Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NBA Offseason Review Part III: The Inevitable LeBron column

I can’t possibly discuss LeBron with any semblance of coherence. Instead I’m just going to spew out all my random thoughts

1.I may be in the minority, but I have absolutely no problem with him teaming up with two other all-stars. We always wish that our athletes put winning above all else and would sacrifice all personal pride and gain for the good of the team. Well isn’t that exactly what LeBron did? He destroyed his reputation, sacrificed numbers, and took less money (to be fair it wasn’t that much less when you factor in Florida’s tax laws, but still its about principle) to join a super team and have a chance at multiple titles and greatness. The notion that he should have been so competitive that he would go to his own team and win it by himself is beyond ridiculous. First of all, that’s not competitiveness. Competitiveness means wanting to win at all costs. Expecting him to not only win but win all by himself is nothing more than misguided machismo. Besides, didn’t he already do everything in his power to win without help during his seven years in Cleveland? Second, and more importantly, every other great player had help!!!!!!!!!! Jordan had Pippen (a top-20 player and a top-3 player in the league during the title years). Magic and Kareem (who also won a title with Oscar Robinson) were both top-10 players of all time. Julius Erving and Moses Malone never won anything until they played together. It’s been well-documented how many spectacular players played with Bill Russell. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor dominated the Western Conference for years and eventually teamed up with Wilt Chamberlain to win in ’72. In this decade alone we’ve seen Kobe/Shaq and Garnett/Pierce/Allen gang up for titles. Off the top of my head Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant in 2009-10 (and even then we could debate the Merits of Pau Gasol as a HOFer) are probably the only ones to win titles without another top-50 player…but screw it let’s criticize LeBron for doing what everyone else did. Seriously, shouldn’t all those other players have been super-competitive and demanded to be separated from their great teammates? Shouldn’t Magic have refused to be drafted onto Kareem’s team? Should Bird have told the Celtics to veto the trade that brought in Kevin McHale and Robert Parish? Should Jordan have demanded a trade so he could beat Pippen himself? Simmons was by far the biggest perpetrator of this idiot thinking, which is a problem since his millions of clones are now going to blindly believe that great players should go out of their way to not play with each other. If you want to question LeBron’s competitiveness then point out his playoff disappointments or inability to develop a post up game or spot on jump shot – but don’t call him non-competitive based on his desire to sublimate his ego and be part of a team that will do a shit-load of winning.

2.Something else that bugs me is the notion that LeBron is going to Dwayne Wade’s team and that he is the second fiddle. I’m sorry, but if he’s the best player on the team then it’s his team. Period. Here’s the best analogy I can think of: Let’s say in 90’s Jordan had left the Bulls and gone to the Rockets. Would that mean it was Hakeem’s team since he had gotten there first? Think about that for a sec…(waiting)….OF COURSE NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO FUCKING WAY WOULD IT BE HAKEEM’S TEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jordan would still be the best player and it would still be his team!!! Same principle applies. Now if you actually think Dwayne Wade is the best player on the Heat (which isn’t a totally absurd proposition) then yes, you’re justified in calling it Wade’s team. But to say that it’s Wade’s (and not LeBron’s) team simply because Wade was in Miami first is ridiculous.
3.With that said, my big problem with LeBron isn’t the team he chose but the way in which he left. At this point I don’t think I need to go into how narcissistic and stupid the decision show itself was – I don’t anybody seriously believes that the show was a good idea (and if you like it simply because he donated everything to charity, then shame on you. Look I really appreciate the fact that he gave the money to the Boys and Girls club. I really do. But if you think that LeBron’s actions, or ESPN’s for that matter, were motivated by altruism then I don’t know what to tell you), and I’m guessing at least 90% of the sports blogosphere has already expressed such a reaction. The only thing I’ll say about the show is that LeBron certainly has a large sense of entitlement for someone who hasn’t won anything. Here’s my biggest problem: not just the show but also the entire sequence of events leading up to the show, especially the playoffs. If had left the team in 2009, when he played out of his fucking mind and got eliminated because his team choked/matched up poorly against Orlando, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. 2010 was a totally different story. He didn’t just leave – he quit on them in the playoffs (don’t tell me otherwise – from games 4-6 against Boston he simply did not care and played like shit) before stabbing them in the heart two months later. Its one thing to move on when the time is right and all that’s been accomplished has been done. But to totally quit on them, when he finally had a championship-caliber roster (it certainly wasn’t perfect, but his supporting cast was still good enough), is to me totally pathetic and inexcusable.

4.It also does kind of annoy me that LeBron seemed to attack free agency with more zeal than he did the actual 2010 playoffs. Plus I can’t fathom why he was so concerned with things like being a global icon (hence the New York rumors) and/or helping his recruiting/marketing company (which is why he was at one point reported to be a package deal with John Calipari, a failed NBA coach who couldn’t scheme his way out of a high school tournament). I mean, who cares about all that stuff? Why did LeBron feel the need to bring all the politics and World Wide Wes/Maverick Carter junk into the equation? Ultimately he made a fine basketball-related choice, but I wonder about his priorities.

5.If LeBron really knew that he was leaving all along then I think he should have told the Cavaliers before-hand. That way they could have planned for his departure by possibly trading him earlier and/or acquiring future assets. Instead they kept mortgaging their future to placate LeBron; now they’re stuck with a roster that has no upside and is built to help LeBron win right now…which is kind of a problem when LeBron isn’t there. I’m not saying the front office did the best job while he was there, but the least they deserved was a heads up ahead of time.
6.I love how Dan Gilbert feels so betrayed by LeBron. Dan, please look in the mirror. Gilbert was LeBron’s enabler from day one. Gilbert allowed LeBron to continually get away with anything behind the show. Gilbert hired on LeBron all of LeBron’s chumps…err buddies even when Mike Brown and Danny Ferry warned him against doing so. Gilbert is responsible as anyone else for creating this egomaniacal monster.

7.To anyone trying to convince themselves that the Heat won’t be very good, stop it. Just stop it right now. They’ll win 60 and easily be the best team in the East. Boston’s core is aging faster than an over-the-hill porn star. Orlando will rely on Vince Carter, who at this point has such dysfunctional balls that I wonder if he caught a bad case Bieber Fever. Atlanta capped itself out with Joe Johnson; Milwaukee is probably a blue-chipper away. I mean I guess the Celtics could maybe give them a run in a playoff series but to not pencil the Heat in for the top seed is imprudent. I still think the Lakers are the title favorite based on their superior frontline size and depth (and based on what I’ve seen from Splitter, the Spurs, and possibly even the Blazers with a healthy and productive Oden, could provide a challenge), but anyone who thinks the Heat won’t succeed is kidding themselves. Yeah they probably need a legit 7-footer and could stand to fill in with some more depth, but come on – they have the two best players in the league for goodness sakes!!!!!!! If they don’t at least make the Finals I would be shocked.