If like me, you witnessed The Decision on ESPN Friday, you’ll wish you had that hour of your life back. But it’s hard to deny it might have been the most important hour in the history of the NBA, as far as future-shaping moments go. Some fans are upset, some excited, some downright confused. So I thought we’d pull together some of the NBAMate crew to try and make sense of it all. Q&A stylez.
1. In one word – what was your reaction to The Decision?
J.O: “Tactless” – This decision could have been made much, much earlier and behind closed doors like most free agent deals are done. The fact he toyed with the whole process in front of Cleveland fans, in front of the country and in front of a global audience on television shows a lack of class, perhaps even selfishness. Disappointing for an elite athlete that considers himself the pillar of ‘professional’.
Ant: (epic) miscalculation.
Robd: Shock – Just did not see this coming. Has fundamentally changed what I think about Lebron. For good or worse, I’m not sure yet.
Jobba: LMFAO – Seriously, who didn’t hear the announcement and started singing ‘I’m in Miami B**ch’
Ash: Shock – at first, then I started celebrating cause I knew the Warriors would be getting David Lee. So you can read what you will into that.
2. Was this a strange move, given what we know about Lebron and his quest for basketball immortality? Can he ever seriously be considered amongst the All-Time Elite’s of this game now that he’s part of such a talented trio?
J.O: Here’s the part I still can’t get my head around. I acknowledge the fact he wants to win. Every player wants to win now. That’s acceptable. I admire him for getting on the front foot, and not waiting until he hits his 30’s. But having spent the greater part of 7-years convincing us he was ‘The King’, ‘The Chosen One’ makes him somewhat the greatest hypocrite of all time. This is D-Wade’s team, LeBron has somewhat relegated himself to Scottie Pippen status. But hey, Pip was a winner too wasn’t he? And still we considered him amongst the NBA’s All-Time Elite.
Ant: Was it strange? I don’t think so, but it certainly shattered some assumptions that people had about him – namely that he cared more about money and/or ego than winning. I mean, he’s blown that stuff out of the water by choosing the smallest market available to him AND going to a team that already has an established superstar. The guy obviously cares most about winning, and from that point-of-view Miami and Chicago were the only two options.
As far as legacy goes, it’s total nonsense. Since he’ll inevitably be compared to Jordan let’s do just that, starting with his 2IC. Over time, Pippen’s legacy has somehow eroded to the point where he’s now thought of by many people as simply a handy sidekick to MJ, which couldn’t be further from the truth. To wit, in his first season without Jordan, he finished third in the MVP voting, despite missing 10 games. In fact, through the mid-90′s he was unquestionably the best Small Forward in the league. Not bad for a “second banana”. Dennis Rodman, meanwhile, finished in the top 15 of MVP voting in all 3 seasons he played (for the Pistons and Spurs) right before joining the Bulls. People don’t remember this now but they were great, great players. No-one discounted Jordan’s rings because of it, nor should they discount LeBron’s.
Robd: I do think it’s a little “inconsistent” with what we’ve seen and heard from Lebron before. You don’t expect someone anointed the “King” with “Chosen One” tattooed on his back to flee and seek help from the next best player in the league, and another very good one. He can never equal or surpass Jordan’s mantle now (or Magic’s or Bird’s), something I always believed Lebron was actively chasing. He said this decision was all about “winning”. He’s chosen “winning” alright, at the sacrifice of his own legacy. It’s brave, unexpected, and some have argued misguided, but it might be the first time in a while Lebron has deliberately placed himself somewhere other than the center of the universe.
Jobba: I think he will almost already be amongst the All-Time Elite with what he has personally accomplished. The only thing really missing on his resume is a title. Obviously, he went to the place where he thinks that can happen. I honestly don’t know what the deal in terms of years and money will be, and LeBron is still young. But you can book it in; I believe LBJ will play for another club before he retires.
Ash: To answer the first part, yeah it does seem a bit strange. But then I considered what LeBron’s goals may be, and I concluded it may not be so strange. LeBron doesn’t have MJ/Kobe’s killer streak or their willingness to fight, but at the same time he wants to win and have fun doing so. Now he’s on a team where he gets to play with his mates, probably win 60-65 games each season and make the Finals every year. Plus, the women in Miami are the hottest in the world other than in Rio.
