Friday, July 9, 2010

Get Off Lebron's Back

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the Lebron James' free agent saga, so what the hell here is mine: Lebron had every right to do exactly what he wanted to do. It is amazing to me how many people and pundits have tried to attach their own value judgment to Lebron's decision. To me the decision first and foremost seemed to come down to one thing, Lebron liked playing with Wade and Bosh and he wanted to get to play with Wade and Bosh. Throw out any angle you want but it seems as simple as that.

Right now the most visceral reaction is coming from Cleveland and its hard to blame a city whose 1 team worth watching is about to go from the best record in the NBA to one of the worst. Still Cleveland fans have an enormous inferiority complex as it is (and rightfully so) and it is understandable they are upset right now. Still what their idiot owner pulled last night was inexcusable. Lebron James made him a ton of money over his seven years in Cleveland. Lebron carried that team night after night when any off night would mean a loss. The simple fact is that Dan “shut your dumb ass mouth” Gilbert did not surround Lebron with a team that could realistically win a title.

Now I do not want to say it would be impossible for Lebron to win a title in Cleveland, but that fact is it would have taken an absolutely superhuman effort like we have never seen in the NBA before. If Lebron lays an egg like Kobe did in game seven against the Celtics the Cavs lose by 30. Lebron willed that team to the NBA's best record, but once he started playing the best teams in the playoffs he simply did not have the help. Jordan would not have won it with that Cavs team, Kobe would not have won it, Russell would not have won it...that Cavs team simply was not championship material.

The Cavs should have done what Sam Presti has been doing with Durant in Oklahoma City. They are not overpaying for guys or taking a chance on guys. They built a solid nucleus around him and are waiting for it to develop. The Thunder had the Lakers on the brink this year and are only set to get better. Instead the Cavs took chances on washed up veterans and did not have any real plan for long term success (outside of Lebron). I cannot blame Lebron when he could go other places and have a chance to win.

There is another argument that this taints his legacy somehow, that Lebron could not carry a team on his own and win a title. To me this argument is completely idiotic. Everyone needed help. Jordan won his first three titles with Scottie Pippen (a top 5 NBA player at the time), Horace Grant (an all star caliber forward), BJ Armstrong who was an all star the year after Jordan left and several other quality role players like John Paxson and Will Purdue. Jordan won his second three titles with Scottie Pippen (again a top 5 NBA player), Dennis Rodman (an all star caliber forward and borderline hall of famer) and solid role players like Steve Kerr, Tony Kukoc, and Ron Harper. The point is Jordan had plenty of help.

Kobe Bryant has won his titles on teams that would have been among the best in their conference had Kobe never suited up for them. Bill Russell played for absolutely stacked Celtic teams. Lebron's Cavs teams were Lebron and a bunch of role players. There was no clear plan for long term success other than keeping Lebron in place to carry them and trying to fill in gaps. So Lebron did what any great player has had to do to win..he found help.

As constructed this Heat nucleus reminds me a lot of the Jordan Era Bulls nucleus. The 2/3 in Chicago which was Jordan(best player in the NBA)/ Pippen(a top five NBA player) is to me very similar to Wade (top 5 NBA player)/ James (best player in the NBA). The Bulls had Grant or Rodman depending on which run...all star caliber power forwards. The Heat have Bosh also an all star caliber forward. Bosh is a better scorer than Rodman/Grant, but not as good a rebounder or defender.
The key for the heat will be can they find the role players to compliment their core three. The Bulls were great about that. They found role players who complimented their stars very well. They found shooting from guys like Kerr/Paxson. They found a ball handler and rebounding guard like Ron Harper. They found big centers who could pass the ball and operate in the triangle. By finding the right role players they were able to win six titles.

If the Heat can get the right role players they can be a favorite to win titles for the next five years. Realistically I think they need a couple guards who can shoot and handle the ball and a couple big men who can defend and rebound. If they get that they will be very impossible to stop.

Lebron believes he can win in Miami which is a big reason he went, but to me it is even more basic than that. A few years ago I found a group of guys at the UC recreation center that I really liked playing pickup basketball with. We made it a point to go up there at the same time. When we played together we were very successful often holding the court for hours, we knew what each other would do, we shared the ball and played hard. It was fun playing with those guys. As much as I love playing basketball it was that much more fun when we'd get that group together. To me at it's most basic level Lebron is making a decision to play basketball for the next five years with the guys he really loves to play with most. As someone who understands how much more fun basketball can be when you find the right group of guys to run with this is a decision that makes sense. These guys love playing together and at its most basic level I think that was what this decision was about.

So congratulations Lebron James. I look forward to seeing you play basketball with Wade and Bosh. I hope Miami can put the right pieces in place to compliment your games, because if so this could be an amazing team to watch over the next five years. You are picking a team to play for over the next five years for 100 games or so a year... why not choose guys whom you know you will enjoy playing with. So there are plenty of haters out there who are going to rip on this decision, but in the end enjoying the guys you play with will more than make up for it.

1 comment:

Kliff said...

Lebron has 'Loyalty' tattooed across his midriff. I wonder if he understands the meaning of the word.