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Friday, July 09, 2010

LeBron James Abandons Cleveland, Creates Power Trio in Miami

The 2010 NBA free agency circus--headlined by LeBron James' narcissistic power plays and publicity stunts--climaxed on Thursday night when James commandeered ESPN's airwaves for one hour to stab a sharp, rusty stake right through the hearts of Cleveland sports fans by proudly declaring that he will sign with the Miami Heat. For seven years, the Cleveland Cavaliers' organization bent over backwards to cater to James' every whim, the Cleveland media showered him with unending praise and the team's fans cheered his every move while also literally begging him to return their unwavering affection by re-signing with the team. James responded by leaving without even saying goodbye, fleeing Northeast Ohio at night for the comforts of a Connecticut TV studio and not even having the common courtesy to bother to make a phone call to Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert.

It is already quite obvious that the coverage of this over the top drama will be very parochial in nature: for instance, in Cleveland this will be framed as a story about betrayal while in Miami this will be depicted as a story about LeBron James joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The larger story that is seemingly getting lost in the hype is that Pat Riley outsmarted everybody else so completely that he looks like Bobby Fischer playing chess against a bunch of little children. While so many league executives, media members and fans speculated about what LeBron James really wants, Riley not only figured it out but delivered it on a silver platter: Riley realized that anywhere James goes he will get paid big bucks and he will be able to be a "global icon" (even if that nebulous term has never been precisely defined) but the one opportunity that James could not readily obtain was the chance to play with other All-Stars who are also in their primes.

Riley handled this entire process masterfully; after Wade refused to sign a long term contract extension in 2006 but later griped that he did not have enough help Riley essentially said "If you are not going to commit to this franchise long term then just shut up and play and I'll build the team how I see fit." Riley made it clear that until Wade committed to the Heat that the Heat would keep their options open, including going after max level free agents if Wade decided to bolt; so, Wade kept his mouth shut, led the Heat to the playoffs and then decided to help Riley recruit top players to come to Miami.

I don't think that anyone anticipated that Riley would be able to clear up so much salary cap space that he could not only re-sign Wade but also bring in two other max level players. It seems unlikely that a team can win a championship with three stars and nine minimum salary players but even if the Heat do not win a title this year Riley has assembled an impressive troika to build around for upcoming seasons--and if Riley and his super trio can entice a few aging but still capable veterans to come to Miami on the cheap in order to try to get rings then the Heat will be a viable championship contender very quickly. It must be added that if James, Wade and Bosh truly teamed up with winning--and not making max money--as their top goal then they could greatly accelerate the process of creating a powerful team by agreeing to sign for $10 million or $12 million per year instead of $16 million per year; the millions of dollars that the Heat save would enable them to sign some players for more than the league minimum--and I suspect that James, Wade and Bosh could figure out some way to get by on "just" $10 million per year.

Most observers considered James, Wade and Bosh to be the three most desirable free agents--and Riley swooped up all of them!

Meanwhile, many of the remaining top players quietly re-signed with their original teams, leaving relative table scraps for teams like the Knicks and Nets, franchises that tanked--I mean, strategically positioned themselves--in order to theoretically woo one or more of the top tier free agents to the New York metropolitan area.

I never for one moment believed that James would go to New York. The Knicks are the clowns of the free agency circus: for several years they have been ripping off their fans by selling an inferior product packaged with the promise that LeBron James' dream is to play in the "Mecca" of pro basketball. Two seasons ago, I pointed out that the Knicks had not improved during the early part of the Mike D'Antoni era and that there was little reason to expect that they would get better any time soon; my "reward" for speaking the truth was to get trashed by Knick fans and an associate economics professor from the middle of nowhere who moonlights as a "stat guru"--but everything that I have been saying about the Knicks has been proven to be correct: they were even worse in 2010 than they were in 2009 and all the Knicks have to show for their "efforts" is Amare Stoudemire, who they will now overpay to replace David Lee, a more versatile and productive player who is also healthier and younger. New York fans--and especially the season ticket holders--have a right to be puzzled, if not outraged, at the rudderless mess their franchise has become.

Chicago Bulls' supporters seem baffled that James apparently does not consider their squad to be a dynasty in the making but I have to concur with James on that count; the Bulls have a rookie head coach, they do not have a defined style of play and I think that their roster looks better on paper than it will perform on the court. Why would James leave the Cavs to make, at best, a lateral move?

The entire city of Cleveland feels betrayed by James and this collective civic pain is only exceeded--at least in the context of sports--by Art Modell's shameful abandonment of the loyal, long suffering Cleveland Browns' fans.

James' handling of the free agency process was clumsy and tone deaf, betraying an alarming amount of hubris plus a total disregard for the feelings of anyone who is not a member of his "team"--and it is critically important to note that whenever James uses that word he means his buddies/cronies/hangers-on, not the actual team that employs him to play basketball (and not quit in playoff games).

