Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

Nothing new to say about LeBron? Sweet relief!

Rangers get Cliff Lee: You'd never think the team was in dire financial straits! From a fan perspective, you have to love them going for it when they have a chance. (Plus, it keeps Lee from the Yankees, which would have been devastating to any other contender.)

Strasburg Watch: 8 Ks and a W.

Seantrel Henderson to Miami: This is college football's not-quite-equivalent of LeBron going to play in Miami. Henderson could very well be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Ryan Howard vs. Joey Votto: Howard says "Take that!"

John Wall has a groin injury: Ahh, gotta love that old Bullets/Wizards curse.

LeBron NOT happy with Dan Gilbert letter: Couldn't resist a little LeBron news. Was he offended by the Comic Sans font?

Bulls get Kyle Korver: Great fit for Chicago, the sleeper pick to upend the sense of "Miami-fest Destiny" down in South Beach. He and Mike Miller for the Heat will play big roles.

Knicks zeroing in on Raymond Felton? He will do really well in a D'Antoni offense, but you can't help thinking it's a half-measure.

Fantasy: Is Daniel Hudson available in your league? Might be worth a look -- I had been sitting on him for weeks (only on my "Watch List") and I was asleep at the wheel when Peavy got injured. By this morning? Gone to a league rival.

Enjoy the day.

-- D.S.

-- D.S.

Friday, July 09, 2010

07/09 Quickie: LeBron, LeBron, LeBron

In case you missed it last night, see the post below for my own bit of Stephen A. Smith triumphalism of "I told you so" from July 6...

Oh, sorry: That would be July 6, 2006.

Otherwise, today's SN column is dominated by what might have eclipsed the Saints winning the Super Bowl as the sports story of the year: LeBron to the Heat.

Let me sum up a lot of the strands of thought I've been pulling together over the last few weeks:

*I don't begrudge LeBron his choice at all -- except to the extent he mismanaged its execution with respect to Cleveland fans, who deserved better.

*I see this as the apex of LeBron's sense of exceptionalism: That "solo star winning title" has been done -- virtually every time. "Star in prime opts to join with other stars in prime" has NEVER been done. It feeds LeBron's sense of history.

*However, that history can only be fulfilled with titles. Plural. Probably more than two.

That's the burden of the expectations that LeBron has set up -- what I would argue are the highest expectations for a player in NBA history:

Not just winning a championship, but enough titles to be notable. That ain't two. That ain't even three. Any less than 4 (in 5 years, mind you!) is, in my opinion, falling short of expectations.

*I am not convinced -- at all -- that even one championship for the Heat is a gimme over the next five years:

Year 1: They won't beat the Lakers. No chance.
Years 2-4: Good luck getting past Dwight Howard.

(Sidebar: Consider for a moment that if the Heat can't beat the Magic in the playoffs, LeBron-Wade-Bosh might not even be the best team in the state, let alone the East, let alone the NBA.)

Year 5: Kevin Durant will be destroying the league by then.

Window closed.

*I have serious qualms about 3 stars (or 2 stars and a wannabe star) being enough to win 16 playoff games while playing with 9 scrubs -- even if quality vets decide they'd play for the league minimum to be a part of the "Sorta-Dream Team."

That said: I think the Mike Miller signing is outstanding. He is the perfect fit for that team: A tall 3-point ace who can pass like a point guard. Miller could average 20 ppg, just on 3s.

(For Miller, let me coin a phrase: "Stretch-3.")

*Even if this is "mold-breaking," LeBron really is Pippen in this scenario.

And I don't know whether he's fine with that characterization (I'm sure he's not), but that's what he left himself with.

*Dan Gilbert's letter was as entertaining as it was insane.

*We've turned a corner on this storyline. I think the NBA just got as interesting as it has ever been, precisely because of this move.

*Don't buy the stuff about how this makes the league uncompetitive. For starters, there were 1.5 teams last season with a real chance to win the title. (And probably no more than a half-dozen who were even remotely in the conversation.)

The Heat joins that list. In fact, beating the Heat becomes the No. 1 story of the NBA. Either they live up to the expectations and win a championship or they are an utter failure (just like the Cavs were with LeBron last year).

