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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “NBA free agency”

I Still Have Hope

The influential Chinese writer Lin Yutang once said “hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”

If there is anything we have as Cleveland fans it is hope. We have that in spades. I still have hope that LeBron James will resign with the Cavs. There’s no way he’s leaving, not this way.

Together, we can create the road. If we all still have hope.

I believe Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen is right: LeBron will decide to stay home.

Don’t lose hope.

Bosh apparently flying South

So it turns out that Chris Bosh will, in fact, go to Miami.

If I’m the Raptors, I let him walk rather than work a sign-and-trade so I can get the Heat Pu Pu Platter in return. If Bosh doesn’t want to work with the team on a deal that would land him in Cleveland for more money, so be it; but don’t reward him for that.

If Bosh would rather play for a bad head coach, in front of a lousy fan base, on a bad team that hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs three out of the last four years, for less money, then good for him.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

The waiting is the hardest part,
Every day you see one more card,
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart,
The waiting is the hardest part – Tom Petty

The waiting for a decision by LeBron James will reportedly come to an end Thursday at 9 p.m. when he announces that he is resigning with the Cavs – I mean where he plays next season.

While no one other than LeBron knows what he will do, the speculation continues, with ESPN leading the way by saying LeBron is going to Miami. Who told them that? Well, unnamed “sources” of course.

“Sources” have also told ESPN’s Chris Broussard that Chris Bosh is heading to Miami, a day after Broussard reported that Bosh could be headed to Cleveland. I think the whole free agency season has taken not only what was left of Broussard’s credibility – remember, he said James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade met in Miami last month and that turned out to be a complete fabrication – but has also caused him to lose his sanity.

Just this morning, he said on SportsCenter that it’s probable that LeBron could sign another 3-year contract in Cleveland, but then argued that point with himself by saying the new collective bargaining agreement will mean that LeBron’s next contract will be for 5 or 6 years.

Glad he cleared that up.

It does make things simpler when you can just essentially quote yourself as a source for a story.

So what will LeBron do?

I’ve always believed he will stay in Cleveland. The reasons the national media have always presented to convince him to leave – money, a better chance to win, a bigger stage, the NBA deserves him in a bigger market, LeBron needs to play in a bigger market – have never held water. The reasons for him to stay have always trumped the reasons to leave.

I think LeBron wants to win a championship and do it as the top dog on the team. Going to another team and winning a title doesn’t appeal to him. He’s the two-time league MVP, he shouldn’t be the one going to someone else’s team. That may have been the only way Kevin Garnett could win a title, but he’s not LeBron. Think about if Kobe Bryant had left LA because he couldn’t win a title without Shaq; his legacy would certainly be different.

James also has to know that no other fan base will support him the way we do here in Cleveland. Sports are an integral part of NE Ohio and to be the local guy who ended the region’s championship drought is huge. Sure, fans of whatever team he signs with will cheer him, but it won’t ever be the same.

I don’t know if he believes this or not; I don’t have any inside “sources” although I did ask at the barbershop and the bagel store this morning and they would neither confirm nor deny these reports. But they are as valid as anything the mainstream media has put out there.

I do know that this seems to have been going on forever. The Cavs won the draft lottery on May 22, 2003, and the first story saying LeBron would leave Cleveland as a free agent appeared on May 23. Not really, but it sure feels like it.

So what will happen tomorrow night? Will LeBron come out sporting a Knicks jersey, only to peel it off to reveal a Heat jersey, Nets jersey, Bulls jersey before finally revealing his No. 6 in the familiar wine and gold?

Will he have a board like the draft lottery and reveal team logos one by one, eliminating teams until the last one?

The waiting is almost over. We’ll soon find out.

Chris Bosh to the Cavs? OK!

Chris Bosh in Cleveland? If we are to believe Chris Broussard at ESPN, the Raptors are open to a sign-and-trade with Cleveland for Bosh’s services.

If this is actually true – and ESPN’s J.A. Adande is saying right now on ESPN News that Bosh isn’t going to Cleveland because “no one (meaning the mainstream media) has been talking about Cleveland for the past year” so of course it’s not possible – it’s a good day to be a Cavs fan.

