I Call Shenanigans on LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Riley, and the Heat

July 10, 2010

That’s right, I call shenanigans. Why? Because we were all conned, and continue to be conned, by the free agent trio that just signed in Miami and team president, Pat Riley. In the aftermath of LeBron James’ primetime announcement that he was going to “bring his talents to South Beach” I’ve seen a few articles and tweets commending Pat Riley’s deft work in bringing these three max players to Miami. As a Knicks fan, my initial reaction was to begrudgingly agree with these sentiments. Then I got to thinking… “Wait a second, why DID Miami have all this cap room in the first place?”

Think about it. In an article posted to ESPN.com right before “The Decision,” Bill Simmons wrote the following in regard to who he considers an NBA “superstar”:

[O]nly LeBron, Wade, Howard, Durant and Kobe qualify. There’s a level just a shade below (the Almost-But-Not-Quite-Superstar) with Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. (Note: I think Derrick Rose gets there next season.)

Now, let me ask you the following question: Which one of those teams were in a position to sign a max guy to complement their current superstar?  The Cavs, Magic, Lakers, Mavs, Nuggets, Blazers, Hornets, and Jazz were not financially able to.  The Suns could have, but their owner is a notorious spendthrift and they passed on Amar’e, arguably the 3rd or 4th best free agent available after LeBron and Wade.  The Bulls were only in this position because Rose and Noah are still young and playing under their rookie contracts, plus they basically gave away Kirk Hinrich.  So, if we count the Rose and the Bulls in this equation, that leaves us with exactly two teams with an NBA superstar in a position to sign ONE max free agent to complement their current superstar: the Bulls and the Heat.

Now, I am going to disqualify the Bulls because Rose has only been in the league for two seasons, so the Bulls haven’t even had a chance to realize how special he is and try to build around him.  What I am getting at here is all of the teams listed above have been trying like mad to build up their rosters AROUND their superstars.  What the heck has Miami been doing since 2008?  Why haven’t they been trying like mad to build around their superstar, Dwyane Wade, a player who already has a ring and an NBA Finals MVP under his belt? I mention 2008 because that is when this little nugget was published in Simmons’ column (mentioned again in the previously linked column):

And yes, I totally subscribe to the “LeBron, Wade and Bosh agreed in China that they’d sign with the Knicks in two years” conspiracy theory even though there’s no evidence to support it.

So what have they been doing? Check out the Heat’s rosters in 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10.  Blech, and I thought the Cavs did a poor job surrounding LeBron with talent.  Here’s the rub, Miami isn’t run by Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry.  They’re run by Pat Riley, a man who has won multiple NBA titles and knows how to build a championship caliber team.  So here’s my ultimate question: Why did a team with one of the 3 best players in the NBA have only 1 person officially on their roster (Mario Chalmers) when LeBron James made his announcement on Thursday night?  Is this not a negligent way to run an organization?  What if the Heat struck out?  When you have a player like Wade shouldn’t you be trying to win every single year?  Some will point in the Knicks direction as evidence that, perhaps, Riley’s gamble wasn’t so bold after all.  Well, that would be ignoring context.  The Knicks were in salary cap hell and had no assets to speak of having either traded away their draft picks or blowing the picks by making bad choices.  The Knicks essentially had no choice but to blow things up and start over.  So why not have the gutting of the franchise culminate with the greatest free agent class in NBA history?  If you strike out on LeBron you’re bound to get someone else to build around and then you will still have cap flexibility to make trades and make other moves to improve the team (and this is exactly what they have done.)

Ultimately, I can’t quite make heads or tails of what Miami has been doing the past three seasons.  The Heat had the good fortune of having Dwyane Wade and the number 2 pick of the 2008 draft (Michael Beasley) on their roster and their best they could do was acquire a washed up Jermaine O’Neal to complement them? Again, this isn’t a team run by Isaiah Thomas. Pat Riley knows what he’s doing. Check out the following articles about Miami’s 2009 offseason (or lack thereof) here, here, and here.  Of course Riley’s prudence has paid off and now he looks like a genius.  However, I can’t seem to shake this bad taste in my mouth.  Of course it was wise to save cap space in 2009 to make a run at Bosh in 2010, but how come they were in a position to sign all 3?  The bottom line: the Knicks were openly tanking and trying to create as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2010 and even they didn’t have enough cap space to fit all 3 players (even if they all agreed to the take less like they did in Miami.)  So how come a team with DWYANE WADE was in a position where they were able to sign not 1, but 2 players to such massive contracts?

