Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Last Day

I've read roughly 2,000 LeBron stories over the past 24 hours. Here's a few to read while you're waiting for LeBron's Special (sneak peek!)

Jon Krolik, of Cavs: The Blog has an excellent piece:
We are not LeBron James, and LeBron James is not us. On the court and off of it, LeBron has only allowed himself to appear tangentially human. On the floor, LeBron is the most blessed player the game has ever seen. Nobody has ever had his combination of size, speed, and explosiveness. He can see plays in a split second that most people couldn’t dream up given all the time in the world. He’s more skilled with his off hand than most forwards are with their dominant one. He can hit insane shots from anywhere on the court, and often makes them simply to prove he can.

He also refuses to make the concessions to fundamental basketball that so many people have demanded him to make. His shot selection is often baffling. He refuses to put himself in the post and use his combination of size and strength to dominate with a minimum of effort. He’s never developed a solid mid-range game, and he’s not even a lights-out free throw shooter. Sometimes, it’s like being the best isn’t good enough for LeBron; he needs to be the best while proving that his own way of doing things works better than all the ones that existed before it.

Off the court, LeBron is even less accessible than he is on it. He wants to be the richest athlete of all time, yet he surrounds himself with his high school buddies. He’s constantly cracking jokes and playing the buddy-buddy role with his teammates, but he keeps the general populous at arm’s length with a bizarre gumbo of warmed-over team-first mantras and a healthy dose of self aggrandizing-behavior. He wants to be Warren Buffet, but he wants to be a big kid as well. He wants to be One of The Guys, but he wants to hand-pick who gets to be One of The Guys.

He has refused all archetypes. He is not the intense workaholic whose desire to win dominates all other aspects of his personality. He is not the happy-go-lucky kid who just wants to play the game and have fun. He is not the suave businessman who controls everything in front of him. In trying to be all of those things, he has become none of them. He has become larger than life, but not in the way he wants to be. He is Alice after eating the cake, too big to fit through the door to the garden and too far down the rabbit hole to come back. And he might not even care.

Tonight, the eve of what was supposed to become LeBron’s big day, is instead the nadir of his career. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all the hype and adoration that LeBron James inspired has come crashing down upon his ringless self. He is a King without a crown, and now he is being criticized for daring to take the throne. All LeBron did was play basketball very well and lap up every bit of praise lavished upon him for doing so. Whatever LeBron is other than a basketball player, we made him into. Now we have taken it upon us to punish LeBron for his hubris, and ourselves for trusting it. What the gods wish to destroy, they must first label as promising.

(I highly suggest reading the whole thing).

Surely LeBron James has an exit strategy.

Surely this is all going to play out like a season-ending episode of Entourage, with Vince Chase escaping ruin thanks to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Ari and E and Vince's good fortune.

There's no way Johnny Drama and Turtle are running King James' kingdom. No way.

Thursday night, LeBron will appear on ESPN and announce he's re-signing with the Cavs, who stole Chris Paul via David Stern's for-the-good-of-the-league ruling. You know it's the same ruling that delivered Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant.

That's how this has to play. LeBron and Paul will be on TV Thursday night, agreeing to join forces and knock off Boston's Big Three, Kobe and Pau and Wade and Bosh. That's why Paul talked LeBron into joining Twitter. They're best friends. Paul is going to save the King.

LeBron James is not stupid.

He's not going to appear on an hour-long TV special to take a dump on Cleveland by revealing he's the black Art Modell. That can't be his end-game strategy, a teary and televised middle-finger farewell to his hometown.

And he can't be so delusional that he thinks sitting down with Stu Scott to tell the world he's staying in Cleveland will go unpunished by media and fans in New York, New Jersey, Miami and Chicago.

God, I'd hope so. I've seen some Chris Paul rumors elsewhere and ESPN 850 was saying that Dan Gilbert and co were working on a major trade.

John Hollinger, Daily Dime:
That earthquake you just felt was the balance of power shifting south in the Eastern Conference. If reports are true that LeBron James will announce he's signing with the Miami Heat at his made-for-TV extravaganza on Thursday night, we can immediately elevate the Heat into the ranks of the contenders and demote the Cavaliers to the also-ran scrap heap.

Forget about the black-and-blue battles between Cleveland and Boston; in 2011, the Eastern Conference finals are looking a lot more like the Florida state championship. That will be particularly true if Orlando's Dwight Howard gets his wish and the Magic are able to add New Orleans point guard Chris Paul later this summer; the one piece of fortunate news for Hornets fans on that front is the higher-than-expected salary cap number also diminished the Hornets' luxury tax concerns.