Gilbert promptly responded to James' announcement with a scathing letter blasting James for "a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his 'decision' unlike anything ever 'witnessed' in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment." Gilbert termed James' action a "cowardly betrayal." In an interview with the Associated Press, Gilbert added, "He quit (versus Boston in the 2010 playoffs). Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar." Gilbert also alleged that James quit in game six versus Orlando in the 2009 playoffs. Gilbert's comments are blunt and harsh but they are also true: you don't have to be a basketball expert to realize how disinterested James seemed versus Boston--particularly in game two and game five--and James' performance versus Orlando in game six of the 2009 playoffs was, at the very least, curiously passive. While Gilbert's accusations have much merit, I wonder if he ever confronted James regarding James' subpar playoff efforts and I also wonder why Gilbert fired Coach Mike Brown if Gilbert had such a clear understanding of just how much blame James must shoulder for the Cavs' disappointing 2009 and 2010 playoff runs. In retrospect, Gilbert should have dealt with James the way that Riley dealt with Wade, insisting that if James did not fully commit to the Cavs then the Cavs would not make short term moves to appease James at the possible expense of long term salary cap flexibility--but it is not really fair to blame Gilbert for rolling the dice and trying to win immediately, especially when one of the main reasons that the Cavs did not win is that James quit during the 2010 playoffs.

Gilbert's letter concluded by boldly stating that the Cavs would win a championship before James does; that may sound like wishful thinking but keep in mind that even though the Cavs' teams that Gilbert assembled lacked the star power that the Heat currently have they still managed to make it to the NBA Finals in 2007 and to post 60-plus wins in both 2009 and 2010. If the Heat experience injuries and/or chemistry problems it is not at all out of the realm of possibility that James will never again have as much team success as he enjoyed with the Cavs from 2007-2010; NBA Finals appearances and 60-win seasons are very hard to come by and it would not surprise me if a decade from now we look back at the 2010 season as James' great missed opportunity to win a championship.

It is quite predictable that True Hoop's Henry Abbott finds Gilbert's heartfelt letter more offensive than James' conduct; Abbott is a shill for ESPN--which sold out whatever remained of their journalistic integrity by caving in to every whim of James and his "team" regarding the one hour TV special about "The Decision"--and Abbott is much less interested in truth than he is in superficial appearances: Gilbert spoke the truth about how James quit during the playoffs and about James' deplorable recent conduct but James donated ESPN's ad money from the one hour LeBron infomercial to children, so in Abbott's eyes James must be the better guy. I think that it is great that James facilitated a process to help underprivileged children but that charitable act--done with other people's money, by the way--in no way mitigates or excuses how James handled the free agency process, jerking whole cities around as if they are mere playthings that exist for his amusement.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, James had every right to explore his options; the mere act of leaving Cleveland is not a betrayal--and the decision to go to Miami to team up with Wade and Bosh is logical, though James could also have contended for championships by staying in Cleveland--but the way that James maximized Cleveland's humiliation was cruel and unnecessary. It is actually quite remarkable how James has managed to essentially alienate virtually every NBA city other than Miami. If James had cut out all of the hoopla and just issued a simple press release a week ago thanking Cleveland for seven great years but saying that the prospect of playing with Wade and Bosh is too good to pass up I doubt that James would be experiencing a fraction of the backlash that he is getting now and will continue to receive for the foreseeable future.

Not long ago, James was almost universally popular and his easygoing demeanor was compared favorably with Kobe Bryant's dour facial expressions and hard driving manner. James' conduct does not change my opinion of him as a player--he is the most athletic and productive regular season performer in the NBA, while Bryant is more skilled and has a more finely tuned sense of how to be effective against elite teams--but it is amusing to watch and listen as the talking heads in Cleveland who used to laud James as being far superior to Bryant now openly mock James and say that he will never match Bryant's accomplishments; just as it was wrong to rank James ahead of Bryant purely out of home town bias it is also wrong to now downgrade James' skills just because he lacks a certain class and grace in terms of how he has handled himself: depending on Bryant's health/durability, James will still be either the best or second best player in the NBA next season, though there is good reason to suspect that Bryant will once again be the more effective playoff performer.

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posted by David Friedman @ 8:48 AM

30 comments

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30 Comments:

At Friday, July 09, 2010 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous Ilhan said...

David, what I have learned yesterday:

1. LeBron James is seriously disconnected from other people. Either he does not give a hoot about their feelings, or he is completely incapable of empathy and of figuring out what sort of emotional response his actions will bring about. I find it nothing less of a shock that he would announce his decision to leave Cleveland this way: Babble about trifles for almost half an hour before announcing your decision, be a tease for ratings and Brand LeBron, then, after the announcement, show no understanding for the "pain" of the people of Cleveland.

I would, actually any sane adult in his place would, downplay the announcement as much as possible and show some sort of regret - even fake emotion would be better than this! - that things haven't gone better in Cleveland.

Perhaps such disconnect is an occupational hazard for young celebrities in general, nevertheless, LBJ is a pitiful human being in my eyes because of it.

