LeBron to NY? Now that is an easy decision.

April 5, 2010

by Jack Maidment

As you might expect, there is a lot of conjecture surrounding LeBron James and the choice he will make this coming summer.

Stay or go. That is the question.

From what you read and what you here there are apparently only two options: remain in Cleveland or head to New York.

Fair enough. I am in agreement with almost everybody else in thinking these are the only two realistic and viable options, barring some sort of mythical agreement between Wade, Bosh and James to take less money and start a super team someplace.

Ian O’Connor wrote a piece for ESPN this past week in which he suggests that LeBron simply must go and play for the Knicks because, according to Mr O’Connor New York is much better than every where else.

Or something along those lines.

Apparently winning a championship in NY City is more of a big deal than anywhere else.

Ok.

I’m going to disagree with that.

And here is why.

Imagine you are the captain of the English football team and through some freak occurrence you end up winning the World Cup in South Africa.

But the team you are playing for isn’t your homeland but Brazil, or Italy, a country to which you have little affinity.

Would lifting the World Cup be special?

Of course.

But how much better would it be lifting it while representing the country, the people and the communities that run through your veins and make up who you are?

Is the same not transposable to LeBron?

He is after all a young man born and raised in the state of Ohio.

The city he calls his own, Akron, is a matter of minutes from the arena he plays every other night.

Anyone who has seen More Than a Game will know just how much the area means to LeBron.

And yet, all of this seems to be superseded in the minds of writers when they have anything to say on the matter.

Its all about New York being the biggest market and how great Knicks’ fans are and how much fun LeBron would have in the city.

Some of that may be true.

But he already plays for his hometown team and the admiration Cleveland Cavalier fans show him can not be matched anywhere.

Go to New York and he will be loved but not in the same way.

He will be a mercenary waging war for a team and a city with which he has no bond, no connection, except for a liking for one of the baseball teams.

You can forget your bigger market, your smaller amount of money, your great fans, your ‘unsurpassable’ victory parades and everything else that goes with The Big Apple.

All of that pales into insignificance with bringing a title to the place you hold dearest.

Some things cannot be bought.

He will stay.

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Jamison move makes LeBron’s Cavs Big. And Favourites.

February 20, 2010

Jamison adds size and scoring

by Jack Maidment

The past three years in the NBA have taught us one thing more than any other: the cold war didn’t die, it just moved.

The arms race that characterised the battle for supremacy between the USA and the Soviet Union has re-emerged only this team its basketball teams that are stockpiling weapons.

Unless you’re poor that is.

In which case you are probably one of teams that is allowing this whole process of one-up-man-ship to happen.

For if there were no teams looking to shed salary so that they can try and fail to sign LeBron James there would be no opportunity for the ‘haves’ to pillage the ‘have-nots’.

Case in point, Antawn Jamison to Cleveland on deadline day.

A continually combusting Washington Wizards pulled the trigger on a trade in which they will receive next to nothing with one of the pieces supposedly heading to the capital, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, undoubtedly returning to the Cavs once the mandatory 30 day period has elapsed.

(Ironically, the Wiz have traded the two of their big three that didn’t cause them any problems. Gilbert Arenas, AKA the man no-one wants to play with remains. The Wiz: The Next Knicks. Have you seen his contract?)

So the Cavs gain a former All-Star and one of the most underrated scorers in the League for a bag of chips.

Scoring and versatility at the 4 was something that the Cavs were lacking and Jamison certainly fills the hole.

The trade leaves Cleevland with a wealth of front court options, with the potential to field LeBron at point-forward, Jamison at scoring guard and a front 3 of Big Z, Shauille O’Neal and Anderson Varejao.

The Lakers are no longer the biggest team in the League.

If the two meet in the Finals there will never have been two bigger teams physically squaring off in the history of the game.

So where does this move for Jamison (and Sebastian Telfair who was also thrown in) put the Cavaliers?

It was the last throw of the dice for Danny Ferry, Cavs GM, who has done everything possible to try and surround LeBron James with the best team possible.

He sure isn’t making LeBron’s decision in the upcoming off season any easier.

The Cavs are certainly a lot bigger now and much more dangerous in a half court set with Jamison able to stretch the floor.

Defensively they are now more of handful with the largest interior of any team in the League.

They have size, bulk, shot blocking, physicality and athleticism.

Will they win the East?

Yes.

Will they win the Finals?

It is on that question that the future of the League could depend.

Win and LeBron almost certainly stays for the next 5 years.

Lose, again, and he will have all the reasons he needs to go after a fresh start.

I say he wins.

And he stays.


LeBron James is not Chad Ochocinco. Nor is he Magic, Larry or Michael.

December 17, 2009

by Jack Maidment

Whenever Chad Ochocinco scores a touchdown for the Bengals you can be sure that the innovative and sometimes outrageous celebration will follow.

For the most part his antics are well received, annoying to some, but widely acknowledged as entertaining.

When he pulled a dollar bill out of his sock to hand to a official after his TD catch, tongue firmly in cheek, he was not seen as rude or controversial, but cheeky and funny.