Bosh would be a solid second option to LeBron, and a front court rotation of James, Bosh, Antwan Jamison, Leon Powe and Anderson Varejao/JJ Hickson – one of them would be going to Toronto in any potential deal – would be solid. Throw in the possibility of Z coming back as a solid big man off the bench and things are definitely looking up.

The holdup is that Bosh supposedly only wants to play with LeBron in Chicago, Miami or New Jersey. But LeBron is working his magic on Bosh – a job that very well may have started during the Olympics in China – selling him on how great it would be play in an actual NBA city where the fans care about you, you get to win 60+ games a year and go deep in the playoffs on an annual basis.

There are three other major reasons Bosh should accept a move to Cleveland:

  • He will make $30 million more by agreeing to a sign-and-trade, rather than leaving Toronto as a straight free agent.
  • The endorsement possibilities of playing with LeBron are potentially huge. Bosh is an outgoing, funny guy. You don’t think LeBron could hook him up with some of his business contacts to maximize his profits? Even in “small market” Cleveland?
  • He would get to play with LeBron, the two-time MVP who has made every teammate he’s ever played with better.

And we’d get 82 games of Bosh’s girlfriend at court side.

Frankly, if Bosh doesn’t see the potential value of playing in Cleveland with LeBron, I don’t know if I really would want him here. This appears to be a perfect opportunity to not only get paid, but also go to an organization where winning is the top priority.

As Terry Pluto put it in the PD: Chris Bosh, your future is Cleveland.

You’ll love it here. I promise.

Would LeBron really benefit from NY?

Much has been made about the myth that LeBron James could make more money if he signed to play with the Knicks – even though that has been debunked.

With free agency season officially underway, the Knicks are reportedly still clinging to the 1950s-mindset that endorsements only come your way if you are in the Big Apple. It’s understandable on their part, it’s not as if the Knicks can sell LeBron on their on-court success over the past decade.

And we’re not the only one who believes this. David Falk, who knows a thing or two about marketing as he is Michael Jordan’s agent, told New York’s WFAN radio:

“As big as New York is, this is not ’96 anymore. Twitter, Facebook and all of the social media I think you can be on Neptune and be a brand if your name was LeBron James. … New York offers New York. I think it is a really nice place but I don’t think the marketing advantages like you had ten or fifteen years ago area as relevant as today.”

The Knicks reportedly made off-the-court riches a major part of their pitch to LeBron on Thursday, trying to convince LeBron that a player can earn more, on and off the court, if they play in a top market like New York. According to ESPN:

Forbes reports the Knicks hired the consultants at Interbrand — “the world’s largest branding consultancy” — to answer the question in a presentation the team made to James in Ohio on Thursday.

Interbrand says they analyzed more than 200 variables (titles won, all-star appearances, MVPs won) compared to more than 20 historical players (Jordan, Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain) and ran the model 50,000 times to see how much money James was likely to make living in different NBA cities.

Here’s the first problem: James isn’t like any other player. Jordan, Barkley, etc., weren’t playing in their hometowns. And in the case of other historical players like Chamberlain or Oscar Robertson, yes, they probably could have made more money playing in NY because they played in the 1960s, the world was a much different and larger place then.

Speaking of branding errors, James made one years ago when he alienated fans by saying that he wanted to be a billionaire. That desire was at the root of the Interbrand case that New York City is the best choice for future earnings.

I’m not sure who these “fans” are that were alienated by James, but I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t Cavs fans.

Interbrand says James is:

  • 46.6% likely to earn a billion dollars in New York. The strong Knicks’ team brand, combined with a shortage of past titles, makes it ripe for James to be seen as heroic to a huge market with national and international media exposure.
  • 1.3% likely to earn a billion in Cleveland. His “hometown hero” status helps Cleveland leapfrog Chicago, as does the Cavalier’s lack of past success — win a title there and they’ll love you forever.
  • 1.0% likely to earn a billion in Chicago. The challenge there comes from the “high threshold for creating that legacy” thanks to Jordan’s six titles and a fanbase that is not easily wowed.
  • 0.0% likely to earn a billion in Miami. Interbrand finds that in Miami “low can avidity, size of fan base, media reach do not able brand stretch.”