As for the second part, I think he just threw away any shot he had at being considered one of the greatest of all time. Hall of Famer? Yeah, probably. But we’re never going to be talking about him in MJ/Magic/Bird/Russell terms, or even in Kobe/West/Chamberlain terms. He’ll be another great ballplayer, possibly an icon of lost potential. No more. You can give this article I wrote for B/R on the subject a quick read.
3. There’s a lot of ego on this team now. Could it turn sour? Is there be a Battle of the Alpha Dogs on the horizon?
J.O: Unlikely. There’s nothing like playing ball with your mates- pretty good ones too apparently. I guess that’s where LeBron’s loyalty tag really comes into effect. He is and will always be loyal to his buddies, and that’s why this will probably work. It worked for LeBron in high school and unless the money, fame and winning makes them incredibly greedy, or if Bosh or James secretly trip over and slip the sausage into Gabrielle Union, I’d say this will be the start of something very special.
Ant: It’s unlikely. Had they been traded to the same team without prior agreement, it might have been a problem. Given they’ve all agreed to play together, they should be sweet for at least 2 seasons, even if they don’t win a ring straight away. The only potential problems I see are the lack of clout of Erik Spoelstra (but if that causes trouble Riley can salvage it himself) and Chris Bosh discovering he’s a distant third on the pecking order (more on that later).
Robd: There’s no question each player has enjoyed being the Alpha Dog the past few years. But I don’t see this turning sour, mainly because each player has gone through the perils of trying to lead their own team, and come up short. They’re at a stage in their careers where they will appreciate each other, rather than compete with each other. That wasn’t the case with Kobe and Shaq earlier in the decade because Kobe was still trying to prove he was the best player in the league. I think Wade and Lebron have already got that out of their system. Plus, these guys are mates, and you don’t turn on your mates.
Jobba: Year 1 and 2 should be fine. Especially if they’re winning championships. Then it gets iffy.
Ash: I don’t think so, purely because they’re all so matey. It’s not Kobe/Shaq again. These guys all know what each other can do and are probably happy to let everyone do his thing and take turns playing alpha dog during the regular season, and I imagine Wade will be the main guy in the playoffs cause we’ve seen LeBron struggle and Bosh do nothing at that stage.
4. How does Cleveland recover from this? Was Dan Gilbert justified in his scathing reaction to Lebron’s decision?
J.O: People must be allowed to voice frustration and anger over this. Losing LeBron the way they did, you can’t help but feel for Cleveland and Gilbert. This is extremely crippling for the franchise and for the sports psyche in that town. They all practically spilled blood to keep James happy and equipped him with enough talent to challenge for rings. Not enough in the end. LeBron’s ‘tentative’ performances in his final two games for Cleveland career will forever tarnish his image. Did he really give up? Sure did look like it.
Ant: Let’s get one thing clear: Gilbert wasn’t scathing because LeBron announced he’s leaving on national TV, or because Cleveland are going to struggle to scrape into the playoffs next year. He was scathing because LeBron single-handedly wiped almost 200 million from the value of his franchise without letting him know (and thus allowing him to sell). It was the mega-rich person’s equivalent of a hissy fit. One of the most pathetic and hilarious reactions to anything by anyone that I can recall, made all the more funny by the ridiculous font he chose. I’m pretty sure that’s the same font my folks used on my 8th Birthday Party invitations.
As for Cleveland, the unfortunate answer is that they don’t recover. Anderson Varejao (who I love), Hickson, Delonte West and whoever they draft next year will form the nucleus of their rebuild, I’m afraid.
Robd: I think there’s a lot of people that felt like Dan Gilbert, and it’s probably what some Cavs fans wanted to hear. But from a professional perspective, I thought it was pretty pathetic. Put it this way – if in 6 years Lebron is out of contract at Miami and was considering coming back home to Cleveland, would he really want to now that Gilbert has said these things?
As for the Cavs, they will no doubt have a very different look. You could argue that being less dependent on one superstar player might make them a more balanced team, and allow some of their players to grow.
What am I kidding, they will be fucking terrible.
