Friday, July 07, 2006

Simmons and the Top 40

These are fun every year, if you like the NBA at all, you will enjoy the column.

For you Cavs fans, here's what he says about LeBron:

2. LeBron James

I know, I know -- under normal circumstances, he'd be No. 1. But these are the facts ...

I keep writing about this, and everyone in Cleveland keeps sending me hate mail, and I don't really know what else to tell you ... but people around the league swear that there's a clause in LeBron's Nike contract (already worth $100 million) that doubles the money if he plays for an NBA team based in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles AND that some of his other endorsement deals have the same clause. Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

B. We know that LeBron and his peeps are already positioning himself as a multimedia presence, someone who could potentially emulate Magic and P. Diddy and own record companies, movie theaters, clothing lines and everything of that ilk. You need to live in a big city to pull this off -- either New York or L.A.

C. The Cavs blew their cap space last summer (more than $160 million spent on Zydruans Ilguaskas, Damon Jones and Hughes) and have no real way to improve. If you remember, by the end of the Detroit series, poor LeBron was a one-man show. Do you think he wants to spend the next eight to 10 years carrying a mediocre supporting cast?

D. LeBron becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2008. He could sign an extension with the Cavs this summer, but there's really no reason to do so. Thinking logically, he could break any bone or blow out any ligament over the next 24 months and STILL get offered a max contract by every team with cap space. So why not see how this season unfolds and keep his options open? No injury short of paralysis could hurt his value over the next two years.

From the NBA's standpoint, nothing would generate more interest in the 2006-07 season than the running subplot, "Is LeBron staying or going?"

F. The first day that teams could offer max extensions to rookies from the 2003 draft class: July 1, 2006. We know that Denver offered one to Carmelo (quickly accepted), Miami offered one to Wade (quickly accepted), and Cleveland offered one to LeBron (NOT accepted -- plus, neither LeBron nor his agent has commented publicly and it has been six days and counting). The silence has been deafening. Repeat: Deafening. In fact, it's developing into the biggest sports story of the summer and nobody seems to give a crap. But they will. Just wait.

G. Everyone in Cleveland is having a collective heart attack. And with reason. If LeBron ends up fleeing the Cavs, that would be the biggest non-injury/non-death blow to a professional team in sports history. Unless they were able to sign-and-trade him for a mother lode of players and picks (like the Oilers did with Gretzky), basketball would die in Cleveland and the team would have to move. Imagine living in Cleveland, watching LeBron pass through town like a comet -- the next Ali/Tiger/Pele/MJ -- then he spends the heart of his career playing in another city? How do you bounce back from that? The answer: You don't.

H. There are dozens of reasons -- literally -- why Isiah Thomas is one of the worst executives in sports history. But his failure to create cap space for the summer of 2008 just in case Facts A-thru-F played out remains his all-time dumbest move. Yes, even dumber than the Curry trade.

(Note: If Bron-Bron re-signs with Cleveland this month, disregard everything in the previous few paragraphs and move him to No. 1 on this list. You never know. And just for the record, I hope he stays in Cleveland because LeBron splitting town would be one of the cruelest sports stories of all-time, even if it was overwhelmingly predictable from day one, and no fan base deserves to get kicked in the collective groin to that degree. Well, unless he goes to the Clippers. Then I would wet myself. Repeatedly.)

I agree with him on a lot of these things (except for the contract, everything I've read has said that the Nike contract doesn't change, let alone double; smaller contracts like Upper Deck have the clauses), but there's a few things he still doesn't mention, mainly: WHAT BIG MARKET TEAM IS LEBRON GOING TO BOLT FOR??

I've said it before and I'll say it again, where is this mythical big market team?

New York? No cap space. Oh yea, they're also terrible.
New Jersey? Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Plus Jason Kidd's contract.
Chicago? They're going to have to pay Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon soon, plus Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas (okay, not as pressing, but still, another high 1st round pick) and oh yea, that Ben Wallace fellow. Plus, in Chicago he'll be baby Jordan forever. He'll always be Jordan II never LeBron I.
Lakers? They got Kobe, we all know how he deals with sharing the spotlight.
The Clippers? They're a possibility, but what is their cap situation like? Elton Brand and Corey Maggette already have big(gish) deals and both Shawn Livingston and Chris Kaman is going to have to get paid soon.

Am I missing something? Is there another big market team out there? Where is the better situation?

In my opinion if LeBron leaves, it won't be in '08, it will be in 2012 or whenever this 5 year deal ends. LeBron is 21 right now, in 5 years he'll be 26 (or maybe it kicks in after the rookie deal? so 28? or after next year 27?). I think it is a safer bet that LeBron leaves after 5 more seasons, especially if the Cavs don't improve. By that time Jay-Z should have moved the Nets to Brooklyn and their cap situation should be better. The Cavs would have gotten 8 years for a title shot with James, and if they couldn't get it done, then I can't blame him for leaving town.

I'm not harboring any delusions about Cleveland being bigger or better than New York or LA. No shit. But the Cavs have improved every year since LeBron has been here and this was the first year with a new owner, new coach and new GM. Why won't they continue to improve? The Pistons are worse, Chicago is better (but still can't score), and Miami is older. Why won't the Cavs be as good?

Finally, it hasn't even been a week since the contract was offered. 6 days. Calm down everyone (myself included), not even 7 days. If we're at training camp and LeBron hasn't signed, feel free to panic or hang yourself or whatever. But we're at LeBron watch day 6.

*deep breath and counting to 10*

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