What could be more dramatic than that?

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

LeBron to the Heat

The Daily Quickie from July 6, 2006:

Two Words For You:

Who else finds LeBron's silence about the "max" deal he has been offered from the Cavs to be the summer's most intriguing story line?

(Well, certainly not fans in Ohio, who could be forgiven for being in a panic right now.)

The offer was made days ago; Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade already have gone public with their enthusiasm to re-sign with their teams.

But not LeBron. Not yet.

So let's read between the lines of his decision not to publicly embrace the team's mega-offer to the NBA's megastar:

Does he really want to play in Cleveland, some half-baked market, for the Cavs, some half-baked franchise already being lapped by competitors in the East planning for the descent of Detroit and sunset of Shaq?

I don't care about previous statements of loyalty LeBron has made about Ohio. Actions are louder than words:

His silence indicates that he's at least considering his options, which have to include playing in a market worthy of his status as the NBA's biggest star -- say, New York or L.A.?

But Kobe rules L.A. And the Knicks are a mess, both in the standings and in the payroll. That leaves the intrigue for LeBron of playing for his buddy and mentor, Jay-Z, who happens to be owner of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets.

Maybe that's a pipe dream from someone who owns a tiny slice of real estate in Brooklyn and would like to see the market get a "LeBron bump."

But even that pie/sky theory is a better explanation today than any Cavs fan can offer for why LeBron hasn't said "yes" to Cleveland yet.

The longer LeBron waits to agree to the Cavs' offer, the more intense the questions (and theories) will get. Here are LeBron's options:

(1) Simple: Sign the max deal with the Cavs and lock in the big money for five years.

(2) Complicated: Sign a 1-year deal with the Cavs and be a restricted free agent in '07. It gets messy, but effectively, he'd trade two years of uncertainty (and low dollars) for the glory of unrestricted choice in '08.

Here's the X-factor that should have Cavs fans worried: Cash on hand.

It's not as if LeBron needs the money now. He easily could live off his endorsement money and wait out his unrestricted freedom.

Could he get injured between now and then? Sure. But I suspect even a half-speed LeBron is still worth a huge payday to the team of his choice.

The bottom line is that LeBron can end all the rumors with a simple, MJ-like message:

"I'm staying."

In the absence of saying that, it's way too easy to argue that his real message is:

I want out.

Afternoon Thoughts on LeBron to Miami

Let's accept on good faith that LeBron is going to the Heat -- that the leaks are true and not some sort of odd subterfuge to manufacture extra drama for tonight, when he will pick someone else.

Here are a few points I've been mulling over:

*Why is there an assumption that the Bron-Wade-Bosh (or is that Wade-Bron-Bosh) Heat are this lock to win the championship? It's uncertain that they're even the best team in Florida, let alone the NBA.

*The 2010-2011 Lakers would destroy the Bron-Wade-Bosh Heat in the Finals.

*It's not like LeBron's Cavs in 09/10 were crappy -- they were a 60-win team, the No. 1 seed in the East and the presumptive favorites to win the East (and the title). Hmm...

...That earned LeBron a 2nd-round playoff exit.

*So: John Hollinger projects these Bron-Wade-Bosh Heat as a 60-win team. And? It entitles them to... nothing.

*When it comes to winning championships, a 3-star team with crap around them has less of a chance of winning than a 2-star team with a solid supporting cast.

That's why I'm mildly intrigued by the idea of the Heat getting both LeBron AND Mike Miller. That gives the Heat two superstars -- Bron and Wade -- and two really good "supporting cast" guys -- Bosh and Miller. But, still: The rest of the roster is crap.

I just don't think you can win 16 games in the playoffs with a shoddy supporting cast, no matter how awesome your superstars are.

Forget the ticket sales or jersey sales or TV ratings or Q ratings or glitz or whatever. LeBron and this presumptive Heat team should be judged on championship rings.

And I'm just not sure they are as locked in on them as everyone seems to think they are.

That was one of the points I was trying to make this morning: The expectations. What if LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Heat win one title in the next five years... will that be enough? No way.