Jobba: How does Cleveland recover? It waits for the 2011 first overall pick next year. Was D-Gilbert justified? Yes.
Ash: I think Dan Gilbert was absolutely justified. From what I can tell, he learnt at the same time we all did – from the TV. LeBron or someone in his camp should at least have given him and Chris Grant some kind of indication that he was headed out.
As for Cleveland recovering, well, who knows? I suspect that there may be a small case of Simmons’ Ewing Theory coming into play here – while they’re not title contenders by any means now, the “Fuck You LeBron” factor may just drive them hard enough to make the playoffs next year.
The thought of a Miami/Cleveland playoff series… Jesus.
5. Is Lebron a prick for the way he did this? (by ripping out the hearts of Cavs fans in an hour-long ego-massaging ESPN presentation)
J.O: Refer back to question 1. Ultra messy. Like walking in a room and seeing your partner getting it on with someone else, even though you’ve known he/she were suss all along…
Ant: I think it has less to do with LeBron and more to do with his agent/s completely misreading the situation. Essentially, the idea was that he was going to look like a dick for ditching Cleveland, but then he would look like a hero for donating money to keeeeeeds, and so he’d come out of the thing even. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell his agent/s that announcing you’re donating money live on TV stopped being cool sometime in the 80′s, and nowadays just makes you look like a self-important jerkwad in need of positive publicity. So I can definitely see why Cleveland fans might feel aggrieved by how he went about it…but they’re kidding themselves if they think that there was any way to announce it that would have left them feeling OK with the decision.\
Robd: Honestly, I thought the whole reason he did this ESPN special was because he was choosing Cleveland, and that it would turn into a big soppy love-fest about his home town, with Lebron promising he would never stop in his quest to bring Cleveland a championship. I was obviously very wrong. I think Lebron could have handled it much better, but honestly I think it’s more due to his naivety and the marketing machine around him, rather than Lebron being a prick of a bloke.
Jobba: Seriously, the lead up to this I thought there would be a 30 minute mini-drama ‘LeBron goes shopping. Stay tuned for what store he decides to buy his clothes at.’ Or ‘Cereal or Toast for LeBron? find out live on ESPN.’ I’ll be honest, I thought it was so egotistic, I just waited for the news to be up on websites.
Ash: Absolutely. He came off as a complete prick with the ESPN special. That was a step too far anyway, and using it to knife the city of Cleveland in the back. Let me put it this way – before then, I liked LeBron. Now, I’m burning my Cavs #23 with the Cleveland fans. Anyone who follows cricket knows that the Indian fans like to burn effigies of players/officials/opposition player they’re pissed with – this is my attempt to carry on the old tradition.
I can’t believe someone as image-conscious as LeBron would agree to something like that, and I can’t believe none of his people were smart enough to tell him that this is a bad idea.
6. Lets talk basketball for a second. Can this trio co-exist on the court? What changes do Wade/Bosh/Lebron need to make to their game to accommodate each other?
J.O: Each must pick their spots to attack. Big men generally need touches early so Bosh gets first crack off the jumpball. To nutshell the rest, Wade and James dominate the rest of the game by alternating possessions, getting others involved and by the business end, having Wade close, while using James as a decoy to run the offense.
Ant: Well, Lebron and Wade are, in my book, the clear-cut number 1 and 2 players in the NBA. And they both do almost everything really well. So I expect them to run the team in turns, using the extra rest to really lock down on the defensive end. Basically, I expect them to work great together, although each should see a dip in scoring numbers obviously. Bosh I’m not so sure about, which is why I’m not crazy about this being called a “Big Three”. I guess “HUGE Two and a really good one-dimensional power forward” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Here’s my problem; if you had to build a team from scratch, Bosh would undoubtedly be one of the first 15 guys picked. He’s a ridiculous offensive talent. But he’s a poor defender, an average rebounder, and is much more effective with the ball in his hands at the elbow than having to cut or post up or whatever. And if Bosh has the ball in his hands, that means James AND Wade are standing around, which is just bad business. That’s why if I had James and Wade locked in, Bosh wouldn’t be in the top 30 guys I’d want next to them. I mean, nevermind Rodman, I’d take Joakim Noah over Bosh every day of the week for this team. When it’s all said and done, I’m not sure if Bosh looks much better at Miami than Rashard Lewis does at Orlando. That’s the last example we have of a pure scorer trying to become a complete role player. The question is whether Bosh’s ego can handle it as well as Lewis’ did.
