INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Nearly one week before LeBron James must inform the Cleveland Cavaliers whether he intends to pick up the option on his contract with the Cavs for next season, Cleveland general manager Koby Altman said he and James’ camp have already established a “good dialogue.”
“We continue to have good dialogue with his management team,” Altman said Thursday after the Cavs drafted Alabama point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick. “I think LeBron has more than earned the right to approach his contracts the way he does. He’s done that before, so this is nothing new for us.
“We want to respect his space during this process, and I continue to have really good dialogue with his management team as he goes through that process. That’s probably all I can say at this point regarding him, but we don’t take him for granted. We love him, this city loves him. He means the world to us and this franchise.”
Cleveland went into the draft without knowing James’ intentions for next season; he has spent this week on a family vacation, multiple sources told ESPN. James has until midnight on June 29 to pick up the option or choose to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Altman was asked if James would have the patience to play alongside a 19-year-old rookie point guard in 2018-19, which will be James’ 16th season in the league.
“That’s a great question,” Altman said. “He went through it this year a little bit with some of our young guys, especially in the playoffs. What’s amazing, he talks about this all the time — the best teacher is experience. And our guys, our young guys, got some really good experience this year. And while it wasn’t consistent throughout the playoffs, each guy picked that [up], had their moments. And we went through two Game 7s and got to a Finals, and that experience is a huge teacher for those guys.
“So that experience is amazing for them and their confidence level as they approach next year. And then Collin, we got to get there with experience as well. But like he says, experience is the best teacher, and we gave those guys a great experience over 30 games and into the playoffs and into the Finals, and what does that mean for us moving forward, I think it’s all really positive.”
Altman was also asked if he feels like the Cavs are capable of positioning themselves to beat the Golden State Warriors should they get back to the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year with James next June.
“I think there’s two things to that: One, the Finals hurt us so much because we were competitive in that Finals,” Altman said. “That was what hurt. Because we were more competitive, I think, this year than we were a year ago when we came back from Golden State having lost by a combined 40 points or something like that [in Games 1 and 2]. We were really competitive in this series, and to come away how we came away just really hurt, because I thought we were really in a couple of those games and could’ve swung the series either way.
“That being said, we need to get better to beat one of the all-time great teams in the history of the game, with their talent level and what they put together. Dan Gilbert will spare no expense and is committed to winning championships. That is our goal. We did not meet that goal, but we have to keep doing better, and we have to invest in player development. We have to get better with our youth, and then we have to explore opportunities to add and try to improve our talent level as well. That’s my job, and we are certainly trying to attack that as we speak, for sure.”
Altman also put James’ impressive 15th season, which coincided with Altman’s first as the GM, officially in the rearview mirror with a summation of appreciation.
“LeBron James played 82 games this season,” Altman said. “He played every game into the postseason. It was remarkable, historical. He gave his heart and soul, die-hard energy, commitment to this team, to this franchise, to the city, to Northeast Ohio. And I like I said, it was an historical year and probably one of the best postseason runs of all time and very, very fortunate to have him here, and what he gave to this franchise this year was nothing short of remarkable.”