For the second time in three days, LeBron James tried to put a brave and unfettered face on after an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Boston Celtics. He and Kevin Love shared a laugh during the postgame press conference Tuesday night. James, as always, wants to project confidence. That may be his only option at this point. It may also be misplaced. Or gallows humor.
Like Mighty Casey of poetic lore, James’ indifference may belie just how much trouble he and the Cavaliers are sinking into. There was no joy in Mudville when the slugger struck out. There’s certainly no joy in northeast Ohio right now after two painful displays on the parquet floor in Boston. That much is painfully obvious.
Warts on display from Day 1 have been thrust into the limelight. James’ supporting cast is unreliable. He must be superhuman for the Cavs to win. He was mortal in Game 1, scoring just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting and committing 7 turnovers. He was the best player on the planet in Game 2, scoring 42 points on 55 percent shooting. Both ended in the same way.
The series is not over. James has built up so much trust equity in his career that dismissing the Cavs’ chances to come back is foolish. But the most striking thing through two games is just how joyless and lifeless Cleveland has been to watch. They are not, by any metric, having any fun out there and it shows.
Rumors of the split between James and his hometown team have been omnipresent. Yet the marriage persists, for now. Couples fight and makeup. They face challenges and come out stronger. They also put on a happy face in the face of irreconcilable difference and disguise their pain with smiles and jokes.
Which scenario are the Cavs in now?
James fought like hell to remake this team a contender when the Isiah Thomas situation blew up. He’s never been one to be aggressively passive-aggressive. And here he is, projecting a cool demeanor and cracking wise. Maybe he knows this is all ending and there’s no point in fighting the inevitable anymore.
He and the Cavs have a few more public outings to attend, so why not put on a brave face and try to avoid making this whole thing more awkward. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, even if there’s nothing funny about what’s going on.