Archive for the ‘The LeBron Situation’ Category

A LeBron-related roundup

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up — working very hard down here at Summer League. A lot of LeBron-related goings on over the weekend:

I assume all of you have read Windhorst’s must-must-must-must read piece on LeDecision, but if you haven’t, here’s the link. The tampering stuff will be the big story in the coming days and weeks, but the reasons why LeBron wasn’t all that interested in going to Chicago are interesting as well.

Here’s a link to Jesse Jackson’s response to Dan Gilbert, which everyone has been talking about. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to shut down comments on this piece — that letter has ignited some very nasty discussions on other sites, I don’t have time to moderate comments right now, and there has been some unacceptable language in the comments section here over the past week. Until later, everyone.

LeBron James: The Golden Boy No More

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I got most of what I wanted to say about LeBron’s departure out of the way last night (I assumed he was leaving), so I don’t think I need to say all that much more here.

That said, here’s my post-decision LeBron piece for Pro Basketball Talk, which does cover some new ground about LeBron’s future.

Here’s the link:

Let me know what you guys think. I’ve gotta get to packing, because tomorrow morning I go to Vegas to cover the Summer League. It should be fun, so try and sleep well. This blog isn’t going anywhere, and I promise we’re going to continue having fun talking Cavs and talking basketball. Until tomorrow, everyone.

LeBron Decision Open Thread

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

LeBron Draft Day

It won’t be long now. Most people think it will be Miami, but nothing’s etched in stone just yet. There’s not much more to say at this point — it’s time to just sit back and watch it happen. I’ll be live-blogging the festivities with the Daily Dime Live crew, so head over there to participate in the fun, or hang out here if you want. Check back here immediately after the announcement for some analysis.

We Are All Witnesses

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Witness Poster

We Are All Witnesses. We all know the slogan. We all know where we’ve seen it. We all know who it refers to. Do we know what it means?

Think about that slogan/saying/motto/mantra/whatever for a little bit. Think about what it makes the “we” in question, and think about what it does not make us. We are not LeBron James’ family. We are not LeBron James’ friends. We are not part-owners of LeBron James, nor do we hold shares of him. We are not LeBron James’ bosses or employees. We are not his defenders or his prosecutors. We are not his judge or jury. We Are All Witnesses. We have all watched.

Cleveland owned the Browns long before Art Modell bought them, took them, and moved them. Likewise, Cleveland owned the Cavaliers long before LeBron James joined the team. Cleveland will own the Cavaliers long after LeBron James leaves.

Cleveland does not own LeBron James. LeBron James was born in Akron. He was drafted by his hometown Cavaliers, who signed him to a contract. He played at a high enough level to make his contract a relative bargain. He then signed an extension with the Cavaliers. Again, he played at a high enough level to more than justify the money he was given by the Cavaliers.

LeBron does not owe the Cavaliers any more than he has given them. LeBron has never needed to pay off some cosmic debt to Cleveland. He’s done all he can to bring a title to the city, but it was never about anybody forcing LeBron to win a title for the Cavaliers. He tried to win Cleveland a title because he wanted to. Cavs fans just got to watch.

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 populace 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.

Tonight, LeBron is a man without a country. He hasn’t won the championship that would endear him to the fans who want a winner, and he hasn’t stayed humble or loyal enough to the fans who want their superstars to be paradigms of truth, justice, and the American way. He never brought his hometown team to the promised land, and he’ll never be truly worshiped there unless he does. If he leaves, he will go to a new team, a better team, in a bigger city. There, he will never be fully embraced, because he needed to take a shortcut to greatness. If he stays and does not win a championship, he will forever be seen as a player too weak-willed and weak-skilled to have ever truly been great. Even if he stays and does take the Cavs to a championship, he’s gone too far down the aforementioned rabbit hole to ever be the humble, team-first, hometown hero he wants Cleveland to see him as.

On Thursday, LeBron will have a new contract, and may someday get a championship ring. What he will never be is what he was once supposed to be; a player so great that he would unite all basketball fans under his banner, and achieve the kind of consensus greatness that Jordan once did.

He may unite great players under his banner, he may unite the mainstream media and his team’s fanbase under his banner, and he may unite the stat geeks under his banner, but he will never have the mob appeal to match his snob appeal. That ship has sailed, regardless of whether or not he stays in Cleveland.

