Cavs move on without LeBron

Surrounded by cameras and familiar faces Mo Williams hadn’t seen

in months, Cleveland’s guard looked up, stretched his arms out to

both sides and announced what the world has known about the

Cavaliers since a fateful decision this summer.

”There is no LeBron in this building,” Williams said Monday,

his voice carrying across the practice floor of Cleveland Clinic

Courts. ”Whether we believe it or not, he’s not coming back. This

is who we’ve got. I don’t see the big TNT trailers, the ESPN

trailers.

”This is what we’ve got. This is the hand we’re dealt, and we

have to play the best we can.”

Like it or not, the Cavaliers are moving on without LeBron

James.

For the first time in eight seasons, James, who revived the Cavs

and carried them closer than they’ve ever been to an NBA title, was

not at media day Monday as the Cavaliers embarked on a new – and

daunting – era minus their homegrown superstar.

James was in Miami, where the two-time MVP’s talents will be on

display this season with Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris

Bosh.

His departure rocked Cleveland, the Cavaliers’ franchise and

their fans, who are still struggling with the separation.

Williams was particularly troubled by James’ decision to leave.

Teammates for two seasons, Williams was so hurt that he reportedly

considered retirement.

In an interview with Yahoo! Williams said he lost some of his

love for the game and thought about walking away from it.

”That’s how bad it got,” Williams said in the story. ”I

contemplated it. I really sat down and envisioned life after

basketball. I really saw myself not playing.”

In his first comments since the article was published, the

27-year-old Williams, who has three years and $26 million left on

his contract, backtracked on talk of quitting anytime soon.

”At some point, you have to think about what you’re going to do

after you play,” he said. ”It makes no sense for me with three

years left on my deal to give money I’ve felt I’ve earned back. It

don’t make sense, and the article wasn’t even about me retiring. It

kind of got blown out of proportion.”

Williams explained that he had posted a comment on his Twitter

account that may have been taken out of context, complicating

matters. What is perfectly clear is that Williams was deeply

affected by James’ decision and experienced the same sense of loss

and betrayal as any fan.

”I felt the same exact pain,” said Williams, who will be

limited in training camp by a groin injury. ”I feel the same love

for this organization and this team as they do. So yes, it was a

time where I felt their same pain. But at the same time, when you

get here and get around this organization and the new team and the

new coaches, you feel excited. You get to turn things around and

start something new.”

New was in abundance as the Cavaliers convened for the first

time since losing to Boston in last season’s Eastern Conference

semifinals.

The Summer of LeBron changed everything.

Coach Mike Brown was fired and replaced by Byron Scott, who has

turned teams far less talented than the one he inherited in

Cleveland into winners and is excited about the Cavs’ upside.

General manager Danny Ferry decided not to renew his contract, and

assistant GM Lance Blanks left for Phoenix’s front office.

Center Shaquille O’Neal left after one season for Boston and

guard Delonte West, whose off-the-court problems hindered the

Cavaliers more than they will acknowledge publicly, is also wearing

Celtics green.

These Cavs are not the same Cavs, and GM Chris Grant said any

perceived post-LeBron hangover is unfounded.

”We’re looking forward to moving forward,” he said.

Maybe, but there’s no escaping a look back in the rearview

mirror.

Shortly after James announced his decision during a now infamous

hourlong TV special, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert accused the 25-year-old

of quitting on his teammates.

Williams was asked if James quit.

”No,” he said. ”This game is too competitive to quit. We

ain’t playing checkers. This is basketball. You play this game long

enough and anybody who’s competitive understands no matter what’s

going on with you, people don’t just quit. I don’t care who you

are.”

Although their national profile has lessened in the aftermath of

James’s exit, the Cavs believe they still can compete at a playoff

level. For months, they’ve read the unflattering predictions

they’re about to slide back among the league’s also-rans.

Scott finds the negative talk inspiring.

”I kind of love that,” he said. ”I’ve been an underdog my

whole life. In my conversations with guys this summer, they felt

the same way and that’s a good thing. So hopefully we can bring

that into training camp and it’s going to carry over into the

season.

”We’re going forward. We’re moving on. It’s a new era.”