2. Most "experts" and scribes in the sports industry are as much in the dark as to the psyche of these stars as ordinary fans are. Many experts thought, at least prior to the Miami leaks, that such a TV special could only mean LBJ had decided to stay in Cleveland.

3. Dan Gilbert is a classless buffoon. You let a 20-something hijack your organization, cater to his every wish, although you concurrently believe that he quit on the team the last two years. Then why the hell did you recruit him? Just let him go. And what if he had decided to stay, then he would have remained as the "King". You either do not recruit LBJ and make your assessment of him known, or you recruit him and, in the case of failure, shut up. Fans have the luxury of losing control in the pangs of emotion but not an owner. Sheer foolishness and lack of principle. He has, furthermore, seriously damaged his reputation as an owner in the eyes of the players. Just read what Wade said in response to Gilbert's letter and statement.

4. All talk of "home", "you are one of us", "we love you no matter what", in the context of the NBA, is BS. What the fan bases care about is winning, plain and simple. LBJ is still from Akron, Ohio. He is still, in a way, representing that area. If you love him (as a basketball player or a fellow Ohioan), then continue to support or appreciate him wherever he goes. But no, one needs to burn jerseys, etc.

These points of minor irritation notwithstanding, I am extremely excited at the prospect of watching 2 of the best 5 players in the NBA with a top 5 big man together in their absolute primes.

David, what sort of options does Riley have in constructing rest of the roster? To begin with, a center and a shooter, at least one, is needed. With only league minimums available, which players are viable? I hear mention of Mike Miller and of European players. The latter seem to me to be a pipe dream with the league minimum. What about T-Mac? Though he wasn't much with the Knicks, it typically takes time to come back from microfracture surgery. Who else is available? I would like to read your opinion on both scenarios (the three sign max contracts or they sign for something in the vicinity of 10 mil and leave money on the table for other acquisitions).

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 12:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

would dan gilbert said all those things if lebron had stayed NO. classic sour grapes to me, he owes cleveland nuthing they were fortunate to get the number 1 pick and get him in 2003. he doesnt have to stay there because he from there or nuthing, lol i know cleveland wont win the title before lebron unless they win it next year? they set back for like 15 years now with this he was the only reason they were relevant the last 7 years.

it was narcassitic and he showed he was a attention freak, but thats how players do it today kobe and durant did it with more class than he did but thats the nature of the beast. At the end of the day playing with wade and bosh was never going to happen in cleveland, lebron didnt want to get old and never win there mo willams was nice jamison etc but in the playoffs they did not perform up to par, you dont have to worry about that with bosh and wade. they got to get some good vets and they are set for 8 years to win 4 or 5 titles, cleveland made good moves had a great team in reg season. but werent good enough to get it done in postseason.

i said lebron quit in game 5 as well, but gilbert didnt say it till now why didnt he say it when it happened? why was he trying to resign so badly a quitter? dan gilbert came off as the one classless in this situationfar as im concerned.

lebron wade james got to get some help with vets, like the celts did if they could they should win the title this season far as im concerned, they got to get the chemistry right and make sure ego dont get in the way. well see it should be very exciting this changes the landscape for years in nba, james should get 4 or 5 rings if everything go right and they buy in.

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 3:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ilhan:

I agree with you completely regarding your first two points.

As for point three, perhaps Gilbert should have exercised greater tact/discretion but I respect him for speaking the truth from the heart and articulating the rage that Cavs' fans feel about how James just quit during the playoffs and then how James ripped their hearts out on national television. I would not be surprised if Commissioner David Stern reprimands and/or fines Gilbert but I think that Gilbert is trying to rally the Cavs' fans behind the organization and I think that Gilbert has proven that he is willing to spend the necessary money to build a contending team. I prefer his brutal honesty to LeBron's empty talk about his loyalty and about how much it meant to him to bring a title to Cleveland.

I agree with you that it is excessive/pointless for fans to burn jerseys and commit other such acts. Hopefully nothing truly violent/destructive will happen in the wake of LeBron's announcement.

I am waiting for the announcement of the exact contract details for LeBron, Wade and Bosh before I write about specific moves that the Heat could make. It will be interesting to see how much less money--if any--those guys are willing to take in order to give the Heat flexibility to fill out the rest of the roster. That said, there are surely some solid veterans who will be willing to take pay cuts (even if the Big Three won't) in order to have an opportunity to compete for a title. In general terms, the Heat need a legit starting center, at least one (and preferably two) knock down outside shooters plus some solid reserve players at all positions. I am skeptical that they can really complete this roster and develop championship-level chemistry in one season but I was also skeptical about the Celtics' chances in 2008; the difference is that it turned out that the Celtics had some legitimately underrated players (such as Rondo and Perkins) plus the Celtics put together a quality bench on the fly with guys like Posey and House. Also, it is worth remembering that even with everything falling into place almost perfectly for Boston--no ego problems, better depth than expected, right coach to handle the mix--the Celtics still were pushed to seven games twice before winning the championship. The Heat face an uphill climb this year even though they obviously have pulled off quite a feat by assembling three big time players who are all in their primes.