This was supposed to be LeBron’s year. It was the seventh year of his career; Jordan won his first championship in his seventh year. It was his best individual season ever, both on the stat sheet and in terms of his evolving skills. He had more quality veteran players around him than he ever had before. His team was built to win a championship, not just impress in the regular season. With his contract coming up and a veteran team around him, it was do-or-die time, the time when the great ones are supposed to reveal what it is that makes them great.

If LeBron’s career was scripted, this would have been the year he finally won a championship. The Celtics’ defense didn’t care about any of that, and now the LeBron honeymoon is over. The first act of LeBron James’ career is over, and it ultimately turned out to be a tragic one. From a narrative standpoint, LeBron has tasted true, inexcusable, and lasting failure.

“A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s what happens while you wait for moments that will never come.”

-Lester Freamon, The Wire

We are not LeBron. LeBron is not us. LeBron does not owe us anything. We do not own LeBron. What we do own is the moments that LeBron gave us over the last seven-plus years.

The moment that you turned on ESPN2, saw St. Vincent/St. Mary’s beat Oak Hill, saw LeBron find Romeo Travis with a behind-the-back feed, told any other 8th grader who would listen that this kid was for real, and thought maybe the Cavs might get this kid in the draft? You own that moment.

When the ping-pong balls went Cleveland’s way? We own that moment. When LeBron showed up in that white suit and there was suddenly hope in Cleveland? We own that moment. When LeBron started owning summer league and then got a near triple-double against the Kings in his NBA debut? That moment is ours as well.

How about when LeBron became a legit MVP candidate at 21 years old, then tiptoed the baseline to beat the Wizards in his first-ever playoff series? Yep, that moment is ours. 25 straight points to beat the Pistons in double overtime and take a rag-tag team to the finals? Nobody can take that away. Then there was LeBron in the 2008 playoffs, fighting to the bitter end in a seven-game series against the eventual champs.

Then there was the 2008-09 season, when LeBron somehow took his game to another level and emerged as a dominant force en route to his first MVP award. Even against the Magic, LeBron managed to keep Cleveland’s hopes alive by draining an off-balance, buzzer-beating three in game two. This season, LeBron raised his game and led the Cavs to a 61-game season despite some new acquisitions and a slew of injuries, and nearly every one of those games was a small masterpiece in its own right.

There were the bad moments as well. When the Cavs collapsed down the stretch in 04-05 and missed the playoffs. When the Cavs couldn’t quite finish off the Pistons in game six of the 2006 playoffs. When LeBron took a good portion of the 06-07 season wandering around the perimeter and only trying to take over the game when he felt like it. When LeBron looked like a completely over-matched 21-year old against the Spurs that same year. When LeBron came up just short in his duel with Paul Pierce in 2008. When LeBron couldn’t quite finish off his masterful game one performance against the Magic in 2009, and had that sloppy fourth quarter and overtime in game four of the same series. Then, of course, there was LeBron getting completely demoralized and overpowered by the Celtics’ defense this season, backing down from the challenge he was supposed to embrace.

Off the court, there were the times LeBron had one eye on the bright lights New York or New Jersey/Brooklyn. When it seemed like he wanted to be a global icon more than he wanted to be the best player ever. When he may have told Nike to destroy tapes of a college kid dunking on him. When he was out pimping some self-serving biography. When he acted like he was the one with the right to take Jordan’s number and wear Bill Russell’s. We own all of those moments the same way we own the good ones.

All of those are just the big moments. There was also the night-in, night-out pleasure (and pain) of watching LeBron play. Every time he would lull his defender to sleep with a slight hesitation dribble and explode to the basket. Every time he would shrug off a big man and convert an impossible and-1. Every time he made a jumper few other players would be able to get all the way to the rim. Every time he got the ball in the open court and you told your friends to shut up and watch what was about to happen. Every time he threaded the ball through a hole nobody but his teammate knew was there. Every time he snuck up behind an unsuspecting opponent who thought he had an easy transition layup. Every time the game was close in the last five minutes and you knew LeBron had it under control. There were thousands of those moments, and LeBron gave us every one of them.

(The bad little moments; every time LeBron got in in the post and hesitated to go at his defender, every heat-check, every missed free throw, every stutter-step 20-footer with time on the clock, every off-balance mid-range shot, every time he would dance 30 feet from the basket instead of running the offense.)

Last Saturday, me and a few friends of mine went on a hike. We were led to believe it would be a three-hour day hike, but we ended spending nearly all day climbing up a freaking mountain. It was miserable. At some point during the hike/climb, I realized that a goal-oriented view of hiking makes very little sense. Was the moment I was working for the moment I got to the top of the mountain, only to realize I was now going to have to scramble down this freaking thing? Was it the moment we got to the car, too exhausted to do anything but drive to the nearest gas station, buy a bunch of Gatorade, and drink it in silence? Was it when we got home and finally got to shower? Which one of those moments was supposed to make the whole miserable experience worthwhile? Was it when we could tell very unimpressed people that we climbed a relatively small peak?