Ugh. I really hope these Miami reports aren't true. I can't imagine that LeBron A) would give NE Ohio the middle finger on national TV and B) sign with the Heat with his own ESPN Special while Bosh and Wade signed together on Wednesday. That comes of soooo poorly.

Drew Magary of Deadspin, LeBron James is a Cocksucker:
Tomorrow is the day LeBron James becomes the most unlikable person in the NBA, and perhaps all of American sports. I used to think he was okay a year ago. No more. He's the villain now.

It doesn't matter where he opts to go. If he goes to Chicago, he's a cocksucker. If he goes to Miami, he's a goddamn cocksucker. Even if he goes back to Cleveland, he's a goddamn cocksucker. He's a self-aggrandizing sack of shit, and ESPN is a bunch of pussy-whipped enablers for giving him a free hour of airtime tomorrow night and inevitably using 55 minutes of it to let Stu Scott give him a rimjob.

Look at what Kevin Durant did today. He signed an extension well before he could have filed for free agency, announced the signing, and then went back about his business. He didn't need all this dog-and-pony show bullshit. James does, and that means he's a dipshit. People have been kissing this man's ass SINCE FUCKING MIDDLE SCHOOL, and he still needs this hourlong AFI tribute special? Bullshit. BULLSHIT.

And I don't care that he asked ESPN to use the commercial airtime tomorrow night to go to charity. That's the most transparent use of charity for the sake of self-glorification I've seen since I saw some actor do it yesterday. "Hey ESPN, why don't you spend an hour kissing my ass? Oh, don't worry. We'll give the money to AIDS babies. That totally makes me selfless." No, it doesn't.

Heh. Let's move on.

Privately, Dwyane Wade(notes) andChris Bosh(notes) weren’t pleased on Wednesday morning with the belief that James’ camp was responsible for leaking their plans to a television partner, but then again it makes perfect sense: This isn’t about Wade and Bosh choosing the Heat. It’s about LeBron getting the stage to himself on Thursday night.

One front-office executive whose team made a presentation to LeBron James told Yahoo! Sports that he believes James is choosing between Miami and Cleveland. And yet, if James wants to deliver the biggest kick in the gut to his hometown, he’ll pick the flat-linedNew York Knicks. Whatever the decision, he’s made clear that the teasing and tormenting of the loser isn’t his concern.

Team LeBron is having the time of its life, but has no idea the repercussions of what it’s done here. All that comes to James now is the biggest burden to win a championship that sports has ever seen. They aren’t making James a bigger star with this big-top, but a bigger target. All those teams that marched into the presentations and listened to some of the foolish and naive questions asked of them believed these kids had no idea what they were doing, or what they had gotten themselves into. They’re all feeling more validated every day. From beginning to end, this process has been a farce.
I'm am shocked (shocked I say!) that Adrian Wojnarowski doesn't care for LeBron's free agency process.

And most strange in all of this? There have been no leaks that put him back in Cleveland. Not the location of the announcement . Not the movement of his tax documents . And not the prospect of the super team. It's all leaning away from Cleveland.


Why in a time when there is abject speculation from every angle and degree, where every person with an agenda for James going to his or her city, is there no significant word about Cleveland?

And again, the reporter who's followed his entire career, who's been a step away from him from the time he hit high school, that guy isn't hearing anything ? A guy who's as widely respected in NBA media circles as anyone and who has had the, er... mouth of LeBron James (since if he had his ear LeBron would be listening to him, and that's not really, you know, let's just move on), that guy has heard nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

Something's up.
I've noticed this too.

While he can pledge his loyalty to his hometown of Akron and insist he'll always help the place where he grew up, signing elsewhere will be viewed as a rejection by the fans in Northeast Ohio.

Nothing will compare with Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in terms of sheer sports betrayal.But James leaving at this point in his career would be No. 2 on the Cleveland broken hearts list.

This is not like the Indians players who left or forced trades because ownership here could not pay them what they could make elsewhere. NBA rules dictate that the Cavs can give him an extra year on his contract and at least $30 million in his pocket. It seems the Cavs have done everything reasonably possible to build a winner around him.

The recent assumption is James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. That still seems doubtful because of the Heat not having the salary cap room to pay all three players the maximum. Also, who controls the ball -- Wade or James? Both have very similar styles of play.

