Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rochester is Pissed the F*** Off

So the Cavs lost to the Raptors last night, no big deal. If you're wondering how the Cavs could've lost to the Raptors, don't worry, LeBron James didn't play. Coach Brown has been resting certain players (the starters but mostly James, Ilguaskas and Varejao) throughout the preseason and training camp. Usually this just means sitting out the evening practice or the second game of the back to backs (never mind that it is retarded to schedule back-to-back preseason games).

So Lebron sat and people were not happy.

The Buffalo Bills got a reprieve Thursday. Local sports radio had a new villain – LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Many fans, whether they want to admit it or not, were sold a bill of goods,” said Hot Talk 1280 WHTK host John DiTullio.

Rochester fans dethroned King James during the first NBA game here in more than 20 years.

“Didn't they get an assurance LeBron James was gonna play?” said one caller to DiTullio’s show.

About 9,400 people attended Wednesday’s game, paying from $25 to $150 to see the superstar.

LeBron, however, was benched the entire game, prompting loud boos from the crowd. Some people held up signs saying “LeBron dissed Rochester” and “LeBron ruined my childhood.”

A promoter’s radio ad for the game touts LeBron as a main attraction.

The ad said, “Don't miss your chance to see NBA All Star and Olympian LeBron James in action as his Cavaliers take on the Raptors."

I do feel for this guy:
Rochester hadn't hosted an NBA game since 1981. And so Curtis Echols, 42-years-old and born and raised here, spent about $400 (all figures U.S.) on tickets to bring his three sons and three nephews to the see their hero, LeBron James, play in their hometown.

But just as Echols was about to commemorate the moment with a camera-phone snapshot of James taking warm-up jump shots, the news passed through Blue Cross Arena like a bad flu: "LeBron's not playing."

Said Echols: "LeBron's not playing? That's a heartbreaker."
Now, don't get me wrong here, I can totally understand how these guys are pissed. But let's be clear here, this was no fault of LeBron. First of all, it's a freaking preseason game, if you're paying $150 dollars for seats to a preseason, you already got ripped off, I don't care who is playing.

Secondly, one of the Cavs (and coach Brown specifcially) goals for this season is to limit LeBron's minutes so he's not out there all game. So does it really surprise anyone that Brown and Ferry sat him for a game played on a high school court the day after he played?
Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said they took the decision to play out of James' hands.

''If it was up to LeBron, he'd play every game,'' Ferry said. ''Mike and I stepped in and wanted to be cautious.''
Of course, LeBron did fuck with the fans a little bit. Every once in awhile he'd get up from the bench and pretend to take off the warm ups, only to go sit back down. I had the game playing on the radio (hooray Joe Tait) and trust me, they were not pleased.

But ya know what, end of the day, it's a preseason game. Shaq uses the regular season to get in shape and I'm pretty sure Robert Horry doesn't even start to practice til March. That pisses me off.

So ya, if I shelled out 150 bucks to see Sasha Pavlovic I'd be pretty damn pissed off. But then I'd take a look in the mirror, realize I paid over 100 dollars for a preseason game and kick my own ass.

The Cavs have gotten some bad press for this and if I were them, I'd schedule a game in Rochester ASAP.

Team Vice President for Communications, Tad Carper, said, “We feel bad...It's something we'll take a look at in the future."

Carper said the team was not sorry it benched LeBron, but that fans may have been misled.

“It’s something we’ll take a look at in the future.”

Carper said the Cavaliers would be happy to return to Rochester. But it remains to be seen if fans would welcome them back.

It really was the marketing guys who screwed this up for the people of Rochester, but the Cavs (and James) are going to get the bad press. They should schedule a game next season in Rochester and make the tickets really cheap (and find that guy who paid 400 bucks for 7 people and give him some freebies). It wouldn't make up for everyones night of Pavlovic goodness, but it could mend some fences and get some nice publicity.

Finally, a tip of the hat to the father of this kid.

You sir, are a great parent.

*Update 10/20 11:45 am* Cavs GM Danny Ferry said promoters were alerted two weeks ago that James will probably sit.
"It was a necessary evil," said Ferry, who indicated promoters were alerted to the possibility that James might not play as long as two weeks ago. "It was not an easy decision. . . . I am sympathetic to the fans, but it was the right decision for our team."
These guys got hosed, not by the Cavs or LeBron, but by the local media/promoters.


Erik said...

Here's my thought, purely unsolicited:

Why not sit LeBron for a couple of home preseason games and let him play on the road? We get a chance to see him every home game of the year. Fans in Rochester would need to drive five hours for the same opportunity.

With the Pistons and Raptors as the closest competition, the Cavs have a chance other Cleveland teams don't have: they can appeal to a regional fan base. Pissing off the entire city of Rochester won't help that.

Of course, if you sit LeBron at home, you run the risk of alienating your own fans, but still. It's the preseason. I went to the Maccabi game. Would I have been disappointed if LeBron sat? a bit. But I'll be right back down there in November to watch him when the games count. Rochester fans won't get that chance.

Ben said...

True, and I guess part of it was the crappy court conditions. Surprisingly, this wasn't exactly the best kept court...

Ferry said that they alerted the advertisers two weeks ago that LeBron wasn't going to play. They're ones that drove this thing, not the Cavs.