The answer, of course, is none of them. If you don’t enjoy the process of hiking/climbing mountains, there is no way to justify the activity. Professional cyclists often talk about how the love of suffering itself is something all good cyclists must have on one level or another. More and more, I feel the same way about being a sports fan. If you’re waiting for that one game, one moment, one play, one championship, three championships, that will make all that suffering go away and let you feel nothing but warm inside when you think about your favorite players and teams, I suggest taking up quilting. To be a die-hard fan is to suffer. You just have to enjoy the little victories that you find while you’re suffering.

Maybe you believe that all the great things LeBron James did in the last seven years were just a dress rehearsal for the moments when he ultimately failed to deliver. Maybe you believe that all the good things you thought about LeBron over the years were revealed to be the products of deceit when LeBron started acting like a jackass who believed himself to be bigger than the game this summer. I suppose those are valid viewpoints. They do not happen to be my own.

For the first two years of his career, LeBron James was perhaps the most exciting prospect the game has ever known. For the next three years of his career, LeBron was an underaged MVP candidate who gave the Cavs a fighting chance at a championship. For the last two years, LeBron has been a dominant individual force who turned the Cavs into true championship contenders. For the last seven years, Cleveland basketball has been something to feel good about. When you think about it, that’s something.

If LeBron does decide to stay tomorrow, it will still never be the same as it was before; LeBron is no longer the golden child, and the Cavs won’t have the buzz around them that they once did. If he does leave, it will be one of the lowest moments in the history of one of the most tormented American sports cities. Either way, an era will officially end tomorrow.

The seven seasons that made up the (1st act of?) the LeBron Era in Cleveland ultimately ended in disappointment, failure, heartbreak, misery, doubt, bitterness, and plenty of suffering for everyone who lived and died with LeBron and the team he led. Personally, I wouldn’t trade those seven years of watching LeBron play for anything in the world.

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Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade sign with the Miami Heat

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

So Bosh decided on Miami, and Wade decided to stick around because of it. Not a bad choice for Bosh at all. He gets the money he wanted, he gets to live in Miami, and he gets to play with Wade. Not the most loyal move he could have made, and not the best basketball choice for him. (I think Cleveland, Chicago, or even Houston have better all-around rosters.)

The Heat have one great player, one very, very, very good player, a great city to play in, and some cap room. The motivations for Bosh’s decision would be essentially the same reasons LeBron would decide to sign in New York, with the caveat being that Miami actually has draft picks.

Judging by the timing of these signings and LeBron’s ESPN announcement, it looks like LeBron made his decision based on what Wade and Bosh did. As of right now, LeBron’s options are:

-Suck it up, take the extra cash, and try to make it work without another superstar in Cleveland.

-Go to Chicago and be part of a Rose/?/LBJ/Boozer/Noah team. Not a super-team, but a darn good one.

-Go to Miami, possibly taking a pay cut, and do the trio of doom thing. Might take a year or two for the team’s roster to fill out, though.

-Say “screw it,” join Amar’e on the Knicks, run some great pick-and-rolls, make a lot of money, possibly become the A-Rod of basketball, win relatively few playoff games.

-Go to the Nets, for some reason.

-Pretend the Clippers’ front office doesn’t exist, join their team.

Right now, I think it’ll be Miami or Cleveland, and neither one is really an ideal option for LeBron. Sigh. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens.

On Bosh, LeBron, Del Negro, other things

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

-I know that, officially speaking, this is when NBA fans are supposed to be hating LeBron. Having said that, can we take a second out of our busy anger schedules to get a little pissed at Chris Bosh?

I’m not saying that Bosh isn’t a great player. He’s an absolute force offensively. He can score efficiently from multiple spots on the floor. He can play pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. He’s a quality rebounder. I even think he can become a plus defender if he has the right center behind him, like Rashard Lewis did when he came to the Magic. He’s a fantastic player, and the best thing about him is that he’d only be more effective on a good team.

However, it may behoove us to take a look at Bosh’s NBA career to date. He was drafted in 2003, just like LeBron was. He has won a total of three playoff games in seven seasons. He has not played a playoff game since 2008. He has been named to the All-NBA second team once. He has fewer player of the month awards than LeBron has MVPs. He was the starting power forward for the worst defensive team in basketball last season.