So why are LeBron James’ actions different?

Why has his gesturing and posturing riled up so many people, coaches and Hall of Famers included?

The major difference between the two is that Ochocinco’s moments of celebratory creativity are diluted by the goings on in the NFL.

This is largely because American Football is not dominated by a handful of personalities the way that the NBA is.

The emphasis in basketball falls on the superstar; in football it is about the team.

The difference is huge.

Consider this.

If Ray Lewis criticizes the Baltimore Ravens he can expect his words to make the back pages in the Maryland area but the likelihood of his notoriety extending league wide are virtually non-existent.

Stories about individuals rarely displace the dominant discourse of the NFL’s media coverage: the headlines are reserved for team’s and their respective performances.

In contrast, an outburst by one of the NBA’s superstars warrants the dedicated attentions of every major news outlet and basketball columnist.

Just look at how the media reacted to Kobe Bryant’s impromptu video a few years ago when he attacked the Lakers’ front office for not providing him with, shall we say, more capable team mates.

Front pages and headlines countrywide.

The preeminence and elevated status of the few in the NBA ensures that when a Kobe, Dwyane or LeBron do anything of even mild interest the story is guaranteed to blow up.

Ochocinco is one of a whole host of high profile players in the NFL and in terms of annoying people it would seem that there is safety in numbers. Hell, even if he annoys you his limited exposure means he can be ignored.

This is why LeBron has got underneath people’s skin: his dancing and french fry eating do nothing but undermine his elevated status and you can’t get away from him.

His behavior comes across as arrogant and petulant because it is such a departure from the actions of his predecessors.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, all were ultimatel characterized by class.

They were all aware of how good they were but their performances were enough.

Simply, the great players don’t act like that.

His game does enough talking, so why seek more attention?

To do so will win few friends.

It will be interesting to see if the gesticulating remains when the Celtics or Lakers appear on the same floor as the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For a player of LeBron’s ability the game should be about winning and winning only.

Needless antics on the court only damage his reputation and potentially his legacy.

Why do it?


Cleveland Cavaliers re-sign Anderson Varejao. For $50 Million.

July 9, 2009
"I know! I can't believe it either."

"I know! I can't believe it either."

by Jack Maidment

8.6 points per game coupled with 7.2 rebounds. Not exactly stellar numbers you will say. Not enough to warrant any major amount of noise. Steady numbers surely deserving of steady money.

I’m not sure if I just transferred from a parallel universe where the world is indeed in the midst of economic turmoil to one where the cash fairy has visited a large number of NBA teams, but Anderson Varejao, the owner of those middle of the road numbers, has just agreed to a 6 year, $50 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

People may say that players like Varejao bring more to the table than points and rebounds, but all the little things he may do on the court, all the hustle and floppy hair surely do not combine to warrant $50 million?

$50 million. I’m pretty sure that right now Danny Ferry is taking a polygraph test downtown.

“Are you Steve Kerr in disguise?” asks the cop. Ferry looks nervous.

The laws that once governed the distribution of green in the NBA appear to have been broken.

Varejao will be rubbing his hands with glee as he anticipates his $8 million a year pay packet while Allen Iverson, a modern great who still has gas in the tank, mulls over a $5 million deal to play off the bench in a Grizzlie uniform.

Aint that some ish.


NBA Free Agency: Boozer stays in Utah. Cleveland eyeing Charlie V, want Chris Bosh next year?

July 1, 2009

carlos boozer

 

by Jack Maidment

What is the single most important driving force behind a pro-athlete’s career?

In years past the answer would have been success and the pursuit thereof, but in an economy which rewards so richly, money has become the dominating factor in just about every sportsman’s decision making process.

Am I going to get mine? That is the question that players around the NBA are continually asking themselves, especially those who are situated firmly in the shop window: 2009’s free agents.

The date is 1st July and teams can begin wooing the players who they believe can make a difference.

However, the current economic climate has placed huge restrictions on players looking for a new deal with only a handful having at least some of the money to throw at these players, especially the premier talents.

The likes of Shawn Marion and Carlos Boozer would ordinarily be demanding a close to if not max type contract. Big time money for supposedly big time players.

The fact is that team’s are far more reluctant to commit to huge contracts when the margin for error is so small: if a team commits to you for $15 million plus a year and you don’t deliver, that franchise is in an inescapable hole.

The only teams with definite money to spend are the Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons.

Regardless of the desirability of two of these locations, both Memphis and Oklahoma will in all likliehood not be flashing cash this year: they both have young cores who just need to grow together.

That leaves the Pistons who could sign two big contracts this off season, but given their isolation as a team with money, they will certainly not be held to ransom by greedy free agents.

Cue Carlos Boozer’s decision to use his player option and stay in Utah. The same Carlos Boozer who around Christmas time would tell anypone who would listen that he was definitely, definitely, definitely opting out to go in search of the max contract that he believes he deserves.

