Cavs GM Koby Altman wanted LeBron James to know he was trying to improve the team but that James also had to improve his own effort.
The Cleveland Cavaliers blew up their roster at the trade deadline last week in an attempt to salvage what was looking like a disastrous season.
In doing so, the Cavs got younger, more athletic, and more versatile, giving them perhaps a better chance to get back to the Finals for a fourth straight year.
But before making the moves, Cavs GM Koby Altman had a rare sit-down with LeBron James, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The relationship between James and the Cavs' front office had reportedly been fraying this season, and the Cavs were in a tough position. James can leave at the end of the season as a free agent and he hasn't committed to Cleveland beyond this season.
Any team that doesn't try its best to win while they have James is committing malpractice, but the Cavs also couldn't mortgage the future to appease a player who could be gone in a few months. The Cavs ultimately decided not to trade the valuable Brooklyn Nets pick for that very reason.
According to Wojnarowski, Altman wanted to tell James that he had potential deals lined up for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and DeAndre Jordan (that deal fell apart). He also reportedly wanted to tell James that he understood his frustrations with the roster and "crumbling culture."
Perhaps most interestingly, according to Wojnarowski, Altman told James he also had to step up his effort on the court.
"Altman prefaced his visit with the unmistakable truth that nothing the front office could do mattered much until James had re-engaged on the court. James had been angry, brooding and playing with an indifference that Altman hadn't witnessed in their three-plus years together in Cleveland."
Indeed, James' effort, along with the rest of the Cavs had declined, most notably on defense, where they were among the worst teams in the league. James' regular-season defensive effort has long been up-and-down, but he had noticeably become lax on that end.
ESPN previously reported that the night before the trade deadline, the Cavs told James they had deals lined up. It was also reported that the Cavs told James they would be trading Dwyane Wade, his best friend, and wanted to make sure he understood why.
There's no guarantee that the Cavs will be able to retain James this summer. But at the very least, the transparency and attempts to turn the season around look like winning moves. That the team is also 3-0 since the deadline helps, too.