Friday, July 11, 2014

What LeBron's Decision Really Means

Beatdown Imminent
So I've been grinding away on a lot of different things for the past few weeks. There's been two major house projects (painting the Shooter Kids bedrooms, which takes about 5 to 10X longer than estimated), big personal trauma from the passing of a pet, time spent training a new puppy, a lot of personal training because all of that went to the side for a little while during the above...

And so the only sports I've watched are World Cup games, and wrap-up shows ("Olbermann", mostly) that talk about how everyone is going batshit gonzo nutso over how LeBron James has had the temerity to take a long time to figure out where he's going to go with his next contract.

So, in other words, nothing has happened yet. Which is driving everyone crazy, because Something Has To Happen, and Not Knowing is Intolerable. Unless, well, you are a fan of an NBA team that has no chance at James, at which point this hasn't mattered at all.

I root for the Sixers, the owners of the longest-term plan in the history of the Association. By the time my team is ready to make serious noise, James will be 32 at least, and since he didn't go to college and plays some of the most and hardest minutes in the league, with constant deep playoff runs, it's going to be more like 35. He'll still be one of the best players in the world, but no one will think he's still *the* best, because, well, Father Time is undefeated.

I also think he knows this, and even more than wanting to win more rings and try to catch Michael Jordan in the mythical pursuit of Best To Ever Play...

Well, I think he wants to get paid. First. For the biggest amount possible, because there really isn't anyone who should get paid more than him. And then, and only then, will he think very hard about rings, because rings matter more to the rubes than the players.

Tangent time. Because it's on late at night when my world slows down, I'm prone to putting on pro wrestling. One of the guys I like to watch in the WWE is a character by the name of Damian Sandow. He's a low-grade heel who never wins, but he's got a nice way on the mic to draw hate out of crowds, and I've always enjoyed that as a party trick of writing. His current gimmick is to be something local to every town they visit, so when they were in Indiana, he wore a LeBron James jersey, and do on. So he comes out in some bad costume, gets booed for a few minutes, takes the mic to make it worse, and then some tedious hero comes out and cleans his clock.

Now, there are literally thousands of guys, all over the world, that would cut their mothers for Sandow's job. They spend their days in sad little gyms, in front of very few people, with little to no television coverage, for a pittance, all while taking the same kind of punishment. And on some level, Sandow's existence seems sad; nothing but a comedy role, the same kind of nonsense every week, quite aware that you are only in it for the money. But, of course, the money's fantastic.

Which brings me back to James. He's got two rings. So long as he says in the East, he's going to have a good shot at adding one or two more in the next few years, no matter whether he's in Miami or Cleveland. (I'm presuming that these are the only two realistic places for him at this point, and that Carmelo Anthony is just having his small little sad measure of fun by drawing out the possibility that they could team up.)

Oh, and this noise about how the guys who really want to win are taking less money to show you their commitment? Well, then, why not take no money at all? Hell, why not pay the team for the privilege of playing?

Seriously... there is no better management gig in sports than to be an NBA owner. The public is ready to throw the stars under the bus if they get paid. You can amnesty out your worst mistakes. If you gut the club and tank for all that you are worth, the smarks in the audience will applaud you, even if it is more of a smash and grab for revenue sharing, rather than an actual attempt to build a true contender. And if you mishandle a generational talent, people will turn on said talent if he leaves for greener pastures, and you can try to get him back with the fruits of your terrible tanking, lottery aided roster.

Personally, I think James takes a max deal for just two years and stays in Miami. I think the drawn-out nature of the decision is because he's not in love with either option, and that he'd stay with the Heat a lot faster if he thought Dwyane Wade was going to recover... but that he's also not convinced that the Cavs' talent isn't toxic. So you sign for a short time, snap your fingers to get Chris Bosh to not take the Houston offer, enjoy the passing contributions of Josh McRoberts, and hope like hell that the collection of longshot bench talent (Danny Granger, Greg Oden, Shabazz Napier) shakes out to something useful, or that Wade isn't spent. Even if he is, you are probably in the Finals next June with just a little luck, because McRoberts is going to help him a lot, and having James on the roster will always attract a handful of talented guys who want to spend a year shooting open threes and going to the playoffs.

But, well, all of that could have been figured out days ago. So what's the delay?

Well, maybe James just enjoys having the league twist in the wind. Maybe he enjoys knowing that Pat Riley and Dan Gilbert are both going a little insane from this. Maybe there's fun in just torturing ESPN and all of the Twitterverse.

However, there's a really simple way around all of this, folks.

Just, um, find something else to think about.

Honestly, there are plenty of things to think about...

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