The only conclusion I can come to is this thing was in the bag the whole time and we bought the charade hook, line, and sinker. How come Chris Bosh didn’t jump at the opportunity to go to Houston and play alongside Yao and Kevin Martin for max money? This was a situation that would have benefited both himself and the Raptors, since the reports indicated Houston was offering an attractive group of players for Bosh’s services.  Bosh, a Texas native, would have been able to play his natural position, power forward, close to home, for a lot of cash, and be THE MAN while surrounded by a very strong team with a brilliant GM.

How come the self proclaimed “King” James didn’t jump at the opportunity to go to New York and form the most explosive pick and roll combo in league history with Amar’e Stoudemire (not to mention Danilo Gallinari lighting it up from beyond the arc) and flirt with averaging a triple double for an entire season in Mike D’Antoni’s offense? As Simmons stated in the aforementioned 2008 article:

If he moves to New York, that becomes the biggest sports story of that year. And for all the Global Icon things he wants to accomplish — clothing lines, production companies, sponsors, etc. — he needs to be in New York or L.A on a daily basis. Those are the two cities in which Global Icon stuff happens.

Or, if James was truly consumed with winning rings, he could have jumped to the Bulls, made more money, played in a big city, and formed a devastating team with Noah, Boozer, and Rose.

Now that I look at the facts in black and white, nothing makes sense.  Bosh kept telling saying how he wanted the max via a sign and trade and that he wanted to play his natural position (power forward) and play for a winner.  LeBron couldn’t stop talking about his goal to be a global icon and a billionaire.  Coming full circle, we have the Heat, who have been seemingly treading water for three seasons of Dwyane Wade’s career rather than trying to build a team around a player who has proven he can be the focal point of a championship team, inexplicably having enough cap space to sign 3 players to massive contracts when a franchise that was openly trying to clear the decks only had room for 2.

Obviously, I am merely a hobbyist with no sources and no proof beyond logic and deduction. I have tried to tap into my inner Sherlock Holmes to make sense of what has transpired. I can buy LeBron, Wade, and Bosh becoming buddy-buddy during the Olympics and forming some pact, ala My Girl, to play together on an NBA team.  However, this isn’t something you stumble upon by happenstance some random offseason.  The mechanics of such a plan needs to be worked out.  After all, these guys still want to get paid, and paid they got. This isn’t chump change, folks, especially when you consider that Florida doesn’t have any state income tax. Also, since LeBron and Bosh will be taking up residency in Miami, they won’t get taxed on their endorsement deals either. Hmmm…

So you mean to tell me that the Miami Heat, a team that has a legit NBA superstar in Dwyane Wade, a team that has Pat Riley (*cough*tampering*cough*) as its team president, a team that plays in a state without a state income tax, had the foresight and the gumption to essentially tread water during at least two seasons of Dwyane Wade’s prime to have a “shot” at Chris Bosh? Then, not only were they able to acquire Bosh, but they were also able to convince LeBron James, the reigning two-time MVP to abandon his home state and a team that has won 60+ games in back to back seasons, to eschew his ambitions to become a global icon and billionaire (New York), and to pass up an opportunity to make more money while playing for a team that would have been similarly situated to win multiple titles (Chicago) to go take less money and play with them in Miami? Seriously? Pat Riley was that confident that he would be able to pull this off that he would gamble with precious prime seasons of Dwyane Wade’s career? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

What we witnessed (pun unintended) was unprecedented. Never before have 3 players of this caliber joined forces at such an early juncture in their careers in the name of winning titles. It seems that James, Wade, and Bosh are special individuals who have a special friendship and are willing to leave millions on the table to spend their 20s playing basketball together in a beautiful city. That’s great, but it only explains the “Why?” It does not explain the “How?” As in, how is it possible that a franchise that boasted one of the best players in the NBA was able to afford not just one, but two additional players at a reduced, but still massive price?