How did Interbrand come up with those numbers? Nobody knows. But Interbrand clearly knows who was paying the bills for this “study.”

There’s not much in the presentation about what precisely went into this analysis, and you can’t help but wonder what they may have left out.

So, the Knicks hire a firm to determine if playing for the Knicks would make LeBron more money and the result is overwhelmingly in New York’s favor. Well, you can’t argue that the Knicks didn’t get their money’s worth out of the study.

While it’s highly doubtful that James would benefit more by playing in New York, there’s little doubt who would benefit: the Knicks. According to The New York Times:

If James signed with either (the Knicks or the Nets), it would allow the MSG Network or the YES Network to boost advertising rates and eventually increase subscriber fees. A vigorous, competitive Knicks franchise could elevate the stock price of its parent company, Madison Square Garden, which also owns MSG. Recent trading in Garden shares has not firmly reflected investors’ optimism or pessimism about the prospect of signing James. On Wednesday, the stock price closed at $19.67 a share.

In a distant era nearly as faded as when men wore fedoras to arenas, Knicks games made a meaningful contribution to the MSG Network. Fans with little to cheer at the Garden can only turn to MSG’s 30-minute video bios of old Knick greats and its vault of old game broadcasts. Holy Nate Bowman — Willis Reed just turned 68.

Last season, the second in the Clear the Cap Space Era, the Knicks’ TV rating cratered at a mere .91, or 68,193 TV homes — a loss of two-thirds of the audience in a dozen years.

Compare that to the Cavs, who averaged 8.59, the highest local rating in the NBA and the second-highest among all NBA, NHL or MLB teams in 2009-10.

The Knicks own presentation highlights the biggest problem in their quest for LeBron: the study calls a championship “the single most important driver of brand value.” For James’ image and off-court income, nothing matters more than winning a title.

The Knicks haven’t won a title in 37 years, haven’t been a contender in more than a decade and have spent the past two years gutting their team just so they can offer James a contract.

Compare that to the Cavs, who have done everything they can to build a winner ever since LeBron arrived in town.

It’s clear the Knicks would benefit if LeBron were to sign with them. But there’s no evidence, however, that LeBron would benefit from signing with the Knicks.

Well played, New York, well played.

I Heard it through the Grapevine

People say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear – Marvin Gaye

Those words are true when applied to all the hot air that has been spewed over the past few weeks concerning LeBron James and free agency. The latest in a long line of nonsense comes from Chris Broussard at ESPN:

“A modified version of the ballyhooed free-agent summit that was initially suggested and then downplayed by Dwyane Wade has indeed taken place, has learned.

“Sources close to the situation said Monday night that three of the biggest names in basketvball – Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James – met over the weekend in Miami to seriously discuss their futures, with a focus on the increasingly plausible possibility of those three teaming up with Wade’s Heat.”

Ooh, I bet you’re wondering how I knew about your plans to make me blue.

Wow, a plausible possibility. Pretty strong stuff. Of course, who could this mystery source be? The barber at the corner shop? The waiter who delivered room service to the summit? We don’t know.

But, we do know who the source is not: Chicago-based agent Henry Thomas, who represents both Wade and Bosh.

“Dwyane was here in Chicago over the weekend and did not meet with LeBron and Chris in Miami,” Thomas said in published reports. “Have these guys talked about their futures with one another? Absolutely, and I am sure they will talk again. However, this report of a summit over the weekend in Miami involving Dwyane is untrue. He was here in Chicago with his kids and when he left town on Sunday, he was not headed back to Miami.”

So the big free-agent summit that the mainstream media wants to occur so badly, like LeBron’s “Summer of Me Tour,” is all a myth.

ESPN also reported that unless Miami trades away former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley to a team with salary-cap space, so it can avoid taking salary back, the Heat can’t offer the estimated 2010-11 maximum salary of $16.5 million to all three Team USA stars.