This dude is NOT a franchise player, but he’s become part of the “LeBron-Wade-Bosh” trinity because he’s a very good young big man in the summer of 2010 and doesn’t have Amar’e Stoudemire’s baggage.

Since he’s become a free agent, Bosh has made it clear that he won’t return to the team that drafted him, and isn’t returning his former GM’s calls. He’s made it equally clear that he won’t settle for anything less than the absolute max. Now he won’t join LeBron James in Cleveland because he doesn’t like the city enough. He could become the second-best player on a potential NBA dynasty, but he doesn’t want to spend a few months out of every year actually living in Cleveland.

Yeesh. Obviously, Bosh has every right to try and get as much money as he can and go to a city he wants to live in, but could somebody hold him a little bit accountable for it? LeBron has been acting like a jackass throughout most of this free-agency process. This I do not dispute.

But when it’s all said and done, LeBron has been trying to stay in his home city and take the team that drafted him to the promised land. Chris Bosh has come off as much less of an attention whore, but his priorities are a max deal and an apartment in or near a city he likes.

I’m not just saying this as a Cleveland fan; If I were a Chicago fan and a LeBron/Bosh pairing didn’t happen because Bosh demanded the max, I’d be pissed about that too. Or a Miami fan hoping to see a LeBron/Wade/Bosh superteam. Or a Houston fan, if he doesn’t end up pushing for that sign-and-trade. This dude is not a superstar, but he has the power to make one team truly great this off-season. And he’s dragged his feet up to this point. I’ll wait to see how everything plays out (and hold out some hope that an 11th-hour CLE-TOR sign-and-trade comes through), but right now Chris Bosh is not my favorite athlete.

In other news, I’m very sad that the Clippers went with Del Negro over Casey. Casey just can’t get a break, and he can really coach. Just another example of how the Clippers were/are non-players in the LeSweepstakes despite the fact they can put tons of talent around LeBron and play in Los Angeles. That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow, LeBron Eve.

LeBron to announce his decision on ESPN at 9 PM Thursday Night

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

According to several sources, LeBron will announce his free agency decision during a one-hour ESPN special scheduled to air  at 9 PM EST on Thursday night.

Yes, it’s another example of how LeBron is an ego case and loves the attention his free agency has brought him. We have known about both of these things for some time. I’m just glad that there will be no announcement, and there won’t be a race between writers trying to break the story or a series of crazy rumors and hearsay. It’s a stupid way to have to get the information, but at least we’ll know where LeBron is going immediately after the announcement is made. Good enough for me.

Also, this event suggests that LeBron is staying, right? It would be impressively cruel to announce he’s leaving to this kind of fanfare.

Your Free Agency Roundup/Open Thread

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

As of right now, here’s what we’re looking at:

-According to several sources, there is a very good chance LeBron will re-up with the Cavs after all, although some are saying the Bulls remain the clubhouse leader.

-It looks like Chris Bosh is the one who screwed a LeBron “superteam” up — Bosh wants a max deal, and isn’t willing to waver on that. That means LeBron would have to take a significant pay cut to join Bosh in Miami, and Chicago won’t have the cap space unless they can move Deng, whom the Raptors do not want in a sign-and-trade.

Part of me is sad that LeBron won’t get to play with Bosh, in Cleveland or elsewhere, but if this is what keeps LeBron in Cleveland, then God bless that crazy Predator.

-It looked like Brian Shaw was going to be the guy, but current reports say that the Cavs are looking to make a deal with Byron Scott. Right as I was starting to get excited about LeBron in the triple-post offense, too.

-The AP is saying that LeBron will meet with the Knicks on Thursday. If he does sign tonight/early Thursday morning, that would be an awkward/hilarious meeting. Maybe LeBron’s next venture will be a Punk’d-esque show.

-That’s what I’m hearing/reading for now. More updates as they come in. Have a fun night, everyone.

Is the LeBron situation really a tale of two brothers?

Monday, June 28th, 2010


Well, about 10 minutes before I hit “publish,” Stephen A. Smith reported that he believes LeBron James is going to Miami to team up with Bosh, Wade, and Pat Riley. Not confirmed, obviously not official, but it’s foolish to assume this won’t dominate the discussion in the comments anyways.

