Friday, July 09, 2010

LBJ, Cleveland, and Miami

I was one of the millions who watched Lebron James announce that he would play for the Miami Heat next year. I have to say that the aftermath of this has been one of the most entertaining non-sports things in sports I have ever experienced. Where to start...

1.) To all of the people complaining about what an egotistical p.o.s. Lebron is for having the TV special: take a look in the mirror. Did you watch it? If the answer is yes, then shut up. You created the market for his ego, and he was simply smart enough to milk it for what it's worth. Good for him. So why are you bitter? Maybe it's because you didn't like The Decision (and I'm not talking about the TV special.)

2.) To Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavaliers: thanks for playing! I want to tell you to grow up and stop acting like a fool, but that would be dumb. No, you've made this whole thing so much more enjoyable with your childish antics. Please continue.

3.) To the Cavaliers fans: I'm sorry, but what did you really expect? Your team has bumbled this whole thing. The kind of overpaid, underperforming players that your team has continuously brought in to try to Win Now has been predictable and pathetic. The Cavaliers as an organization is weak, and has been for years. The only reason they got Lebron seven years ago was because they lost a lot of games in the right season. Yay. They've needed a coach who could get the most out of Lebron's unprecedented talents, and that has not happened. Instead everything has been done to appease Lebron, and you see how that works out. If the Cavs had had a coach who moved Lebron to point-forward (preferably playing the four-spot), posted him up on 2/3 of the plays, and told him never to take a 3-pointer unless it was to beat the shot clock, would Lebron have stayed in Cleveland? Who knows, but I think the Cavs would have won more games, especially more playoff games. That might have lead to a championship, and that probably would have made it harder for him to leave... All that being said, I still feel sorry for Cavs fans just because of the TV show. I think that would have made me physically ill.

4.) To the Bulls, Knicks, and Nets fans: just shut up. The Cavs fans have legit gripe, but you guys don't. So you didn't win the lottery. Boo-frickin'-hoo.

5.) To Kobe Bryant: congratulations. You are no longer the most disliked player in the NBA, a position you have held at least since you kicked Shaq out of L.A. Your style of egotism just became slightly less appalling to people outside of southern California. One interesting piece of analysis I've read is that there is no way Kobe would have gone to Miami, if he would have been in Lebron's position. The reason is that he would never want to have a decreased role so that he could play alongside Dwayne Wade. This is probably true, but I have a hard time seeing this as a negative about Lebron. Imagine if Lebron had got on TV last night and said he was playing for the Knicks or Bulls next year because he not only wanted to win a championship, he wanted to be The Undisputed Man on said championship team. That's the Kobe Bryant brand of egotism, and is that really more appealing? Maybe to some people, but not to me.

6.) To Kevin Durant: your time has come. You have a very legit chance to become the most popular player in the NBA next year, and you seem to deserve it. He's an unbelievably good player. He seems to have a Kobe-like work ethic. He also seems to be unbelievably humble. He's also 21 years old. He has to be on the short list for possible MVPs next year (Lebron's stats will take a big tumble in Miami.) His team looks like it will be very good for many years to come. It would not be surprising if a year from now Durant is sporting an MVP trophy, and coming off an exciting run deep in the playoffs. The only thing that might limit his commercial/endorsement potential is his own desire to stay focussed on basketball. Can you honestly say that about any other NBA player?

7.) To my home state of Florida: basketball just became king. Between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, my home state has three of the top five players in the NBA, two teams that will be expected to win ~60 games per year for the foreseeable future and meet each year in the Eastern Conference Finals. The only teams that could possibly stand in their way in the East are the aging Celtics and ... Maybe the Bulls if Derrick Rose becomes a top 10 player next year (which he definitely could do.) Seriously, there are going to be a lot of Florida Turnpike Series over the next five years.

8.) To Pat Riley: you are the man. You've got your work cut out for you, filling out that roster, but I'm not about to start doubting you at this point. In fact I would not be surprised if Wade, Bosh, and James all wind up taking considerably less than max contracts, all in the pursuit of a championship roster. As an Orlando Magic fan, I really hope this is not the case, but I'm too scared of Riley to think otherwise. I'm also impressed with his willingness to part with Michael Beasley, a very high and hyped draft pick. Personally I think Beasley may still turn out to be a very good NBA player, but I don't think most GMs would be willing to so quickly admit a mistake.

9.) To the pundits: let's see how long your memory is. A lot of people are saying that Lebron is taking the easy way out (even though many of those same people also think that having two All-NBA and one all-star player does not guarantee much in terms of championships.) It's Wade's team still, they say. Lebron can't be considered one of the game's greats now. That's all ridiculous to me. If Lebron continues to play the high level he's played at, and the Heat win multiple championships, none of this will matter. Nobody will care that it wasn't Lebron's team. Magic Johnson was never the "give me the ball at clutch time and get out of the way" kind of player, but nobody doubts his greatness. Lebron is much more cut in his mold than he is Michael Jordan's, and frankly it would be pleasing to see Lebron accept this. I think his stats will suffer, but mostly just scoring. I don't think his assists will necessarily suffer, especially if the Heat play an uptempo game (which they should.) His rebounding will go up if he plays in the paint more, and again if the Heat play uptempo. Imagine if he had a three year stretch averaging 20 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds per game, while shooting 55% from the field? Throw in a couple of titles, and you're telling me he's not one of the top five players of all time? Nobody will care if Wade has the ball in his hands at crunch time.

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