Broussard, of course, doesn’t want to let the facts get in the way of his story. He went on air today to explain that, to make the deal work, one of three will have to take less money to sign with the Heat, especially since Wade has gone on the record as saying he won’t take a penny less than the max. He concluded that LeBron will take less money since he makes more in endorsements than Bosh and Wade combined.

I can’t help bein’ confused, if it’s true please tell me dear

Let’s think about that for a moment: no top-flight free agent has switched teams since Shaq left Orlando for Los Angeles. No free agent has ever left money on the table.

But somehow, LeBron, the two-time MVP and the most sought-after, talked-about free agent in sports history will be willing to do both so he can go play with Bosh and Wade?

Why isn’t it just as plausible that James and Bosh have agreed to work out a deal for Bosh to join James in Cleveland? Because the mainstream media, led by Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN, doesn’t want LeBron in Cleveland and shudder at the thought of all their predictions and “confirmations” of James leaving town turning out to be false.

Here are a few more thoughts on the subject, from Cleveland Frowns and Waiting For Next Year.

Only 27 hours to go until the start of free agency.

Cancel those dinner plans & tour bus

ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that LeBron James will not be going on tour when free agency starts July 1. Rather, he will speak with teams at a neutral site, cutting down the circus atmosphere that has been fueled by non-stop speculation on his next move.

According to Broussard:

All the elaborate recruiting plans for LeBron James will have to change. James will not go on a recruiting tour, his longtime business manager Maverick Carter told Friday.

“LeBron is not going on a tour,” Carter said. “He never planned to go on a tour and has not been a part of any team’s plans for a recruiting trip.”

Instead, James will visit with individual clubs at a neutral site once the free-agency period begins July 1.

James’ decision throws a monkey wrench in the plans of several clubs that hoped to sell him on non-basketball-related enticements such as the vibrancy of their city, the social life it may afford or the A-list celebrities that support their teams.

James, the most coveted player in this historic free-agent class, wants the focus to be on basketball and doesn’t want it to turn into a spectacle.

Clubs were made aware of James’ decision on Wednesday and many went into scramble mode. The New York Knicks, who were planning a spectacular, celebrity-laden dinner cooked by a world-renowned chef for James on July 1, quickly cancelled it and held an emergency Plan B, according to two sources.

Plan B? More like Plan Z for the hapless Knicks. What a joke.

But if the Knicks really have their hearts (and stomachs) set on food, they can always pick up a pizza at Luigi’s on the way to their meeting with LeBron.

Of course, the mainstream media will find a way to turn this around and make James look like the bad guy for acting like the only responsible adult in the room. But that’s been the norm ever since the Cavs season ended; no matter what happens it’s somehow James’ fault or reveals some type of character flaw.

And Frank Isola did just that in today’s NY Daily News:

There was an Internet report Friday that James had come to his senses and had decided not to make a spectacle of his much anticipated entrée into free agency. In other words, LeBron’s “Summer of I Love Myself” tour will not happen. Instead, prospective teams will have to visit James at a yet-to-be-determined location.

If this was Carter’s idea, then give the young entrepreneur credit for recognizing that his celebrity client was starting to alienate fans. It was getting to the point where James as well as Chris Bosh were celebrating their free agency with more verve than Kobe Bryant showed in winning a fifth championship.

So let’s follow this logic: the media speculates non-stop that LeBron will go on a cross-country tour once free agency starts, which will alienate fans (which fans we don’t know); now that LeBron has said he won’t be doing that – and in fact he never said he would in the first place, it was the media that assumed – it’s LeBron’s people keeping his ego in check.

OK, then.

Not Exactly Plan A

I don’t think the New York Knicks understand this whole free agency business.

According to Brian Windhorst in the PD, the Knicks are embracing their inner Martha Stewart and hosting a dinner party July 1 to try and lure LeBron James to New York:

“According to a source, the Knicks are making plans to host an elaborate meal and meeting with James in a high-end location in Manhattan during the afternoon and evening of July 1, which is next Thursday. The tentative plan is for Knicks management and officials to host James and his various agents and friends for a large dinner party catered by a celebrity chef.

“There is no confirmation that James plans to be in New York on July 1 and the Knicks aren’t technically permitted to contact him until that day. However, it is clear the Knicks are preparing for that contingency.”