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 3:09:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

David,

1. I wonder what the stat geeks will do now that Lebron wont reign their "rating system" anymore. I wonder if they will say Lebron is the best player in the league even when his PER wont be top in the league.(remember how they said Kobe is nowhere near best player in the league since his PER wasn't top in the league).

2. I laugh at the media hypocrisy. Do you see how nobody on ESPN said that Lebron's legacy would take a hit by playing with 2 of the top 10 players in the NBA. Remember those same analysts/journalist said Kobe was second banana to shaq and couldn't win without him and basically disregarded those 3 championships?

3. Does this seem to you like an admission by Lebron that he cannot carry the burden of failure or the expectations put upon him? Isn't this similar to Lebron walking out on both Media and Magic players after losing to Orlando a year ago? Remember how Kobe walked amongst fans, celebrating players alike with confetti fallin on his head to go embrace and congratulate Doc Rivers after Celtics gave Lakers one of the worst defeat in Finals history?

4. Is it me or did ESPN credit Chris Broussard for breaking this story(lebron to miami) when Stephen A smith broke that story a week ago. Nobody believe Stephen then, and even Broussard said Smith was wrong then.

5.How bad was "the decision" for ESPN. What happened to journalism? Lebron's team ran his own commercials. put sponsor items(vitamin water bottles) in interview room. Never seem something like that before.

6. Are people underestimating the Lakers by saying the Heat will defeat them should they make in the Finals? First, Heat dont have Perkins, Second Chris Bosh can't guard Pau Gasol. I think lakers can defend the Heat quite well. They also have chemistry on the court which the Heat dont have yet.

7. IF you were Mike Miller, would u have chosen to play with the heat or the Lakers for the same money?

8. Are you of the thought that Lebron pissed away his Legacy or his right to challenge the likes of Jordan, Kobe, Bird, Magic, Kareem, Russell?

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 3:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

None of us knows what Gilbert said to LeBron privately after LeBron quit and Gilbert candidly admitted in the AP interview that the Cavs had coddled James for too long. While there is a "sour grapes" aspect to the timing of Gilbert's comments I think that he spoke the truth and I think that he finally realized--too late--that the Cavs had been mistaken to not more aggressively challenge LeBron earlier.

Just wait until things get tough with the Heat--LeBron has shown that he bails out when things get tough (quitting in the playoffs, leaving Cleveland rather than trying to build a champion there) and it will be interesting to see if he can change this basic character trait.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't you used to say that LeBron was going to win four or five titles in Cleveland? Let's see LeBron win one title before we pencil him in for creating some kind of dynasty. The Lakers match up better with the Heat than they do with the Celtics: Artest can at least contain LeBron, Gasol-Bosh is no worse than a wash for the Lakers and Kobe is better than Wade--and even though the Lakers do not have great depth they obviously have better depth/championship experience than the Heat are likely to obtain, at least this season.

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 3:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

1) I am not concerned with how the "stat gurus" will perceive this or any other situation.

2) Clearly, there has long been hypocrisy in terms of how the media characterizes various athletes. I think that it is hypocritical for Cleveland media personalities to suddenly say that Kobe is much better than LeBron when only recently they would have sworn up and down that LeBron is better than Kobe. My basic position about those two players has not changed (in terms of their oncourt skills), though I have lost respect for LeBron as a person.

3) I don't think that it is completely unreasonable for LeBron to want to play with two other stars while they are all in his prime but, as you suggested above, he should be judged the same way that the media would judge anyone else in a similar position. Kobe has turned Gasol into a perennial All-Star (Gasol made the All-Star team once in six years prior to joining the Lakers) yet the media act like Kobe had Wilt Chamberlain dropped into his lap; LeBron clearly has a better 2-3 punch than Kobe has ever had and the Heat should be viewed as failures if they do not win at least one championship after Riley fills out the rest of the roster (which may not happen this season).

4) I have no idea what SAS said or when he said it.

5) Perhaps now even the casual fan will understand why I have been putting ESPN, Hoop, Slam, etc. on blast for quite some time.

6) I agree that the Lakers match up very well with the Heat even though the Heat's top three have won more individual honors than the Lakers' top three.

7) As Fred Carter might say, "Kobe, Kobe, Kobe." If LeBron really wanted to win a title this season then he would have taken much less money and signed with the Lakers. A Kobe-LeBron-Gasol trio coached by Jackson and supported by Artest, Odom, Bynum, etc. truly would be unstoppable barring injuries.

8) It is obviously a popular sentiment at the moment to say that LeBron has diminished his "legacy" or his "brand" but I think that is just speculative at this point. What if LeBron leads the Heat to five straight titles (at some point) while averaging 35-7-7 in the Finals? That would look pretty good on his resume. On the other hand, if the Heat never win anything and/or LeBron quits again in big playoff games then he clearly will be viewed in a negative light.

