ORLANDO, Fla. — With 911 emergency hotline personnel in Cleveland exhausted from a 24-hour cycle of crisis control, we now join another critical call in progress:
"What's your emergency, sir?"
"My name is LeBron James, and I feel awful. My back is killing me from carrying a city, and assorted clowns, in the playoffs. My head is throbbing from the expectations of every friggin' person in Cleveland. I can't take this much longer."
"Sir, have you tried calling the New York Knicks? They might be willing to help."
Mr. James has a right to feel down in the dumps. His team is on the verge of a monumental collapse against the Boston Celtics, which brings a tremendous amount of undue pressure on his offseason decision to tough it out in Cleveland or go elsewhere to chase a championship.
It's not just his call to make. There are suitors in play, like the Knicks, who should ask themselves whether spending a gazillion dollars on James is a prudent call, or one of those shaky investments, just like the fool's gold once offered by the boys at Goldman Sachs?
The James Gang in Cleveland is proving that having the greatest player in the building every night isn't enough. It's always proven true in the NBA. Jordan had Pippen. Magic's sidekick was Kareem. Bird had McHale. LeBron has ... let me think ... Mo?
Larry and Curly, too. Despite the best efforts to surround King James with a suitable cast of supporting players - Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O'Neal have been solid additions - others are simply proving to be court jesters.
Mo Williams has been exposed as an All-Star fraud. Anderson Varejao, despite the tremendous energy he brings off the bench, finds reason to cry about every one of the 1,312 fouls he's committed during his NBA career. Anthony Parker or Sarah Jessica Parker? It wouldn't make a difference against Rajon Rondo because nobody can cover him.
The supporting cast has to have more of an impact than fetching LeBron's car from the valet parking lot, or admiring all of his fancy tattoos. There's a large "330" on his right forearm. It's the area code of his hometown, Akron. "Witness" is etched on his right leg.
Will LeBron get a tattoo makeover - say, "212" - or will we witness one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history?
It's going to take that. When leading 3-2 in a seven-game series, the Celtics are 31-1 in franchise history. The Cavs are coming off their worst playoff loss in franchise history. And they're going back to Boston.
This is it for LeBron. His legacy, tied up in one big controversial knot. Win tonight, then win again Sunday, and you flip the switch on your approval ratings.
LeBron didn't play poorly Tuesday night. He simply didn't play, a disinterested spectator with the season on the balance.
That's inexcusable. He's The Guy who can't go 3-for-14. He's The Guy who can't dawdle and settle for long jump shots. He's The Guy who can't dismiss the lame effort by saying, "When you have three bad games in seven years, it's easy to point them out." He's The Guy who can't disappear in the most critical game of the season, before possibly vanishing forever.
I think he's gone. Mike Brown, too. I've always thought of him more of a cheerleader than coach, starting with no continuity in his playoff lineups. LeBron should know that he needs more than guys waving pompoms in his honor.
The Knicks won't work, even if they sign Chris Bosh, too. What else after that? You can't win with the usher in Section 223 coming off the bench. Or J.R. Giddens. Same difference.
Chicago is a better fit for LeBron. Better players, without the big-city expectations.
Don't drink yourselves into a stupor, Cavs fans. Professional help is the best course of action. You'll just have to get behind that big guy with the big tattoo on his back that reads "Chosen1."