A dinner party? Seriously? That’s the plan? Well, I guess if you can’t sell free agents with your on-court success – the Knicks haven’t won more than 40 games in a decade – you have try to sell something else.

And if you don’t have to clue how to draft players, then maybe linen tablecloths and fine china is an option.

Of course, if the way to LeBron’s heart is through his stomach, why would he need to leave home? You got me.

The Myth of New York City

With only a week to go until the start of the NBA’s free agency season, much has been written and spoken about the future home of LeBron James.

New York City and the Knicks have long been considered by the mainstream media as front runners for the two-time MVP, with three reasons always being cited: the chance to play in Madison Square Garden, increased endorsement opportunities and the history of the Knicks.

But if you look behind the curtain just a little bit, you realize the allure of the Knicks franchise and playing in New York City is long on myth and short on reality.

As for MSG, when the 2010-11 season opens this fall, the arena will be the second oldest in the league. The 41-year-old arena is allegedly going to be renovated, but like most things in NYC, you never know exactly when that will occur and how long it will take. Contrast that to playing home games at the Q and practicing at the team’s new facility in Independence.

What about endorsements? The mainstream media acts as if the streets of New York are paved with gold. Taking a closer look, however, shows a different story.

Consider the New York Yankees, probably the biggest sports franchise in America. You’d think if you were a star on a successful team playing in the largest market in the country, you’d be rolling in piles of cash from commericals. Well, think again:

  • CC Sabathia made $250,000 in endorsements last season.
  • Mark Teixeira made the same.
  • Alex Rodriguez made $6 million.
  • Derek Jeter made $8.5 million.

LeBron? He pulled in $28 million in endorsements playing in Cleveland. So it would appear that companies are finding LeBron just fine here on the north coast.

Finally, the biggest laugh is the talk of the Knicks’ “great” history. Sure, the Knicks have two titles to zero for the Cavs, but NY’s last championship came 37 years ago in 1973. Not exactly recent history.

Since the start of the 1973-74 season, the Knicks have won 10 more games than the Cavs (1,473 vs. 1,463), although over the past 20 years the Cavs have won more games (861 vs. 813). The gap is even wider over the past decade (Cavs 437 vs. 327).

Both teams have won three division championships, with the Cavs most recent coming this year while the Knicks haven’t won their division since 1994. Both teams have also made four appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Cavs last appearing two years ago while the Knicks haven’t made it that far since 1999.

So there’s really nothing separating the teams on the court.

But somehow we’re supposed to believe that LeBron will give up everything he has here at home to play for a franchise that, by every measurable statistic, is inferior?


Searching for an Edge

The Cavs may not have a head coach, but they apparently have “an edge” when it comes to LeBron James.

In an interview with CNN’s Larry King, James said that Cleveland has “an edge” to re-sign him when free agency hits July 1: “Absolutely. Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it’s comfortable. So I’ve got a lot of memories here. And – and so it does have an edge,” James told King, according to published reports.

And James is 100 percent correct. The fans have been behind him and the team every step of the way, from the first time he took the court against Sacramento back in 2003, through all the playoff disappointments and all the way through this year’s collapse against Boston.

But it’s more than just loyalty and knowing that the majority of the fans have your back night in and night out. It’s also knowing you are in a situation that puts you in the best position to win a championship.

Consider that, according to John Hollinger at ESPN, Chris Bosh is the best player to pair with LeBron. Bosh has made it clear he wants out of Toronto – he’s not the only one – and the Cavs have the assets (J.J. Hickson or Anderson Varajeo and Shaq) to work a sign-and-trade with the Raptors to acquire Bosh. That would give the Cavs a frontcourt rotation of James, Bosh, Antawn Jamison, Leon Powe and either Hickson/Varajeo.

That certainly would be of interest to James, yes?

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If you’re looking for something silly to kill some time, take a spin.

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Finally, Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer is no friend of the hoople heads. In his Sunday column, he laid out what the smart folks have been saying, namely that firing a coach is the easy part. I especially enjoyed the part where he tracked down the contract situation of two European coaches.

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