When the Jordan/Pippen Bulls were winning championships, now-infamous Bulls GM Jerry Krause’s favorite refrain pissed off just about everybody. Krause didn’t like to give Jordan, Pippen, or Phil Jackson the lion’s share of the credit for Chicago’s six championships. Instead, Krause loved to say that organizations (meaning Krause), not players or coaches, were the ones who really won championships.

Of course, after Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson all left the Bulls, Krause promptly rendered the Bulls irrelevant with a series of ill-advised draft picks and trades, making his claims look even more foolish than they did at the time. Krause fancied himself a basketball savant whose hoops acumen was the driving force behind the Bulls’ dynasty. The truth was that Krause simply caught lightning in a bottle, and subsequently convinced himself he could control where it would strike next.

It wasn’t Krause and his organization winning those championships; Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler made that plenty clear. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson were the ones winning the championships. Krause was just the guy lucky enough to have them on his team.

There’s a reason I’m bringing all of this up. More than a decade after the last Bulls dynasty and seven years after Krause’s resignation as general manager of the Bulls, Chicago may be poised to start another dynasty. And this time, the organization actually will deserve most of the credit.

Regardless of how the rest of this summer plays out, there’s no doubt that the Bulls have done absolutely everything right up to this point. Thanks to patience, a series of savvy moves and picks, and more than a little bit of luck, the Bulls are in position to add LeBron James and Chris Bosh to an already-solid young core. Instead of tanking for draft picks/cap space or mortgaging their future, Chicago consistently put a quality team on the floor while leaving room for the team to improve.

Every other franchise’s team-building strategy made the summer of 2010 into either the starting point or the day of judgement. Because Bulls GM John Paxson realized that the summer of 2010 can be the middle phase of an actual long-term strategy instead of an all-or-nothing roster apocalypse, he’s looking like the smartest guy in the room right now.

Meanwhile, the Cavalier franchise is not in the best shape. Any or all of Danny Ferry’s moves can be Monday Morning Quarterbacked to death, of course. But the bottom line is that for the past few seasons, Ferry and Co. did a great job of taking the assets they had and turning them into players with a better chance of helping LeBron win. For example, were Shaq and Mo Williams perfect acquisitions? Absolutely not. But how much better could the  Cavs have done, considering they traded Damon Jones, Ben Wallace, and Sasha Pavlovic for Shaq and Mo?

Ferry’s team-building strategy has always been to surround LeBron with quality role players and veterans nearing the tail end of their productive years. That strategy can be criticized, but it was really the only legitimate option Ferry ever had. You can say Ferry should have been more patient in trying to find LeBron his Pippen or Gasol, but the truth is that any chance the Cavs ever had at building a dynasty-like team was gone before Ferry took over in the first place.

A good rebuilding process generally takes 2-3 years. Those are the years where you get lucky enough in the draft to snag a superstar and pick two or three other young players to grow with him, forming the “core” of the franchise. “Core” players are generally lottery picks, although there have been some later-draft miracles as well. (I’m thinking of San Antonio here.) Think about how Oklahoma City has built its team, Rose and Noah on the Bulls, Nelson and Howard on the Magic.

(By the way, a book could be written on this; all of the above is an admittedly rough paraphrase.  Quickly: The Kobe/Shaq Lakers were the first draft+free-agency dynasty, the Celtics turned their lottery picks into Ray Allen and KG, Shaq——>Caron Butler—>Brown’s expiring contract—>The Immaculate Salary Dump—>New Laker Dynasty)

When a rebuild is successful, the team is now in contender mode. When a team has a real chance to make a deep playoff run, they cannot afford to think in the long-term; NBA championship windows are too small. Moves can be made, even significant ones, but the chances of adding a “core” piece are extremely slim when a team doesn’t have lottery picks any more. Considering that winning a championship with only one “core” player is nearly impossible, it’s important not to screw up the chance to get some “core” guys during the rebuilding years.

Well, the Cavs screwed up their chances of building a young core around LeBron. They screwed them up very, very badly. Here’s a quick list of all the moves that destroyed the Cavs’ chances to build a bona fide young core around LeBron (note: all of these will be getting their own post)

– Trading Andre Miller for Darius Miles*

– Trading Ricky Davis at the absolute nadir of his value

– Taking Luke Jackson with the #10 pick in the 2004 draft

– Trading the #14 pick in the 2005 draft for Jiri Welsch

– The Carlos Boozer Debacle**

*May be exempt from criticism, as it helped the Cavs win the lottery

** I realize that much of said debacle was the fault of then-owner Gordon Gund.

*** Larry Hughes will get his own post as well. I have not forgotten his evil.

The Cavs made one lottery pick after drafting LeBron, and he never averaged three points per game with the team. Davis and Miles, who were supposed to be LeBron’s running mates, held LeBron back more than they helped him. Boozer left with the Cavs getting nothing in return. Those mistakes were what kept LeBron from ever having a real running mate, and may be the mistakes that drive LeBron to Chicago.