But I would argue that they have more of a chance of winning ZERO titles in the next five years than more than one. By the way, I'm not even sure that winning two titles is enough.

Cripes, Isiah Thomas won two titles. Hakeem won two titles. MJ won more. Kobe won more. Duncan won more. Hell, Adam Morrison has two rings.

At what point would a LeBron-Wade-Bosh Heat satisfy expectations: 3 titles? Four? Five? That discounts all the competitive forces at play in the rest of the NBA: Kobe in the next year or two, Dwight Howard and the Magic after that, Kevin Durant after that.

I am just not convinced that LeBron will win championships in Miami (or anywhere, but that's another story).

Funny enough: I don't begrudge him going to Miami to play with the other two. If he thinks it's his best chance to win a ring(s), more power to him.

And, as I have argued for a week, it is entirely ground-breaking for him to choose this route -- and LeBron has proven himself as interested in being a mold-breaking exceptional as being a champion.

I simply am not ready to hand him and Wade and the Heat a ring (or more). The only thing LeBron wins tonight is greater expectations than have ever been on a basketball player in NBA history.

(Ooh: I think I just found my SN column lead tomorrow... unless he flips the script and either stays in Cleveland -- unlikely -- or goes to NYC -- unlikely.)

-- D.S.

07/08 Quickie: LeBron to...Miami?

I really wanted to have some drama on tonight's LeBron infomercial. I was holding out that Team LeBron wouldn't leak where he was going -- that was naive.

With plenty of worried caveats (ha: as if there is a penalty for being wrong when making predictions in the sports media industry), LeBron is going to the Heat.

There are a couple ways to look at this:

One -- highlighted in today's SN column -- is that it is ground-breaking in NBA history for an uber-star in his prime to willingingly team up with another uber-star.* This fits with LeBron's exceptionalist view of himself.

The other is that it is a cop-out. That it destroys competitiveness in the NBA. That it spits on the league's legacy of star rivalries. (This is not a bad argument, and Joey makes an impassioned plea.)

I don't buy the cop-out argument. For starters, I am not convinced that LeBron teaming with Wade (and Bosh) automatically means he wins an NBA title, let alone multiple titles.

Let's look at the next five years: Next year, the Lakers will still be clearly better. In the 2-3 years after that, the Heat still have no solution for Dwight Howard. In Year 5, Kevin Durant and the Thunder are destroying people. And that's if the Heat suffer no major injuries AND figure out how to use what little cap room they have left to build a championship supporting cast.

I think there is a perfectly fine chance that LeBron on the Heat with Wade doesn't win squat. Here's a twist: Even if they do win a title, the response will be a combination of "Well, they SHOULD have" and "One? Is that all?" They have lost the expectations battle before anything even starts.

And that takes us to the next implication: This whole story has been wonderful, obsessive fun. But starting tonight/tomorrow, the reality will hit that LeBron is the NBA's villain. Cleveland fans will hate him. The rest of the NBA will hate LeBron's team. They'll watch, but they'll hate.

For the sake of today's drama, it would be nice if LeBron flipped on the media and went with the Cavs or Knicks. For the long term, any of the three options -- Heat, Cavs, Knicks -- are insufferable in their own ways.

Personally, I find the Heat option to be the most intriguing -- because it is unprecedented and because of the opportunity for epic schadenfreude in the event they don't win any rings.

Otherwise, all we can root for is that things change dramatically in the next 12 hours. It could all be a set-up for the "change-of-heart" meme (Cleveland) or "bright lights, big city" meme (NYC).

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

* - I don't count Shaq leaving the Magic to join the Lakers with Kobe, because this was way before Kobe hit his prime. And I don't count KG and Ray Allen going to the Celtics, because those were trades, rather than straight-up free agency.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wade and Bosh Team Up in Miami

It's official: Dwyane Wade will re-sign with the Heat and be joined by Chris Bosh, who is desperate to be glitzy but isn't good enough to be a top dog himself. The Heat will be better.

The outstanding question, of course, is whether tomorrow night LeBron will join them in Miami or go back to Cleveland (less momentum for Chicago or New York than earlier this morning).

