Having LeBron James makes it all worth it.
That's a mantra the Cleveland Cavaliers' front office and even some of his teammates sometimes have to chant to themselves. At times, during the chop of an NBA season, it can be easy to lose perspective.
Right now might be one of those times. James put his front office on alert Monday night after the Cavs lost in New Orleans -- their fifth loss in seven games -- despite the Pelicans being without star Anthony Davis.
During the slow burn, he uttered a stream of expletives, saying things like "We top-heavy as s---" and "We need a f---ing playmaker" and "It's been a s---ty 2017 so far."
After sleeping on it, James sent this tweet (and this one) on Tuesday that managed to back general manager David Griffin and apply pressure at the same time. This is what James does, and he executes it perfectly.
"I appreciate the fact that he's really trying to keep us moving in the right direction," Griffin said two weeks ago when James last went public with a request to add a point guard to the roster.
In a separate interview that week, Griffin told The Vertical: "If you don't capitalize on the years he has left, then shame on us."
Griffin knows the mantra.
It's at least the third time James has publicly talked about the roster over the last month. Behind the scenes, James has been even more forceful.
There are a lot of advanced stats that can tell this tale, but staying basic will do just fine. The Cavs have two players who average more than two assists per game: James and Kyrie Irving. The Golden State Warriors have seven. The San Antonio Spurs have seven. This is what James sees, and it has irritated him for weeks.
Here are more basic truths: In his 14th season, and after six straight years of Finals runs, James is averaging a league-leading 37.5 minutes a game. Irving is averaging 35 minutes, four more than last season, though he was limited last year as he was coming back from injury.
On Saturday, James played 45 minutes in a grueling overtime loss to San Antonio. Spurs star Kawhi Leonard played 46 minutes. On Monday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich benched Leonard for rest, while Cavs coach Ty Lue played James 44 minutes in New Orleans. Lue has limited options; the team is 4-18 over the last three seasons when James doesn't play.
"[The Spurs] have bodies," James said. "For the most part, all championship-contending teams has got guys that are ready to step in. Knock on wood, what if [Irving] goes down? For two weeks. Let's say two. What if I went down for three weeks?"
The Cavs' payroll is $127.6 million right now, plus $27 million in owed luxury tax. Both lead the league. As discussions about midseason moves have taken place, the team ownership, led by Dan Gilbert, has made it clear the answer to roster issues can't always be spending more money.
James, however, does not care. Especially after watching the deeper Warriors and Spurs beat his team over a six-day span last week. It is his viewpoint that the Cavs must be supplemented, and the cost of doing so is irrelevant.
"I don't got no time to waste. I'll be 33 in the winter, and I ain't got time to waste," said James, who turned 32 in December.
"I just hope that we're not satisfied as an organization."
Refer to the mantra.
This public pressure from James can be destabilizing and needlessly stressful. Over the last two years, there has been a barrage of passive-aggressive tweets that have put the organization and teammates on tilt several times.
But James fills the seats, raises the banners and draws the ratings. Recently, a deal was completed that will provide more than $160 million in public funding to renovate Quicken Loans Arena (the Cavs are putting in $120 million). Would it have happened if James hadn't returned and delivered a championship?
"I'll be 33 in the winter, and I ain't got time to waste."LeBron James
In the summer of 2015, the Cavs committed to more than $250 million in new contracts to keep the talent surrounding James. It led to the team paying $54 million in luxury tax last season.
The team had the option of doing more that summer. Matthew Dellavedova was interested in a long-term deal with the Cavs that would've paid him around $4 million per season. The Cavs also discussed declining a one-year team option on Timofey Mozgov and signing him instead to a three-year deal for around $9 million per season.
Ultimately, the Cavs picked up the Mozgov option for $5 million and forced Dellavedova into a one-year deal at $1.2 million. Had the Cavs done those two bigger deals, it would have added an estimated $35 million to their luxury tax plus the difference in payroll. The Cavs would've been next to the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers as the franchises with the highest payrolls in American sports history. And the Cavs don't have a billion-dollar local TV deal as those teams do.
Last summer, Mozgov and Dellavedova walked in free agency. Good for them they didn't sign in 2015. Mozgov got $16 million per year from the Lakers. Dellavedova got almost $10 million per year from the Bucks. The Cavs haven't been able to replace them.
Still, the team is in first place, heavily favored to return to the Finals and likely to send three players to the All-Star Game. But since the team is in a midseason funk, James is poking his finger in the franchise's ribs.
Recently, James was asked why he decided to trust the Cavs with the valuable final years of his prime even though they don't have a track record of building championship teams.
"I trusted myself. Coming back home happened to be the place," James said. "The organization has rallied around me and I appreciate that."
The Cavs appreciate it, too. Both sides just need to occasionally remind each other of it.
ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this story.