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 5:22:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I don't see why a four year extension isn't "long term" enough. It's not like signing a one-year deal. I don't think it's fair to criticize a player for wanting to keep their options open. It's not a bad thing for a superstar player to have some leverage. Sometimes it takes pressure from a player to get a team to act. I believe to this day that if Kobe Bryant did not make a fuss in the summer of 2007, the Lakers would not have gotten so serious about quickly rebuilding.

Pat Riley did indeed handle the process masterfully. I suspect that the force of his personality was a necessary ingredient in convincing James, Wade and Bosh to make what sounded like an unworkable fantasy into reality.

The Knicks (and other teams who cleared cap space) seemed to have the same idea as Riley: present LeBron with the opportunity to play with another superstar in his prime. I think it is disgraceful the way they tanked two seasons, but I guess they felt it was worth a chance to hit the jackpot. I don't agree with that approach. But I don't see why you are praising the Heat while criticizing the Knicks. Their essential plan was the same. Yes, the Knicks came away with a disappointing consolation prize, but that was going to happen to at least a few teams.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that "Bryant is more skilled and has a more finely tuned sense of how to be effective against elite teams." My biggest critique of LeBron's game is that he doesn't maximize his physical advantages and too often settles for jumpers. It will be interesting to see if he adjusts under Riley's watch.

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 5:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

david if he felt that way he should of never wanted him back. you thought he quit on you but you did everything you could to bring him back? cleveland thinks they are entitled to lebron just because he is from ohio, which is ridicoulous. He has to do what is best for him and his family not what is best for cleveland.

things will get tough but hell have wade and bosh to help him this time around. jamison and willams were not good enough in playoffs last year or the year before. lebron quit in game 2 and 5 really the celts had the better team anyway they blew them out both games. lebron would of got blamed either way.


4 or 5 titles in 8 years is possible at least 2. he 25 bosh 26 wade 28 he never had nuthing like this in cleveland and went to finals in 07. its really two batmans and a robin in bosh they will be very tough to beat in nba next season

 
At Friday, July 09, 2010 6:15:00 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Sorry, this whole thing is completely overblown. Did LeBron prove that he's narcissistic and egotistical during this whole process? Of course! But you know what? Most athletes, politicians, generals, actors, musicians, etc., etc. are; they're just better at hiding it.

Also, this whole ordeal will be forgotten if Miami wins multiple titles. If we forgave Kobe for his actions from 2003-2007 (and please don't tell him he didn't act like a jackass at points during those four years), we'll forgive LBJ if he starts winning championships.

 
At Saturday, July 10, 2010 9:18:00 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

Why didn't Gilbert 'speak the truth' instead of enabling LeBron all these years? He admits LeBron quit in several playoff games but was still willing to pull out all the stops to keep him?

Please.

He's bitter and angry (rightly so) that LeBron callously humiliated him and his franchise on national TV, but to me his 'brutal honesty' means nothing after the fact. If LeBron had stayed in Cleveland would any of this stuff have come out? I think all we know the answer to that question.

 
At Saturday, July 10, 2010 9:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I understand what you mean and there is definitely an element of hyprocrisy in terms of Gilbert blasting LeBron now after being silent for so long and after trying to re-sign LeBron. Still, it is not very realistic to say that if Gilbert thought that LeBron had quit--and we all know that LeBron did quit; we all "witnessed" it--then Gilbert should not have offered LeBron a deal. Can you imagine the outcry from Cleveland fans if Gilbert had said, "We are not going to try to re-sign LeBron"?

LeBron quit and LeBron is obviously immature--or worse--in terms of how he conducts his business but he is also the most phyically gifted player in the league and no worse than the league's second best player.

Gilbert spent a lot of money to try to build a roster to LeBron's specifications. Yes, LeBron has the right to decide to move on but out of courtesy to Gilbert and in deference to Cleveland's fans LeBron should not have dragged this process out, he should have kept the lines of communication open with Gilbert and he should not have turned his announcement into an hour long TV show in which he stabbed his hometown in the heart while daring to speak of how "loyal" he is. If this were about "loyalty" then LeBron would have signed a six year deal with the Cavs not only to support the Akron/Cleveland area but because Gilbert has demonstrated that he will do everything in his power to build a championship team. The truth is that if LeBron had not quit the Cavs could have beaten the Celtics, they matched up even better with Orlando and they would have had home court advantage against a Lakers' team that they handled during the regular season even when Bynum was healthy.

I will go out on a limb now and say that the Heat will not win four titles.

 
At Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

My point is that even though the Cavs made it quite clear that they were committed to doing everything possible to win a championship LeBron did not make a reciprocal commitment to them at any time, which made it harder to pull off certain moves. If LeBron were truly as loyal as he claims to be then at some point after Gilbert went way over the luxury tax number LeBron would have announced his intention to re-sign with Cleveland and then he would have helped to recruit potential free agents much like Wade did for Miami. Amare clearly wanted to play with LeBron if possible, so if LeBron had committed to Cleveland then Amare would have probably signed with the Cavs; LeBron could have stayed in his hometown and played alongside a perennial All-Star.

