Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cleveland Still Sucks

That said, my guess is on them to get LeBron. Matt and Brennan already covered most of these bases, but here's how it shakes out from my perspective:

1) After last year's playoff exit, the Cavaliers were accused of not being as good as they thought they were. This is devastating news, if true; Cleveland maxed out the cap in bringing the roster together, and thus has litle flexibility for making any move, except of course, the big move. The big move, re-signing LeBron, would allow them to exceed the cap of $58 million. But even then, the roster is pretty much the same one that lost in the second-round, minus Shaq and Zydrunus Ilgauskus. They would have fewer players, and yet, even less financial flexibility.

So why then do I think Cleveland has the edge?

First of all, the idea that this roster isn't good enough is somewhat false. Yes, there's a huge difference between regular season success and playoff success, but that doesn't discount the fact that this team was wildly dominant for the past two regular seasons. I don't think it was entirely the coach's fault, but Mike Brown did have a funny way of throwing out all of his regular season rotations and match-ups in the postseason. I'd take it one step further and say the offensive gameplanning was entirely absent last year, after the Cavs lost coordinator John Kuester to Detroit. That's the kind of thing that gets exposed in the playoffs, and perhaps gets rectified by a new coaching staff. There was also LeBron's elbow. Say he's healthy against the Celtics, I bet you see a different series. Finally, I'd say that there may be some addition through subtraction at work this offseason. Anyone who watched the Cavs last year appreciated Shaq's effort, but saw how much crisper and mobile the team was when he wasn't on the floor. Same with fan favorite Ilgauskus. I have my doubts about the team playing without a true center (especially when they go up against the Magic), but then again, what did it get them last year having those two guys? Anderson Varejao will regress, Antawn Jameson will fit into the offense better, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson will be traded, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon will be decent enough role players, and JJ Hickson will get a lot of points off LeBron and Mo Williams. They'll compete, and by the end of next season, have a bit more flexibility to actually bring in a big man.

Second reason LeBron stays is the money. I would say he takes a three-year deal and keeps the Cavs on a short leash so that he can threaten to go to Brooklyn when the Nets move in; however, with the possibility of the CBA expiring and a lockout looming, it seems in his interests to take as much money as he can, now.

2) Miami is out of the picture. It's not simply that LeBron doesn't want to leave money behind in Cleveland to play alongside his would-be higher-paid peer, Dwyane Wade; it's that Miami doesn't have the money to give him even the max deal they're giving Chris Bosh. Right now they only have $5 million committed to their payroll, in the form of three guys. That means they have the flexibility to bring in LeBron and Bosh while keeping Wade. That would give them a roster of six. Yes, technically that's fine. But let's see how it works out in the fourth quarter.

A lot has been written about LeBron's ego, and how he'd be resistant to the idea that he was going to be a side kick to Wade. The fact is, this is all about ego. If this was about winning, all of these guys would take their paycuts. They're not going to. So don't expect any super group to be formed.

3) Chicago is out, and they know it. The Bulls are locking down Carlos Boozer to a huge contract which will reduce the flexibility they need for offering LeBron money.

4) The Nets are out, simply on the basis that they failed to make a splash signing. They're still terrible and gutted. The "good" news for them, is that it won't cost much more money to stay this way, so they could try waiting out LeBron for a chance at him in 3 years, when they move to his favorite borough of NYC.

5) The Knicks are shockingly still in the discussion. LeBron's big press conference will be held in Greenwich, Connecticut tomorrow night. This is where the Knicks' president resides, and where their practice facilities are located. Furthermore, the Knicks were the only team to get a second meeting with LeBron's representatives last week. On top of that, they locked up a big name in Amar'e Stoudemire, leaving them with enough room to sign LeBron and round out the roster. But beyond all of that, the most appealing feature of their financial outlook is that other than Stoudemire, no one on the roster is committed past this coming season. That would give them the kind of flexibility that no one else has. The kind that would allow them to bring in LeBron's best friend, Chris Paul, next offseason to join him and Stoudemire. The Knicks won't immediately provide as supportive a supporting cast as Cleveland will, and they can't offer as large a contract; but in some ways, they give LeBron a fresh start (he has to be getting tired of the Cavs playing up the "THIS is the year" storyline), a team to call his own (as opposed to in Miami or Chicago), and reasonable hope for contending in the future. Furthermore, the ego stroking that comes from raising the MSG stock 6.4% today has to feel good. Yeah, it's nice to be a hometown hero, but if this is about ego and power think of the rush, knowing that you shifted two franchises' collective worth by about a eight-hundred million dollars.

Anyway. My guess is still on the Cavs, with everyone but the Knicks being eliminated by default. And if it is Cleveland, that would mean the Greenwich locale was purely to generate hype, which in a lot of ways says something about how petty this really talented, rich ballplayer is.

In conclusion: whatever.

Let's stop talking about basketball.

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