Here’s the craziest part: All of the Above Moves Were Made by John Paxson’s Brother. Who now works as a consultant for the Bulls. I’m not saying this as a conspiracy guy, although it is kind of a fun notion. (Seriously, though, I hate conspiracies.) I’m saying it as a “this is a seriously strange world we live in” guy.

There’s been plenty of talk about why LeBron will or won’t decide to stay in Cleveland. If he does leave, this might be the biggest reason: at critical junctures in the histories of their respective franchises, one Paxson brother made all the right moves while the other one made all the wrong moves.

State of The LeBron: Times are Grim

Friday, June 25th, 2010

So far this offseason, two LeBron-related realities have become clear. The first is that LeBron does not feel such a strong sense of loyalty towards Cleveland and the current Cavalier team that he has secretly planned on returning to the Cavs no matter what. If that was how he felt, one assumes he would have talked to Tom Izzo.

LeBron refusing to assure Izzo he would return to the Cavs didn’t/doesn’t guarantee that he’s leaving, but it does strongly suggest that Cleveland would need to give him a better supporting cast than any other team, or at least one nearly as good. There is now a very high likelihood that the Chicago Bulls will be able to offer LeBron a far better supporting cast than the Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to offer him. If they can’t the Miami Heat will likely be able to offer James the chance to pair with Wade and at least one other big free agent. In my heart, I can’t imagine LeBron playing for another team. But my head is telling me LeBron has likely played his last game as a Cavalier.

Assuming they can grab James and Bosh, Chicago makes perfect basketball sense for LeBron, what with Derrick Rose creating plays for LeBron to finish and Bosh and Noah finishing them. I also think people underestimate just how good of a defense Thibodeau could build around LeBron and Noah.

I thought about going in-depth on the above, but felt squicky about it. Instead, here’s how LeBron-to-Chicago could potentially get botched. (This is assuming Chicago fails to move Deng for a useful package.)

As has been noted, LeBron and Rose wouldn’t be the best pair of superstars on their own together. Bosh has let it be known he’s waiting on LeBron, and believes himself to be a centerpiece. The prospect of being a possible second/third fiddle on the Bulls might not appeal to him.

Also, remember that the Bulls don’t have quite the money to give both James and Bosh max contracts if they don’t make another move. LeBron will want the max, and so will the player’s association and the other owners. Bosh doesn’t have nearly the endorsement money that LeBron does, and not getting the max might hurt his pride. Amar’e and Boozer may be backup plans for Chicago, but Amar’e is likely going to Miami and Boozer isn’t Bosh.

Unless LeBron has heard seriously bad things about Thibodeau, is really chapped about Noah’s Cleveland comments, or doesn’t want to play in the same city Michael Jordan played in (and honestly, if it’s the latter, I regret ever having rooted for LeBron), I don’t see many other reasons why Chicago wouldn’t make sense for LeBron. (Pat Riley’s “Combine Like Voltron” pitch also has a puncher’s chance of working.)

Basically, all I really want to say in the weeks before this does or doesn’t actually happen is that it’s nobody’s fault. The front office had two good chances to win a championship, and it went for them. In this league, there’s no excuse for not going all-out when the opportunity to win a title is there.

All the cap space and patience in the world wouldn’t have gotten them a Bosh/Rose/Noah combination, because they didn’t have the draft picks. The options available to the front office were to go for the good chance the Cavs could win a championship with a team thrown together around LeBron or go for the slim chance of building an NBA 2k team around LeBron. The choice they made likely won’t pan out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong one.

LeBron’s always made his priorities clear: He wants to be on the team that gives him the best chance of winning championships in the near future. The Cavs made those moves, or at least what they thought those moves were. Now they have few assets or ways to improve, and there are teams that can potentially give LeBron a better chance to win a championships ever did or could.

Everyone in this organization did their best. They were contenders. Things didn’t go their way. That happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean there were any bad guys involved in the equation. I’ll always wonder what would have happened had the ball bounced a different way in games 1 and 4 of the 2009 ECF, or if anyone was prepared for the Celtics in these playoffs. This was a heck of a team. They were a contender, and that’s all you can ask a team to be. All of that is over now;  the next couple of weeks will tell just how over it is.