The other hot team for James is supposed to be the Knicks, because New York recently signed Amare Stoudemire. One NBA executive (not with the Cavs) told me, "LeBron should be smarter than that. The Knicks are a team of smoke and mirrors with poor ownership and a style of play that doesn't win in the playoffs. The Nets have a better basketball situation than the Knicks."

Chicago makes the most sense for James, in terms of talent. He'd play with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. The Bulls do have a rookie coach in Tom Thibodeau and a history of splits between the coaches and the front office.

James knows the Cavs better than any other team. Over and over, the case has been made for him to stay home. If James actually stays, if he appears on national television and announces that he's picking Cleveland and Northeast Ohio over Miami, New York, Chicago and anywhere else -- it truly will cement his legacy as a local legend.

Is that a reality, or fantasy? Only James knows, but what he decides will say a lot about his priorities, and the future of the Cavs.
Right now, everything seems to be pointing to Miami (but early last night it was all New York). For what it's worth, Brian Windhorst hasn't been able to confirm the reports.

I just can't imagine LeBron going to Dwyane Wade's team. He'll be Pippen to Wade's Jordan. And hey, that's fine. But playing in Miami is going to require sacrifices on the court, not just in the pocket book.

But I don't know what to think. I'm trying to tell myself that LeBron and his boys are spreading rumors everywhere just to push the hype for tonight's special. Do I believe that? Maybe.

This whole thing sucks. No matter what happens, James has hurt himself and his image. He doesn't come off well. Even if he stays, it won't be the same.

If James goes, I'll be pissed (obviously) but life will go on and I'll still watch the Cavs (and blog about 'em! Sporadically!). If you're going to feel bad for Cleveland fans, don't (well, not too much). It's just sports.

But if you're gonna feel bad for any one, feel bad for the young kids (think of the children!!!). This whole free agency drama would've absolutely killed the 10-year old Ben. I would've bombarded Chris Bosh's twitter account with angry messages roughly 45 times an hour (I mean, seriously? A sign-and-trade to the Cavs puts Bosh and LeBron in a much better position to WIN NOW).

The Cavaliers are the franchise of the young fans. I see a lot of kids come through the library and Cavalier shirts easily out number the Browns and Tribe combined. These kids don't know what "Only in Cleveland" means. If James goes on ESPN and announces he's leaving, he destroys them. They aren't bitter and jaded like the rest of us.

At least not yet.


Erik said...

It's pretty remarkable. Most of us used to detest Adrian Wojnarowski because of his anti-LBJ and anti-Cavs takes. But now it's almost like he's sticking up for us by calling bullshit on LeBron and his ego circus.

One of the few bits of solace I can pick up from what looks to be an imminent LBJ departure to Miami: Cleveland is going to have a lot of sympathizers around the country.

LBJ will be cast by many as the villain here, and we are going to get a lot of run as the city that got jobbed by a unredeemably selfish and arrogant prick who just sold his soul on prime time TV for a shot at rings.

There will be those who say LBJ gave Cleveland a shot and was justified in leaving. But because he's from here, the hometown abandonment angle is going to be on just about everyone's mind. Especially given Cleveland's reputation as a downtrodden city that didn't need a blow like this.

davemanddd said...

i think lebron should be careful to just go chasing championships with a stacked roster. not too many years ago both karl malone and gary payton took less money to go "win" a championship with the lakers who were coming off a 3-peat with a still in his prime shaq and a younger and still developing kobe. how'd that work out??? they ended up getting beat by a more complete detroit team that had been together for a few years then and it showed, just like what happened to the cavs this year against boston who had the same 5 starters as what they had 2 years ago on their title winning team. there is something to be said for continuity. by the same token, if you are constantly shuffling players in and out on your roster, you just don't get that continuity and teams usually suffer breakdowns at times as a result, such as what happened to the lakers against detroit back then and what happened to the cavs in this year's playoffs. i still say they should have started j.j. hickson during the playoffs and not shaq. after all, shaq and jamison had yet to play even a single game together but brown put them out there in the playoffs and just expected them to click??? if you consider this, i can honestly see lebron going to miami then and not winning a damn thing while the cavs recover and actually win the title without him one year down the road. happens all the time. just look at jim thome who went to philly supposedly because they were a lot closer to winning a championship than what the tribe was at the time. thome never did win that championship in philly, but they sure did win it after he left when they no longer had that albatross of a contract of his muddying up the waters for them. if the same thing happens in miami for lebron and the "3 amigos", i certainly will be laughing all the way to my grave. we can only hope. go cavs!!!