Archive for July, 2010

Links To The Present: July 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

“He said his “real fans” would support him, but he didn’t seem to understand that his real fans, the ones who watched him since high school, live near Akron and Lake Erie. While he continues, in his words, “to be great,” Cleveland suffers. And shows more anger than any place should show over a professional sports figure. But for the fans and people in Cleveland, it feels like unrequited love. Every game James has ever played in Cleveland, going back to his high school days, was a sellout. Fans adored him, and gave him everything they could. Just like his team. The Cavs never gutted their roster to try to save money to keep him, never told him it would hold back on acquiring players until he committed. They tried to win, surrounding him with players they thought he wanted and could win with — to the point that they did all they could to try to acquire Chris Paul the past few days.” [Pat McManamon of FanHouse]

“In that one little hedging moment he starts, ever so slightly, to smile. And everybody knew what that smile meant: it meant, […] Of course, we’ve been planning this for years.” So he smiles, giving the deal away completely, then instantly switches gears and just turbo-lies right into the camera. I thought: this is just like politics! A terrible, totally unskilled liar, telling a completely transparent lie, who then improbably gets let off the hook by the sycophantic moron interviewing him.” [Matt Taibbi on the 5 Funniest Things about “The Decision” (warning: language NSFW or Children)]

“Nobody asked LeBron why he quit on the court against the Celtics during the playoffs. Nobody asked about his phantom elbow injury.” [Scott Raab of Esquire]

“Everyone who objectively watched the Boston-Cleveland playoffs series knows James quit on the Cavs, selling out his teammates and costing head coach Mike Brown his job.” [Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports]

“When James was distracted and distant in this season’s playoffs, I wrote it off to his aching elbow — despite even more marketing types around him, more talk of his coming free agency. Now, it seems he was plotting his exit. It was hard to believe James had the gall to go on national television and dump on his hometown, as he did in his self-absorbed ESPN special. Or how he didn’t call the Cavs with his decision at all. Nor did his agent, or business partner Maverick Carter. It was Richie Paul, a member of his posse, who delivered the bad news to the Cavs once the ESPN special went on the air.” [Terry Pluto on being a fan]

“The implication that James knew his decision and waited, causing the Cavs harm as they waited and missed out on other free agents, was targeted by Stern. The Cavs were not informed of James’ choice until minutes before it was revealed on national television.” [Brian Windhorst on a lot of bad things for the NBA] So Gilbert lashes out, is labeled nothing but a hypocritical “enabler”, is fined 100k,and LBJ is given a pass.  Somehow I doubt we’ll read an article about David Stern ‘The Enabler”.

In a real way, it totally was.  When had there ever been a chance for one athlete to affirm an American city, a region, so powerfully?  It was all teed up so perfectly.  So many years of Cleveland being the butt of so many bad jokes, all to be made right thanks to LeBron, who’d restore balance by lifting Cleveland just as the new flatter twenty-first century took off.  Cleveland: As good as anywhere else, and now, for a time, at least in this very real very measurable way, in the team sport where individuals mean the most, thanks to an individual who was born and raised here, Cleveland would be the best. [Cleveland Frowns]

“Bill Simmons wants to see playoff games…that’s important to him.” [Bill Simmon’s Decision on Clips Season Tickets]

“We are already fools for caring about athletes considerably more than they care about us. We know this and we do it anyway. We just like sports. We keep watching for moments like Donovan’s goal against Algeria, and we keep caring through thick and thin for moments like Dave Roberts’ steal and Tracy Porter’s interception. We put up with all the sobering stuff because that’s the price you pay — for every Gordon Hayward half-court shot, or USA-Canada gold-medal game, there are 20 Michael Vicks and Ben Roethlisbergers. Last night didn’t make me like sports any less — my guard has been up since 1996 — it just reinforced all the things I already didn’t like.” [Simmons Reader Reactions]

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.

Cavs complete a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

So the good news is that the Cavs are getting something back for LeBron James after all. According to Windhorst, the Cavs will be getting two first-round picks from the Heat sometime between 2013 and 2017, a 2012 second-round pick from New Orleans, a future second-round pick, and a $16 million trade exception.

The details of this are complicated, but basically this allows Miami to pay LeBron less earlier in his contract, gives the Cavaliers something something for giving up LeBron, and helps Miami improve in the short term while giving the Cavs a better chance to rebuild.

It looks like the plan is to try and use the picks as assets in a trade and try for another winning season rather than try a full rebuild. Not sure how I feel about that as a five-year plan, but it looks like the management wants to give the fans something to root for next season. Can’t say I disagree with that logic.

I would have something to say about the press conference fiasco, but I was at summer league watching basketball. I really don’t feel like I missed something important. Until tomorrow, 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.

Here’s Dan Gilbert’s LeBron rant letter

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Dan Gilbert is not pleased with LeBron. Here’s the link to the letter in the original font. Below is the letter in its entirety.

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;
As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.
This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.
Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.
The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.
There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.
You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.
You have given so much and deserve so much more.
In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:
You can take it to the bank.
If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.
Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.
Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.
This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.
The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
Just watch.
Sleep well, Cleveland.
Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….
I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:
DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….
Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers


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LeBron James Signs With The Miami Heat

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

LeBron James will officially join Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat next season. Best of luck to LeBron and the Heat in all their future endeavors.

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.