Robd: Jon Barry actually said something smart during The Decision telecast (hard to find amongst the rest of the crap he spouted). He said there was no way Wade, Lebron or Bosh could be the same players we have seen the past seven years. He was right. There’s no way these guys can continue to dominate individually, statistically, to the extent we’ve seen since 2004. And it intrigues me incredibly. Will Wade develop a more consistent outside shot to make use of perimeter looks he will no doubt get when Lebron drives and kicks? Will Lebron go back to being the next Magic Johnson (like everyone was saying in 2004) rather than the next Michael Jordan? Will Bosh develop his defensive skills knowing he doesn’t have to carry his team offensively anymore? I think these things need to happen for Miami to win a championship.
Jobba: I will brave the storm and say this won’t work. D-Wade, C-Bosh and James all need the ball for long times to be effective. Unless they can all find a way to co-exist (obviously very possible), but its not like the other big 3 from Boston or Los Angeles which had games which fit into one another. Wade needs to be in a 1-v-1 situation all the time, as does LeBron. There is no Ray Allen who needs the ball for 2 seconds for a quality scoring opportunity. There is no passing big man like a Pau Gasol. It’s three fantastic 1-v-1 players.
Ash: I think Bosh will be OK – I’m sure he realised he wouldn’t be the first option on the Heat even if LeBron hadn’t joined. He’s gonna be fine as the third guy.
LeBron and Wade, I’m not sure. Honestly, I believe that Wade has to be that team’s No.1 scorer and allow LeBron to play the Magic Johnson role which I think he’s best suited to do without having to worry about carrying the scoring load every night.
Truth be told, though, I’m not totally sure how it’s gonna work with two ball-dominant players like LeBron and Wade. But I suspect they’ll work something out.
7. There ain’t much cap space left. Can they surround Wade, Lebron and Bosh with enough talent to win a championship?
J.O: Because James, Wade and Bosh are still in their mid to late 20’s, there’s plenty of time for Riley and co. to manipulate the cap, make trades and add pieces as the years go by. There’s still plenty of improvement to come also. That’s the scary part. Now they develop those talents together. This Big Three are yet to hit top gear in my opinion and that amounts to a 10-year window where plenty of rings can be hauled in. So much time in fact, which is why this tripod beats out Boston’s KG-Pierce-Allen alliance.
Ant: They’ll be able to get some cheapy point-guards and shooters pretty easily. The big question is whether they’ll be able to find a half-decent defensive big – those are guys that are notoriously hard to find and you usually have to overpay (see: Haywood, 55 million). That’s why the Mike Miller deal made no sense to me. That money should have been used to find help at the 5, because Jo-L Anthony and Dexter Pittman won’t cut it. Chris Bosh has shown in Toronto that he can’t and won’t defend the power bigs. If they find a half-decent defensive 5, I’ll back them. But until then, I have a feeling Pau Gasol and Bynum would do to Miami exactly what they did to Boston once Perkins fell.
Robd: For the short-term, I doubt it. They need a solid big who will rebound and defend, think Kendrick Perkins. Wade and Lebron can run the point for this team so I don’t see them needing a quality PG. But they will need to fill out that roster with good shooters, defensive stoppers, and some veterans (think James Posey). I think it will take them another off-season to get the roster right, but let me make this clear: with Wade, Lebron and Bosh as your core, you would have to be the worst GM in history NOT to get a championship in the next five years.
Jobba: Apparently Mike Miller will sign with the Heat also. I like Mario Chalmers, I think he will be a good fit for this team, a terrific defender and outside shooter. Joel Anthony is a big that will compliment Bosh. But really, it will be about getting some unglorified talent glorified. The Boston big three would not have worked unless Rondo and Perkins improved (and then Glenn Davis). Obviously for the Lakers your looking at Odom, Fisher and Artest playing less than key roles. Look at it like this:
’08 Celtics: 4th, 5th, 6th Best Players: Rajon Rondo, Keiran Perkins, James Posey.