If those are his two choices, it feels like a no-brainer to me: Take a bit of a pay-cut and go to Miami, creating an unprecedented collection of NBA stars in their prime.

Hell, sign up for 3 years -- if they can't win at least one NBA title in the next three seasons, the experiment is a failure anyway -- then see where things stand. By then, the Nets will be better.

The alternative is to return to Cleveland -- a team that isn't any better than it was a year ago and won't be better going forward. The town will adore him... he probably stays 3 years here, too.

Lost in all of this is the most remarkable (or unremarkable) news that Kevin Durant announced on his Twitter feed: He signed a 5-year extension with the Thunder.

He didn't hold his small-market team hostage, heading into a free agent year. He didn't need to hold a press conference -- let alone a primetime show. He just re-upped and got back to work.

I tweeted this within minutes of Durant's "announcement": Over the next six years, Durant will win more rings than LeBron. And you are sort of rooting for that, aren't you?

-- D.S.

07/07 Quickie: LeBron vs. Wade-Bosh

Two dramatic arcs of the Summer of LeBron are playing out over the next 24 hours:

(1) LeBron will make his announcement tomorrow night on ESPN in a one-hour special. As I talk about in today's SN column, this is entirely appropriate for LeBron's "king" complex.

In fact, this may be the most authentic thing that LeBron has done in his entire career. And that makes me kind of like it, in all its distasteful excess.

Sure, the show is 99 percent fluff. But for that one minute -- presuming that the news hasn't leaked ahead of time -- it is honest-to-god sports awesomeness: Uncertainty in a huge story that will have impact that extrudes way more than a mere championship win.

(2) Wade and Bosh are apparently announcing today their intention to join forces in Miami. It's a win for both: Wade gets a running mate (and cred for not leaving town); Bosh gets the glitzy address he has coveted for years.

But there is a bigger implication: What does it mean for LeBron? Let's lay out the scenarios:

*Join Wade and Bosh in Miami: I think it's too much of a pay cut and too much of an ego trim.

*Go it "alone" in Chicago: No Wade or Bosh, obviously. But Carlos Boozer is still available; he would make a terrific addition to that team.

*Join Amare in New York: Up until this morning, I gave the Knicks no chance. Now, I give them a puncher's chance. It isn't entirely unthinkable that he would go to NYC.

*Stay in Cleveland. Let's see: Bosh is off the table. Boozer is persona non grata. The rest of the team has been proven to be lacking in championship mettle. Why would he stay? Loyalty?

Here's the thing: They are all viable options, and that's what makes tomorrow night so intriguing. One thing I will say: I think he signs a 3-year deal, wherever he goes.

(That's why I leave Brooklyn out of it for now: For now. If he does sign a 3-year deal, I think it's with the intention of joining the Nets, presuming that franchise is on the up-and-up.)

And then this circus starts again...

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

07/06 Quickie: LeBron, Amare, Votto

LeBron doesn't have to make up his mind today -- and he most certainly won't, at least publicly -- but he will likely declare in 72 hours.

This is two stages: First, he needs to actually make up his mind on his own. Then, he has to tell the world what he is doing.

As I lay out in today's SN column, all of his choices have flaws -- I still contend that if the Nets were already in Brooklyn, it would be a no-brainer for him.

But he does have to decide... and soon.

Where I net out is that I now think that LeBron will take a 3-year deal with the Cavs, giving himself the option of leaving in 2014, once he sees where other teams (read: Nets) are.

This will satisfy few -- even Cavs fans.

It would be very interesting if Dwyane Wade beat him to the punch by signing with the Heat or -- more intriguingly -- the Bulls (particularly if he brings Bosh with him).

That would leave LeBron with limited options and a forced-hand... until he pulls out the 3-year "mini-max" and starts the "Summer of LeBron" clock all over again.

More you'll find in today's SN column:

*Amare to Knicks: Meh.
*Vote Votto: Please.
*C. Lee to Reds: Love.
*JaMarcus: Yikes.
*Tiger: Stinks.
*Broncos: Tebow!
*Baylor: Griffin!

Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, July 05, 2010

07/05 (Holiday Monday) Quickie

No SN column today, but if there was, I would probably lead with the "Vote Votto" campaign. Every year, I like to find one MLB All-Star bandwagon. One hadn't emerged yet this season, but Joey Votto's snub from the All-Star roster qualifies.

(It is all the more ludicrous that he was passed over at his own position by the NL All-Star manager, Charlie Manuel, who picked his own guy -- Ryan Howard -- despite Howard's inferior performance.)

So Vote Votto.

(BTW: I'm not expressing the outrage of others, mainly because I'm so sure that fans will correct Manuel's snub and put him on the team in a landslide. If he doesn't win the Extra Man......)

It is obvious that Stephen Strasburg was left off the "Extra Man" ballot because he would have swamped the vote. That's probably a good thing, because he would have denied Votto a spot. Still: Strasburg can and should make the team as a late replacement between now and the ASG.


*LeBron to announce his decision on Wednesday? That's the earliest, but I'm not sure we can take many more days of deliberation after that. I wouldn't read too much into LBJ's agent meeting with the Knicks on Saturday; his agent is paid to take EVERY meeting.

*Joe Johnson is going back to the Hawks: Didn't we know this, like, four days ago? It's not just that the Hawks are overpaying; it's that Johnson so clearly didn't want to come back. Both sides will regret it: The Hawks for keeping a reluctant player; Johnson for being motivated by money.

*It would have been very WWE if Kobayashi had emerged from the crowd to join the group competing in the hot-dog eating contest. Alas, he was merely arrested. Boo, IFOCE!

*Tiger's Slump: Things are actually getting worse. At the AT&T Memorial, he didn't break par over four rounds in a PGA tour event for the first time in 11 years.

*MLB Studs: Torii Hunter (2 HR, 7 RBI) and Drew Stubbs (3 HR)

*With no Federer to worry about, it seemed obvious that Nadal would win Wimbledon.

*Another day of World Cup withdrawal. Can't believe there are only 4 games left (2 semis, a 3rd-place game and the title game).

Enjoy the day off from work, if you've got one.

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday (July 4) Quickie

Happy July 4th everyone. Time to break out the Foreman grill...

*I knew Germany was very good and Argentina was eventually going to regress to its mean, but not to the extent of 4-0.

*Spain still hasn't played great yet. They will need it against Germany. BTW: How sick was the back-to-back PKs... both saved! Anything World Cup that "hasn't happened since 1930" is tremendous.

See how I nudged NBA Free Agency talk as low as I could go? Let's dig in:

*Cavs show a cartoon to woo LeBron: This is precisely the kind of thing that explains why he's going to leave. The others talk about billions -- the Cavs show a cute TV show.

*Amare seems to think that Tony Parker and Carmelo are both coming to NYC in 2011. The Knicks' presumptive new PF has gotten the memo that the party line from the last 2 years will be extended: "Just wait 'til next year..."

*I absolutely buy the idea that D-Wade would sign with the Bulls to be closer to his kids. Do not discount the parent's instinct, especially if he can rationalize it from a basketball perspective.

*Chris Bosh is so desperate to be a star, it's a little off-putting. Not sure why everyone thinks that he would be a key cog to a championship team. He's never won anything. At least he recognizes that he is nothing better than a running mate. But he is acting like a fame-whore.

*Dirk and Paul Pierce re-sign with the Mavs and Celtics: Zzz. Don't expect either to win rings in the next four years -- and by year 4, their teams are regretting paying out $20M a year.

*Mike Miller could be a key cog on a contender. I don't know why he would consider not playing for one (like, say, the Clippers, who he met with yesterday).


*Who would be a contender to sign Mike Vick if the Eagles cut him? (Still the Rams? That can't be right, now that they have made Bradford the present and future.)

*Serena wins Wimbledon: Over the last 15 years, as great of an athlete as we have had in sports.

We'll see what happens with NBA Free Agency today. I'm betting that it is pretty quiet today and tomorrow, as players think things over.

Enjoy your 4th, everyone.

-- D.S.