The difference between the Heat and the Knicks/Nets is that Riley did not just tank whole seasons; he put together playoff caliber teams but did so in a way that he could clear cap space in July 2010.
Riley outsmarted everybody but the Cavs were hamstrung because LeBron kept them out of the loop.

 
At Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sean:

Whether or not this "ordeal" will be forgotten if Miami wins multiple titles, LeBron handled this situation very poorly.

I don't want to turn this thread into yet another rehashing of what Kobe did at certain times and how his actions were perceived/portrayed. While Kobe may have exercised poor judgment at certain times, he never took part in such an extended tribute to his own ego as LeBron just did and most of the actions that Kobe took reflected that winning--not marketing, not his "brand"--is his top priority. Kobe always made it very clear that he wanted to be a Laker for life and that he would never leave the Lakers as long as the franchise was as committed to winning as he is--and Kobe's attitude resulted in the Lakers making moves that rebuilt the team in the wake of Shaq's departure.

 
At Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

As I indicated in my earlier response to Marcel, there is indeed an element of sour grapes/hyporcrisy in the timing of Gilbert's statement but there is no way that Gilbert could possibly have refused to try to sign LeBron. What should have happened earlier is that Gilbert and other members of the organization should have confronted LeBron privately before LeBron's ego got so massively out of control.

I don't blame Gilbert for speaking in anger: Gilbert spoke the truth and now he is trying to rally Cavs' fans behind the team. I am certain that Gilbert will spare no expense to build a contender, though obviously he faces an uphill task until the Cavs acquire a franchise player.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 2:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

see people must understand marketing david. lebron is not going to tell cleveland what he was going to do beforehand, that takes the suspense out of the whole thing. and also he did not tell any other team what he was going to do before, we truly dont know when he decided to go to miami it had to be fairly recently because they were trying to do a sign and trade with bosh that fell through. so it it is myth that he decided this at olympics or 3 months ago like some are saying if he won championship in cleveland he would of stayed.

At the end of the day cleveland missed stoudamire and took jamison which was terrible especially long term. with amare 27 and jamison 34 if they had won champ with amare they would of been able to resign both amare and lebron with amare probably takeing less money. they have noone to blame but them lebron did what was best and made the most sense when would he ever get this chance agian to play with a bosh and wade type? cleveland was not built to win multiple championships as the heat are now. people criticizing lebron are a joke to me it is fair to critize for lack of max effort in game 2 and 5 agianst celts but to critize for a descion for the future of himself and family because he didnt do what cleveland wanted him too is terrible from gilbert/cleveland cavs fan base.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 2:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Phx nixed the proposed Stoudemire deal, not Cleveland. Gilbert did everything that he could to put a great supporting cast around LeBron--and even though LeBron refused to commit to staying in Cleveland, Gilbert managed to assemble enough pieces for the Cavs to post the best record in the NBA for the past two seasons. If LeBron had tried harder then the Cavs probably would have won the championship this year even without Amare.

LeBron may never play on a 66 win team again and he may never get back to the Finals. Everyone assumes that Miami is a dynasty in the making but ask Grant Hill about that; the Magic thought that Hill and T-Mac would be a great duo but that never materialized because Hill got hurt. Similarly, Yao and T-Mac never got out of the first round, with injuries also playing a role in the Rockets' failure to launch.

LeBron's marketing plan is backfiring because he has alienated fans in every city except Miami. He did not have to create artificial suspense while leaving the Cavs high and dry; he could have simply issued a standard press release like most normal human beings would.

We will see whether or not Miami is truly "built to win multiple championships."

Cleveland fans are not primarily mad at LeBron because he left but rather because he turned this process into a joke with them as the punchline.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 7:50:00 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

Marcel,

I find the idea that LeBron didn't know he was going to Miami ages ago preposterous, but hey, we can't prove that either way at this point.

What does seem clear is that LeBron is the one who doesn't 'understand marketing'. Are you seeing the backlash against him? This is a guy who used to be almost universally liked or at least respected, and in one fell swoop he's turned himself into 2004 Kobe. His handling of the situation was absolutely atrocious, and you have to wonder how his 'team' could have expected this debacle to improve his image.

As for Miami, they aren't even built to put 5 players on the floor and we're already talking about multiple championships. Hilarious. I can tell you this much: if they don't find a really good defensive big to protect Bosh they aren't getting out of the East next season.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 12:51:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

Hi, David.

It is interesting how some things seem to come full circle in life.

e.g. When I first started to express my ideas about sports-related matters within on-line hoops community your site was one of the first locations I began to visit on a regular basis. How come? You are a person with a solid knowledge base about the NBA game, who has taken the time to learn his craft. I have a great deal of respect for that, regardless what someone's specific field of endeavour might be, or whether I actually agree with their opinions/perspectives about a specific topic.

After a considerable period of time away from your site, it has been with great pleasure that I have had occasion to read some of your most recent articles on LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and the myriad interpretations of certain "basketball stats gurus", etc.

The purpose of this comment is simply to say, "Kudos," to you.

Even after all this time ... yours is still one of the very best places on the internet to read about "the game".