’09 Lakers: 4th 5th, 6th Best Players: Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher.
’10 Heat: 4th, 5th, 6th Best Players: Mike Miller, Mario Chalmer, Joel Anthony.
More moves and improvements must be made.
Ash: Just on this topic, I really hope the Heat offer Jarvis Varnado (their 42nd overall pick this draft) a contract. He’s not only one of my favourites, but he’s the perfect role player for this team – he’ll protect the rim (leading shotblocker in NCAA history), rebound, play D and get out of the way on offense. If he’s there, I might not hate this Heat team. But I’m still selling my old Shaq Heat jersey as well. (Keeping the Wade rookie jersey cause I still like D-Wade, but only wearing it to sleep and around the house. Selling Shaq for money cause all the bandwagoners might snap it up).
Anyway, I don’t think they’ll have a problem signing guys. Every veteran chasing a ring will sign with them for the minimum – from what I hear, Mike Miller’s getting the MLE or similar.
8. Chicago & New York – No doubt their fans are disappointed. What lies on the horizon for these two teams?
J.O: Chicago- Trading Kirk Hinrich was a head-scratcher, and is Carlos Boozer really going to take them to that next level? If the Bulls were a western conference team, I’d salivate. But in the East with a reloaded Miami, stocked Orlando and battle-tested Boston, that’ll be a tall order.
New York- micromanage that cap and hope it gets a Chris Paul–calibre talent to run with Amare Stoudamire, otherwise they render him useless. Even selling MSG shares to Melo might help increase next year’s chances. At least they didn’t come away from this free agent summit empty-handed.
Ant: Chicago, barring injury, should easily get 50 wins. I actually think Boozer will be a better player for the Bulls than either Bosh or Amare would have been, it’s a really nice fit. If Rose learns to be a better passer (particularly in the Pick-and-Roll that Boozer so loves), I’d have them top 3 in the East alongside Orlando and Miami. Not sure they can beat either in a series though.
New York, on the other hand, paid 100 million for the 15% upgrade from David Lee to Amare Stoudemire, and otherwise will return with almost the same team as ’10. They’re fucked. The fantasies of Carmelo or CP3 are just that, fantasies. Maybe they could steal away Tony Parker at a pinch, if Eva gets tired of San Antonio. That would make them a .500 team, I guess. On the bright side, D’Antoni will probably give Anthony Randolph consistent minutes, which will please fantasy owners world-wide.
Robd: I actually think Chicago could be better than Miami in the short term. When healthy Boozer is amongst the top 5 power forwards in the league. Noah will compliment him perfectly. With the extra help, Derrick Rose might be ready to break out an MVP-calibre season. They have cap space to sign players to fill their gaps (such as Ashton Kucher), and they have a new coach who should improve the team defensively. It all amounts to 2010-11 being a very promising season for the Bulls – potentially challenging for top 4 out East.
New York, at this stage, is still laughable. Amare is not even close to being a franchise player and I expect that to play out quite amusingly very early on in the season. They will try and replicate the high octane offense that D’Antoni enjoyed with the Suns, except this time they’ll do it without the best point guard of the last decade and the #1 ingredient in that offense. Like I’ve been saying to several people, New York will no doubt be more fun to watch, and possibly a playoff team in the East. But not close to being serious contenders.
Jobba: D-Rose and Boozer are a good combo for Chicago. They also still have Luol Deng, Noah, Gibson and James Johnson, with cap room. I think they are one player away from having a good big 3. For New York – heartache is on the horizon. Seriously, we may need someone to constantly monitor Tiz this season…
Ash: I think Chicago will be OK. They still got Pooh and Piglet (apparently Rose’s nickname is Pooh, and Joakim Noah is Piglet because he annoys me. Like Piglet does), and they just signed Mutant Ashton Kutcher which fixes their shooting problem. Along with Boozer, they’re gonna be contenders in the East this season.
New York, however, aren’t so good. They’re gonna have to overpay for a scrub PG like Ray Felton, and Amare will learn pretty fast that he can’t carry this team. Anthony Randolph will melt under the bright lights of New York as David Lee rips it up with Stephen Curry and the Warriors to the playoffs.