tyronn Lue echoed the same sentiment and said he didn’t expect it and was shocked when he heard James’ decision.
“I was shocked and hurt a little bit by the decision,” Lue told NBA TV. “But like I said, we talked, and he said that I’m his favorite guy. He loved being coached by me. He loved the four seasons we had together and that this decision was totally just a decision for himself and his family. I can live with that.”