Money, Power, Respect – The Keys to NBA Free Agency

July 2, 2010

As Lil’ Kim and The Lox rapped back in the day, “It’s the key to life. Money. Power. Respect.”  I propose that this phrase holds the key to NBA free agency.

Whether or not this little get together where all of the big name NBA free agents got together to discuss their futures actually happened, we do know that they are friends and they do talk.  We also know that these guys are highly competitive individuals and businessmen.  This is why the speculation that this summit or the discussions revolved around notion that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh were going to team up in Miami to form a Dream Team makes no sense.  Why is that?  Well, let’s look at the facts and then add a pinch of conspiracy theory.

First and foremost, when it comes to professional sports, always remember what Wu-Tang preached: Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.) Just follow the money, baby.  There was no way Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay leave their teams if their respective franchises offered them the max, and it seems like this is exactly what is going to happen.  This reason #1 why I doubt a Bron-Wade-Bosh team-up happens.  I think Bosh knows he can get the “uber-max” via sign and trade and there were rumors last week that this is how Bosh would end up Miami.  This means both Bosh and Wade would be earning more money than LeBron.  Do you really think King James is going to go to a franchise where: A) He won’t be the alpha-dog (Miami is Wade’s town) and B) TWO players are making more cash than him, the reigning two-time MVP?  I don’t think so.  This is also why I don’t think Bron and Bosh is happening in Chicago.  I cannot see a scenario where LeBron isn’t the highest paid player on his team (or co-highest – FORESHADOWING!)  In sum, I can’t see these three teaming up because LeBron and Wade are too competitive to share the limelight and both want money, power, and respect.  Sure, they could acquire all of these things together, but who knows how the public will view their individual legacies if they decide to go down this path.  When you operate on the level of LeBron and Dywane Wade, you don’t want to share with anybody.

This is why I think the conspiracy theorists have it all wrong.  These “summits” and discussions aren’t to form some unstoppable “Voltron” of a team.  Think about it.  When was the NBA at it’s apex?  If you’re thinking to yourself: “MJ’s Bulls” then you’re wrong.  The most exciting time in the league was when Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics would battle for titles and they had the greatest rivalry in sports history.  LeBron and Wade love this game and they’re businessmen too.  They know there is a more exciting option than them forming an alliance with Chris Bosh.  Instead of them all teaming up together and dominating the league, Wade teams up with Bosh, LeBron teams up with Ama’re and then they battle it out every year to see who wins the championship.  Seriously, what would be more fun and exciting than this?  What would be better than a modern day Magic vs. Bird rivalry with Ama’re and Bosh as the All Star complementary players?

Think about it.  I’m sure a Heat team featuring LeBron, Wade, and Bosh would get crazy ratings the first time they made the finals.  The excitement might even be there the second time around.  But think of how we chew teams up and spit them out these days.  We got sick of the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, people despise the Patriots now (ditto the Red Sox,) and the Yankees have been hated for an eternity.  Jordan’s Bulls might be the only exception, but you know what?  We need to stop bringing Jordan up.  Jordan was an aberration.  There will never be a player and an individual quite like Jordan.  For whatever reason, no one ever got sick of Jordan the same way they get sick of most athletes that dominate their sport.  However, think of how exciting it would be to see LeBron and Wade have a showdown in the Eastern Conference finals every year to see who gets to play Kobe/Melo for the title.  While we may get sick of dynasties, we LOVE our rivalries.  Lakers-Celtics; Cowboyws-49ers; Knicks-Heat; Yankees-Red Sox; North Carolina-Duke; etc., etc.  Heck, the Knicks-Pacers rivalry got a 30 for 30 documentary and the Knicks-Heat rivalry was must see TV and I wouldn’t consider any of those team pretty to watch.  For all of you locked into the World Cup right now, the beautiful game it was not.

