That’s the only conclusion that I can come to when I consider LeBron James. He quit on his team in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics and then bolted town to join the
Eastern Conference All-Star team Miami Heat, a move that is certainly befitting of his front-running ways and nothing short of mercenary. This comes after two years of endless speculation about what LeBron would do after becoming a free-agent on July 1st, 2010 and a summer which LeBron and his cronies hijacked in such as a way as to make Brett Favre blush with jealousy. So as you can imagine we’re all tired of LeBron James by now, and after the hour long “Decision” special on ESPN, I think he’s as big a tool as ever.
Honestly, I could care less where he plays next season. I’m not a fan of him, the Cavaliers, or the myriad teams he was rumored to have been signing with at various times over the last couple of seasons. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the idea that he “owes” it to the city of Cleveland to stay there forever, although he did say early in his career that it was his goal to bring a championship to said city. I’m not so hung up on what he did as I am the way he did it. I think it’s weak to to leave a team after seven seasons to jump to a team with all-stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, especially after he quit on the Cavaliers during the playoffs. The only thing missing from that disappointing Game 6 loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semis was him finding the nearest garbage can and throwing his jersey into it. I’ve said that part of the Cavs losing to the Celtics was coaching, but he was the leader of the team and it shouldn’t have happened if he were as good as he’s supposed to be. If he’s going to be compared to Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, or any number of other great players, he should at least perform like them when it matters and not act like a baby as he’s done the previous two years. I think the whole way he’s carried himself during all of this stinks and it shows a glaring lack of maturity for someone labeled “The King.” To mail in a playoff series and then leave the team after making the entire regular season, postseason, and offseason about yourself is utterly narcissistic.
LeBron says that money wasn’t an issue in his decision, and indeed he is right. He, Wade, and Bosh all signed six year contracts for $15 million less than the max they could have gotten. So if money’s not an issue, why not just sign in Cleveland for less so that the team could bring in some new players? The Cavs have a better coach in Byron Scott than Miami does in Eric Spoelstra and, most importantly, they can actually fill out a starting lineup. Considering this and everything he said about it being a hard decision to leave Cleveland, why not stay? For my part, I think he left just to have more attention in Miami, because that’s the only team people will be talking about before, during, and after the 2010-2011 season. Or maybe he’s incapable of winning a championship with him as the leader of the team.
And for anyone talking about how horrible a person Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert is for his angry letter, stop it. Given the situation, we would all react in the same way. It’s ridiculous to blame the owner for something like this. He did what he could to try to convince him to stay by offering James the most money possible and getting Byron Scott to be the new coach. If the leadership of the Cleveland franchise was inept, they wouldn’t have made it to the Finals in 2007 and they wouldn’t have had two consecutive 62 win seasons. Do you think Gilbert and former GM Danny Ferry just blundered their way to a Finals appearance and two straight 62 win campaigns? It doesn’t just happen. They did whatever they could to get LeBron the help he needed to win, but it just wasn’t enough for whatever reason, be it coaching, James’ teammates, or his aforementioned lack of maturity. The rise of the Celtics and Orlando Magic certainly didn’t help either.
On another note, it’s disappointing to see the Eastern Conference lose one of its top teams. At the end of last season, the Cavs, Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Celtics were the only teams to win at least 50 games; by comparison, all eight playoff teams in the Western Conference won at least 50 games, which is amazing. Had James stayed in Cleveland, we would have seen a much more competitive Eastern Conference. Not only would these four teams be in good shape to go for 50 wins again, but they would also have the Heat with Wade and Bosh and the Chicago Bulls with newly acquired Carlos Boozer to contend with. For the first time in a while, the East might have been as competitive as the West. What we’re getting instead is the Cavs and Heat basically switching places, with the Heat headed to the top of the ranking with the Cavs bound for the doldrums of the Eastern Conference…again.
Basically, if LeBron had gone about this sort of thing with a little more grace and tact instead of making the entire free-agency period about himself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I think that everyone who is bothered by him leaving would probably not be if he had just made his decision like a normal person. But what’s done is done. It’s going to be real interesting, and even fun, to watch the next season unfold after all the moves that have gone down.
Easy come, easy go for King James (Yahoo! Sports)
LeBron hardly a king for taking the easy way out with star-laden Heat (Sports Illustrated)
Countdown: The LeBron Fallout (Sports Illustrated)
With fans only in Miami now, pressure’s on LeBron to win it all
I just read an article at SLAM Online that suggested it was “unwise” of Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to opt out of their contracts and resign for less money with their respective teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics. Nowitzki is re-signing for $80 million over 4 years while Pierce is re-signing for $61 million and 4 years. When compared to the max amount of money they could have taken, Nowitzki is taking a $16 million paycut while Pierce is making $15 million less himself. By doing so, the pair have allowed their respective some more flexibility. The Mavericks will save $32 million over the next four years if they remain in the luxury tax while the Celtics can now consider some trade options they wouldn’t have bothered with before.
So what’s unwise about taking a paycut to help your team get players that will help you win? The idea in the SLAM article was, since Nowitzki and Pierce are both 32 years old, that they would not get another opportunity to sign another max contract because they would be considered past their prime when it was time for them to be free-agents again; who would want to throw a ton of money at a couple of 36 year old players? I find this line of reasoning to be kind of dumb. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to sign someone to a max contract that late in their career, but isn’t the whole point of being an NBA player to win championships? What Nowitzki and Pierce are doing is allowing their teams more room to move when it comes to putting a team around them to help them win a championship. Tim Duncan did it a few years ago with the San Antonio Spurs. The money the Spurs saved allowed them to keep Manu Ginobili
And now to belabor this. When I consider the greatest players in the history of the NBA, I don’t think of how many max contracts they had. You might find this hard to believe, but in my many basketball conversations I have NEVER listed the number of max contracts the player in question has signed. When you hear fans talking about how their team is the best, you never hear them talk about how many max players they have. Actually, the amount of money a team pays a player could be a topic of embarrassment for some fans, like any New York Knicks fans who deal with their team signing guys like Jerome James and Eddy Curry to large contracts. You’ll never hear anyone talk about bloated contracts like that as a good thing. Ask any little kid with dreams of playing in the NBA and he’ll tell you that he wants to win championships and be the best player. Certainly, the money is also alluring, but everyone wants to be recognized with the champions. A young basketball player doesn’t fantasize about having the most maximum contracts in league history, but the championships or MVP’s instead. And do you see any of them reenacting their favorite player signing a max deal? No, because you’ll find them in the driveway, at the gym, or on the playground emulating that player’s moves on the court.
So I would disagree with the article in question. It is not unwise to take a paycut like Nowitzki and Pierce have. And actually, for all we know, that may have been the most money they could have possibly gotten.
Dirk, Pierce Take (Unwise?) Paycuts