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 1:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

joell/ david

they wouldnt throw hickson in the deal for amare because of his supposed upside. IM not going to knock cleveland they tried to put a supporting cast around him. it is not and would have never been as good as miami will put around james mo willams jamison came up small in playoffs, the last two years for mo willams and the rest of this supportingcast, he got beat twice by a big 3 he was smart enough to say i should join a big 3 my self. put a couple nice players around a all time great and expecting him to win a championship is the wrong approach.

he will more than likely win another 66 games this year if they stay healthy, and make another finals apperance i believe. you make a intresting point with wade injury proness all my assumptions is if they are healthy wade has been the last two years they are a very possible dynasty in makeing.

i dont believe he knew where he was going to recently for the simple fact he didnt how the season was going to play out. if he wins the ring how would he leave to miami? and why when he was on the championship team.

his marketing takes a hit but not like kobe because he was never in a sexual assault case. and also kobe is a disliked personality in general, where people like lebron as a person. people really dont like kobe as a person like that he is more liked now and i like him more now but for a long time and still some dont/didnt like him. basically saying people will be mad intially but will get over rather quickly just except in cleveland of course.

you think they arent going to find a defensive big to go with bosh? there a guy named shaq on the market and some other serviceable bigs. they should win at lkeast 2 in the next 4 or 5 years or it is a failure.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 8:27:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

If Shaq is the best defensive big Miami can find they're not going anywhere next season.

Below is a copy of a post I made on Forum Blue and Gold which basically sums up my opinion on Miami at the present time:-

Re Miami’s roster situation: I think this is different from the Boston situation in two ways. On the one hand, the sheer talent is greater – Garnett was obviously a class above Bosh but Wade and LeBron are 2 of the top 3 wing players in the league – you couldn’t say that about Pierce or Allen at any point in their careers. On the other hand, there is a lot more duplication of skills at play here: Wade and LeBron are very similar in terms of style, strengths, and weaknesses; the fact that Bosh also favours isolation plays makes things even more complicated. By contrast, with Boston’s troika you had a lot of key areas covered: one-on-one scoring, outside shooting, ballhandling, passing, post defense, rebounding, etc.

With LeBron and Wade starting on the wings, Miami is already at a deficit in terms of outside shooting. The same can be said of their post D with Bosh at PF. It’s an open question whether either LeBron or Wade can relinquish their gambling styles to play the type of solid contain defense you need against the likes of Kobe, Pierce, and Carmelo.

My point is that there are a lot of key championship elements that are not covered by the talents of Wade, LeBron, or Bosh. Where are they going to find those players when most of the top free agents are off the table? Mike Miller would be a helpful addition but if he shares the floor with LeBron and Wade then someone is playing out of position. I would also be particularly concerned about how they will defend in the playoffs with say, Shaq or Big Z as their center backed up by Joel Anthony.

Again, I’m certainly intrigued as to how they pull it off, but filling out their roster with the role players needed to win a title will be a major challenge. I’d be shocked (and extremely impressed) if they gelled Boston-style and came out of the East in their first year together.

 
At Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think LeBron originally planned to re-sign with the Cavs. That's why he created the 1 hour special. With the money going to charity, everyone's happy.
I have never believed that the Knicks or Nets were legitimate options. The Bulls, while being really talented, still has that bald statue in front of their stadium.
Once Riley got hold of Bosh, Miami became an attractive destination. Unfortunately, the 1 hour special had already been announced.
I think LeBron wanted to play hometown hero until Riley threw at monkey wrench at his plans.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and all 3 of them had already planned this since signing identical contracts a few years ago. The only thing bigger than LeBron's basketball gifts is his ego.

I understand that Dan Gilbert is upset, but really, a player leaving is treason, while trading a player is just business?

 
At Monday, July 12, 2010 12:22:00 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

I'm not trying to start a LeBron-Kobe debate; what I'm trying to do is demonstrate that the sports media and the fans to which it caters to are equally quick to condemn and forgive. I used Kobe as an example because he stock couldn't be lower in the summer of 2007 after he demanded a trade and bashed Andrew Bynum and Lakers management publicly; then, the Lakers acquired Gasol, went to the Finals, and everything was seemingly forgotten and forgiven (whether rightly or wrongly is a matter of opinion).

Athletes are always seemingly held to double standards, and I think we're seeing this with LeBron now, as we saw it with Kobe at points during his period of relative unpopularity. I just wish the media and the fans (neither of whom seem to pay much attention to the NBA 90% of the time) would puts things in perspective.

 
At Tuesday, July 13, 2010 4:56:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

Is this move by LeBron unprecedented? I don't recall in any sport a player switching teams after winning (back to back) MVPs and playing on a team good enough to post back to back best records in the league.

Marcel asked a question that may have a very disturbing answer. I'm not one to listen to gossip but after Bosh slipped up and said they'd been planning this for months it makes you wonder: Did LeBron tank to justify leaving Cleveland?