There you have it.  This is what has to happen.  LeBron and Wade know what’s up.  They don’t want to share the glory.  They know how to make money.  They know what will get ratings and exposure for the league.  Folks, we’re about to enter an NBA golden age.  LeBron and the big man of his choice vs. Wade and the big man of his choice.  Personally, I’m excited to see which duo can bring a team together and make get the most out of their teammates because, after all, it is a 5 on 5 game.  However, in the center ring will be LeBron and Wade, duking it out for all the money, power, and respect.  And the only way to do so is to win titles.  May the best man win.

Keith versus the Meme: Defending Jay Leno

January 26, 2010

Look, let’s get one thing straight: I am a Conan O’Brien fan.  This doesn’t mean that I dislike Jay Leno; I just prefer Conan’s brand of comedy.  However, I would like to address the notion that Leno is the villain in this NBC Late Night Drama.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether or not Jay Leno is a bad dude.  For all I know he may be, but whether he is or isn’t a good guy is irrelevant.  The reason?  Because JAY LENO GOT SCREWED FIRST.

Think about it.  The guy hosted the #1 late night talk show for years and NBC was all set to push him out the door for Conan.  But when the time came for Conan to take over the tonight show, NBC got cold feet (and rightfully so.)  Mark Cuban actually blogged about why we should be applauding NBC for taking a risk and giving Leno a shot at 10pm and I agree with him 100%.

So while I was sad to see Conan kicked off The Tonight Show after only 7 months (I do believe he would have eventually figured it out and got better ratings), the facts are clear as day: Leno dominated that time slot for years and Conan was struggling mightily.  Of course Conan supporters will point to mitigating factors and they do have a point.  But you can’t argue with the stats and the stats say Leno gets the eyeballs.  Conan supporters also point to Leno’s 2004 statements regarding his passing the torch to Conan and retiring.  Well, what did you expect him to say!?  NBC was putting Jay in a retirement home so they could move in their hot new girlfriend.  He really had no choice.

This brings me back to my ultimate point.  Whether you love Jay Leno or hate Jay Leno, you cannot deny that the guy was screwed.  If you or I were in his position, we would be pretty pissed that our employer would fire us after years and years of finishing ahead of our competition.  So please, don’t leave comments discussing the merits of Jay Leno the comedian.  That’s not the point here.  The point here is that Jay Leno got the shaft long before Conan, yet somehow no one mentions this.

Never let the refs or a coin flip decide the game: An NFC Championship Story

January 25, 2010

Full disclosure – I missed the 2nd and 3rd quarters because I decided to drive my girlfriend back to Queens early because we had to run some errands in Manhattan on the way back to her place.  But let’s be honest here – I didn’t miss much.  The Vikings played a sloppy game and the Saints were out of sync (I’ll let you decide whether it was due to the Vikings and Leslie Frazier’s game plan (probably) or if the Saints were a bit overwhelmed by the moment (probably played a part as well.)

So instead of recapping a game that everyone either watched in its entirety, watched in part, or saw the highlights, I am going to take the time to address a few storylines that I am sure the media will be beating us over the head with today and tomorrow.

The referees did not cost the Vikings this game (re: the phantom pass interference on David Thomas.)

No one player lost the Vikings this game (i.e., Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, etc.)

A coin toss did not lose the Vikings this game.

And the overtime rules are just fine, thank you.

Here’s the deal: when I played football in high school we were forbidden from complaining about the referees or for worrying about things that were out of our control.  I was always taught that if you allowed a game to be decided by the refs or something like a coin toss, then that’s on you.  The Vikings had 60+ minutes to take care of business and they didn’t get it done.  In fact, it was remarkable that this game even made it to overtime considering they turned the ball over 5 times.  Refs will make bad calls.  Weird plays happen.  But, if you take care of business and even if the refs make a bad call, you should still end up on the winning side.

Further, to place the blame for a loss on a single play or a coin flip is ridiculous and diminishes the hundreds of other plays that happened over the course of a game.  Of course any single play can swing the outcome of a tightly contested match, but to try and play this game of isolating THE play that swung the game is a fool’s errand and misses the point.  Football is a team game and there will be many plays during the course of the game that do not go your way.  Good teams minimize the bad plays against them and exploit the other team’s breakdowns.