The realisation that the money is simply not their to be had, Boozer will be in a Jazz uniform next year along with Mehmet Okur, his team mate who also was looking elsewhere for more money.

Of all the upper echelon free agents, the money shortage is a major problem, maybe even forcing some of them to accept a mid level exception for a year in the hope that the economy picks up in time for next year’s free agent bonanza.

In contrast, the role players looking for new contracts should do relatively well despite the economy.

Player’s like Trevor Ariza are especially attractive to team’s looking to get over the hump. Lock down defense and 3 point shooting.

It is hardly surprising then that Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao has decided to opt out and test the free agency waters. His energy and tenacity should leave him with plenty of potential suitors to choose from.

It will be interesting to see where Charlie Villanueva ends up after the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to offer him anything at all. His post scoring is allegedly coveted by the Cavaliers, a team with enough money to spend to keep LeBron James happy.

What sort of contract he will command remains to be seen, especially with the alleged rumor that Cleveland wants Chris Bosh next year. If Charlie V takes the mid level the Cavaliers will be financially ok with a substantially improved team and the guarantee that they will have the money to spend in 12 months time.

Money. When did winning become not enough?


Cleveland Cavaliers Acquire Shaquille O’Neal From Phoenix Suns

June 25, 2009

Shaqcavs

by Jack Maidment

The ‘Fire Steve Kerr’ lobby just got a lot more ammunition as the Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired Shaquille O’Neal for the NBA equivalent of a Mars bar and a packet of crisps.

The move which sees Ben Wallace, who is likely retiring, and Sasha Pavlovic, heading to Arizona accompanied by a low second round pick and a reported $500,000.

For the Cavaliers this trade represents a bolstering of their frontcourt, a presence inside and a 2nd/3rd option for LeBron James to dump the ball to when the time is right.

Last season showed that given the right amount of rest The Most Dominant Ever can still embarrass just about any other center in the League, putting up numbers reminiscent of Shaq 6 years ago.

Meanwhile, the Suns are officially in meltdown, dismantling the team that took them close but no cigar. The departure of Shaq could well leave the door open for Steve Nash to pack up his bags as he searches out a contender for his chance at a ring.

The Cavs will hope that the $20 million Shaq is owed this coming season will be enough to push the franchise over the hump.


NBA Conference Finals: No Answer For Dwight Howard Leaves Cleveland Cavaliers In A Big, Big Hole

May 27, 2009

rashardby Jack Maidment

The coach of Florida Tech recently described Dwight Howard as the most formidable post player in the NBA and the strength of last night’s performance from the Orlando Magic’s All-Star Center absolutely vindicated the statement.

One of the criticisms of Howard is that his team cannot dump the ball inside when it really matters because his moves down low are far from polished and epitomise the word raw.

Yet, through sheer power and physicality, Howard dominated the overtime period that put the Magic up 3-1 against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that appeared tetchy and over reliant on too few players.

The frustration of losing to a team which were not supposed to cause this many problems to the team with the regular season’s best record was characterised by the facial expressions of LeBron James in the 4th quarter.

Manifest in numerous turnovers down the stretch, LeBron was constantly pulling faces that hinted toward his dissatisfaction with his team mates.

Such annoyance was hardly unfounded since only Delonte West turned up down the stretch, executing in the low post, keeping the Cavs in it.

However, regardless of his teammates, LeBron did not play well and the Cavaliers did not deserve the win. The game should have ended in regulation but for a foul that only LeBron can coax out of officials.

Driving the lane on the last possession of the 4th, he expected Mickeal Pietrus to stop him, but his lean in found no marker and James fell to the floor. Pietrus was called for the foul and the King of Akron nailed the two free throws to tie the game after a ridiculous Rashard Lewis 3 had given the Magic a deserved lead.

The entire game had been punctuated by Rafer Alston’s hot hand so it was with surprise that the Magic went to Howard consecutively in OT. And damn he delivered.

He bullied Anderson Varejao into fouling out and then proceeded to attack Zydraunus Ilgauskus who had no answer. Three straight dunks and a few free throws and the Cavaliers were left chasing the game.

Mo Williams, who was mediocre from the field but outstanding at getting to the line, may well be regretting his guaranteed victory trash talk now that his team head back to Cleveland in a 3-1 hole, a defecit that has only been overturned 8 times before.

It is perhaps worth highlighting the officiating of this game in the sense that the consistency from those in charge was simply horrible. Worst of all was the technical called on Dwight.

He made a basket despite Varejao grabbing him around the neck and roared with excitement after getting the and-1 opportunity. Apparently that constitutes a T.

Combined with LeBron’s phantom foul which was plain embarrassing and a no call on another Varejao wrestling match on Howard’s lob attempt that would have won the game, the refs were just awful.

Luckily the best team won regardless of dodgy decisions and the Magic will march into Cleveland with the Finals firmly in their sights.

Anything other than a team response from the Cavaliers will result in another loss and a series defeat on their home floor.

Even if their team spirit returns, the Cavs will still have no answer fro Howard who holds the fate of his team in his hands.

It is time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to go big, or go home.