 
At Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

its starting lineup is james wade bosh haslem chalmers. so haslem to me plays the perkins role with chalmers a good spot up shooter. you got mike miller and big z comeing off the bench, mike miller is going to hit wide open 3 he shot 40 percent for career, big gives them size and could still hit the open jumper from 17. im sure they will add other pieces joell.


lebron will have the ball 75 percent of the time. d wade will be a slasher, bosh wont have to change his game at all, lebron wade are great individual defenders lebron 2 straight all nba first team wade also all nba defender why you say they are gamblers?

i think they will gell this year and win the title, 2 have not won a ring and are very hungry to get that, plus chemistry and all that is overated did ron artest ever fit the triangle? and they won title this year. they will figure it out have best record in league struggle in east playoffs at times but they will win title i believe or at least be in finals.

 
At Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

The only other example of a reigning two-time MVP leaving a team that had just posted the best record in the league for the previous two seasons is Wilt Chamberlain, who was traded by the Sixers to the Lakers in 1968. Chamberlain had just won three straight MVPs and the Sixers had posted the league's best regular season record in each of those seasons, winning one title (1967). Unlike LeBron James, Chamberlain was not a free agent, but Chamberlain had requested a trade and the Sixers obliged.

I don't think that any reasonable, objective person who watched the Cleveland-Boston series would disagree that LeBron quit/did not try his best but it is sheer speculation to say why he did this. Unfortunately, the theory that you mentioned is quite plausible, because it certainly seems like LeBron was much more interested in the free agency drama than he was in putting forth maximum effort to win a championship with the 2010 Cavs.

 
At Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You are right that the additions of Z and Mike Miller (plus the re-signing of Haslem) are quite helpful but to win a championship I still think that the Heat will need some more quality size up front to battle with the Lakers, Celtics and/or Magic and they also will probably need a little more depth.

It also remains to be seen what the chemistry will be like for this team--and, contrary to what you suggest, that could be a stumbling block: chemistry is not just a matter of players wanting for things to go smoothly but also a matter of getting used to playing together. I am sure that Richard Jefferson tried his best to fit in with the Spurs last year but it just did not work out; James, Wade, Bosh and the supporting players will be highly motivated to work well together but there could still be some issues that have to be ironed out, in contrast to teams like the Lakers, Celtics and Magic that have had their core players together for several seasons.

 
At Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

i dont see chemistry being a stumbling block. they are all good friends who get along and are comeing together for a common goal. remeber detroit and san antonio had been together back in 08 and boston came together on the fly. and boston won the title that year so how long the other team been together are irrelevant. miami too me is a very formidable team right now with the super 3 and role player additions. it will be a long drown out season but i like miami chances to dethrone the lakers.

 
At Thursday, July 15, 2010 5:13:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

The 2008 Celtics enjoyed good health as a team, received unexpected contributions from several players (including Rondo and Perkins) and still they were twice pushed to seven games during the playoffs. Doc Rivers did a great job of unifying the team. We will see how united the Heat are when they face adversity. It is hard for me to shake the image of LeBron just quitting during last year's playoffs. Who is to say that he won't quit when things get tough in the 2011 playoffs?

I agree with you that the Heat have made some good role player additions/re-signings (Big Z, Mike Miller, Haslem, Chalmers) but the Heat still need another center plus a backup point guard.

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 7:10:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

You wrote:

"The difference between the Heat and the Knicks/Nets is that Riley did not just tank whole seasons; he put together playoff caliber teams but did so in a way that he could clear cap space in July 2010.

Riley outsmarted everybody but the Cavs were hamstrung because LeBron kept them out of the loop."



The presence of Dwyane Wade is the primary reason the Heat were still able to make the playoffs while Riley planned to clear cap space by this summer. If the Knicks or Nets had an MVP caliber player, they might have been able to do the same.

Riley did not come out as the winner because he had a better plan than the teams which tanked. He won because he was able to clear a little more space than the other teams, he already had a star leaning towards staying with the team, and his reputation and persuasive abilities probably helped seal the deal.

As you pointed out, the Cavs were hamstrung. There is some real irony here. The Cavs constantly tried to win right away, and in doing so financially handicapped themselves. The Heat, on the other hand, made only token attempts to compete the last 2-3 years and essentially wasted prime years of one of the top players in the league. In the end, the Heat ended up with all the stars.

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 10:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I agree with you that Riley made good use of the advantages that he possessed (an MVP caliber player, more salary cap space) but I still maintain that he had a better plan than the other teams with which the Heat competed for LeBron James' services. Riley understood better than anyone else that LeBron's primary goal was to be part of a super trio--not to be "loyal" to Cleveland, not to be an "icon" in New York and not to do any of the other things that had been proposed--and Riley made sure that the Heat were in position to offer that opportunity to James. Riley did this while not allowing the Heat to become a dreadful team or a team weighted down by bad contracts, so even if his super trio plan had fallen through he still would likely have been able to put together a good team moving forward. The Knicks and Nets simply put all of their eggs in the LeBron James basket; it is not clear when or how the Knicks will ever be good, while the Nets have some solid pieces but no star level player, a piece that is generally a requirement to win a title.

 

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