As for the overtime rule, I love the NFL’s overtime rule.  As a Packers’ fan I know first hand that winning the toss in OT does not guarantee victory or defeat (see Al Harris picking off Matt Hasselbeck, Corey Webster picking off Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers being “picked off” by the Cardinals in the first round this year.)  Further, defense and special teams are part of the game!  How about the Vikings make a play on special teams and not let Pierre Thomas return the overtime kickoff to the Saints’ 40?  How about the defense step up and make a play?  The trend over the last few years in the NFL has been to glorify offense and short change defense and special teams.  I think this is a travesty and this is why I love the NFL overtime rule: it emphasizes all three phases of the game.

Additionally, as I alluded to earlier, to claim that a coin flip decided the game totally diminishes the 60 minutes of football that preceded overtime.  There were plenty of opportunities for either team to handle their business in regulation.  Heck, if Favre had just tucked the ball and ran with it, chances are Ryan Longwell nails a 50 yarder for the win.  Games between teams as evenly matched as the Vikings and Saints are essentially sudden death matches anyway, with the team who has the ball last usually the one who wins.  In  fact, announcers say this all the time.  So why does everyone lose their minds over the overtime rules.  Isn’t it essentially luck that determines who ends up with the ball last in regulation of these types of contests?

Well now I am ranting so I’ll wrap this baby up.  My ultimate point is that no single play or event determines the outcome of a football game.  That might be the storyline the next day, but it’s false.  Plays count just as much in the first quarter as they do in the 4th quarter or in overtime.  The Vikings have no one to blame but themselves, as a TEAM, the same way my Packers had no one  to blame but themselves for spotting the Cardinals a 14 point lead in the first round.  To claim otherwise totally diminishes what else happened during the game.

And so it begins…

January 22, 2010

Since my cohort has done such a wonderful job explaining the general idea of this blog, I figured I would tell you a bit about myself.

I am also a 26-year-old law student at New York Law School.  Born and raised in Staten Island, NY and a Bernard M. Baruch College graduate, I have spent my entire life living, working, playing, and going to school in NYC.  So of course I will be moving to Los Angeles in May after I graduate.  My decision to move out to LA with my girlfriend of six years came as a shock to many, but we both want to work in the entertainment industry (me as a lawyer/agent and her as an actress) so it just made sense.  You’ll see that my pop culture interests lean heavily towards film and television which makes my desire to work in entertainment law and my move to LA a natural fit.  In addition to movies and TV, I was an English Lit major and am an avid reader.  I read anything from the classics to books on legal philosophy to comic books (aka graphic novels.)  Yup, I’m sort of a comic book nerd (used to buy single issues but have transitioned to trade-waiting – comic book aficionados will understand what this means.)

Of course, I am also a huge sports nut.  My allegiances are as follows: New York Mets, Green Bay Packers, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, and Real Madrid.  I suppose I have natural biases when it comes to these teams, I like to believe that I am able set my biases aside and provide honest sports commentary.  My favorite sport is easily baseball but football isn’t far behind (played in high school – Back-2-Back CHSAA Varsity Champs!) I also follow the NBA fairly closely these days after my brother and a high school buddy of mine helped me re-discover my love for the NBA.  I don’t really follow the NHL other than the Rangers, but I will confess that my Ranger fandom has been subpar due to the time crunch of law school.  My Real Madrid fandom essentially parallels my Rangers fandom (can’t wait for the World Cup in 2010 though!)  I dip my toe into MMA (specifically UFC), boxing, and golf from time to time, I usually tune into the Summer and Winter Olympics when they come around, and I even glance at the X-Games if I am aware that it’s that time of the year.  So I guess you could say that I am a sports-man of all seasons.  Unfortunately, I am not a big college sports guy.  It’s just not my thing – chalk it up to going to a city school in Manhattan. However, I will tune in for March Madness and any Bowl Games that seem to be generating some buzz.

So there you have it – pretty much anything and everything is open for discussion, debate, and analysis.  Enjoy.