The 2010 NBA Trade Deadline Debate – Not Even Blackstone Could Have Pulled Off This Kind of Magic

February 22, 2010

Read opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

If I were the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, would I have been seeking a trade of any kind? Probably not. Entering into the trade deadline last week, the Cavs found themselves in a unique (and potentially dangerous) position. They were the hottest team in basketball, riding a 13-game win streak. They have the best record in the league. They also have the best player in the league, along with a very strong supporting cast. So, why make a deal?

Then came the swirling rumors of a potential deal with Phoenix that would have brought Amare’e Stoudemire to the shores of Lake Erie. While Stoudemire would have brought an offensive upgrade to the Cavs, the rumors all indicated that the cost for Stoudemire was Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson.

Once again, my “If I were the GM” buzzer was going haywire! Not only was the Cavs front office forcing a deal that did not need to be made, they were doing it at the long-term expense of the team.

As much as I can appreciate the sentimentality of keeping “Z” in Cleveland, it was not the risk of losing him that worried me. He was a “good guy” on the team, and he seemed genuinely happy to play in Cleveland – even through the ROUGH years of the late 1990s and early 2000s (pre-LeBron). I will always have issue, though, with a seven-footer who is unable to play physical defense. And, teams do not need a seven-footer taking three-point shots. It was actually the loss of J.J. Hickson that concerned me as a fan of the Cavs.

LeBron James has consistently given the indication that he wants to play for the team which gives him the best opportunity for MULTIPLE championships. As important as it may be to win the first one this year, he is looking for some assurance that it will not be a one-and-done occurrence. Just ask Dwayne Wade about that feeling. After winning one NBA Championship, the Miami Heat virtually dismantled the team, and now Wade is left on a team that may not even compete in the playoffs, let alone have a shot at the NBA Finals.

LeBron does not want to be in that same situation, which is why I simply cannot comprehend the fact that Danny Ferry was trying to bring Stoudemire to Cleveland for only half of a season, with no guarantee that he would stay beyond 2010, and was willing to give up a great deal of potential in the always improving J.J. Hickson. It just did not make sense to me!

Perhaps it did not make sense to Ferry either, which is why I was impressed to find out that the Cavaliers did not deal for Stoudemire after all. Instead of sacrificing long-term viability for potential short-term gains (that may not even be necessary), Ferry pulled off the steal of the season (perhaps the steal of the DECADE).

In a move that should qualify Ferry as the leading contender for GM of the Year, he managed to upgrade his team on offense by bringing in Washington Wizards sharpshooter Antawn Jamison, all while preserving his team’s long-term viability… and he did it for essentially nothing!

Ferry did have to give up “Z” but that was no surprise. The Cavs may be losing a friendly face, but in terms of production they have only lost seven points, five rebounds, and 20 minutes per game. In return, they gain 20 points and eight rebounds from Jamison. But that was basically ALL that Ferry gave up, and it will likely only be a short-term loss. Most people anticipate that the Wizards will offer Ilgauskas a buyout on his contract, and he would be available to return to Cleveland after a 30-day waiting period, an option that Ilgauskas is very likely to pursue.

Along with Ilgauskas, the Wizards will get the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick for the 2010 draft. However, because of the championship aspirations in Cleveland right now, that first-round pick is likely going to be between somewhere in the neighborhood of the 28th through 30th spot. Additionally, the Cavaliers would likely ship whomever they selected off to the D-League, and may never see that player on the court in Cleveland anyway.

Ferry made a deal without REALLY having to make a deal! It was BRILLIANT!

Basically, the Cavaliers picked up Jamison, an outstanding scorer who can definitely upgrade the Cavaliers at the four position (which is by far their weakest spot on the floor), all for the cost of a yet-unknown prospect who would not have even made the Cavaliers active roster, and the (likely) 30-day loan of one of the teams sentimental heroes.

It should also be noted that Jamison is a cheaper option than Stoudemire, although he brings much of the same benefits that Stoudemire boasts. In addition, the Cavs are able to retain Hickson, a player with a bright future that could help Cleveland for MANY years to come, and the cost was virtually NOTHING.

I do not care what anyone says about three-game losing streaks, that Jamison’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform resulted in an 0 for 12 performance from the field, that the chemistry of the Cavaliers team has been disrupted, or any of the other so-called negatives that all those doom-and-gloomers out there will harp on incessantly. The Cavaliers are a better team WITH Jamison than they are WITHOUT him. Likewise, they are better with Jamison than they are with Ilgauskas. The fact that they may wind up having both men on their roster is just the icing on what is hopefully a championship cake for the city of Cleveland!

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The LeBron James Staying in Cleveland Debate – There’s No Place like Home

August 5, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument that James should stay in Cleveland, and Bleacher Fan’s argument that King James should leave for a bigger market.

Being based in the Cleveland area, I know that both Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan enjoyed this debate. This is a very touchy issue in Ohio – and New York and other large markets – but, it is one that is relevant and is likely going to be relevant until next June. Though I am not based in Ohio I also enjoyed this debate but for different reasons. I was particularly interested in seeing the case that Bleacher Fan could make for Lebron leaving Cleveland.

Coming in, I thought that Bleacher Fan would touch on issues that we have all heard in regards to King James leaving Cleveland. Everyone says, “Well, he can go to somewhere like New York and become a much bigger star” or “He can achieve more individual success in a larger market.” To Bleacher Fan’s credit, the article pointed out that Lebron James has already accomplished a lot individually with the All-Star games, gold medals, and so forth. Instead, the focus is on the fact that James cannot win as long as Bleacher Fan’s boy, Danny Ferry, is in charge. It is also fair to question some of the decisions Ferry has made in his tenure as Cleveland’s general manager, most notably the resigning of another Bleacher Fan favorite, Anderson Varejao.

Sports Geek started the opposing argument by proving what a softie he is (and that’s why Mrs. Sports Geek loves him). Once the mushy part was over, the article demonstrated how James really does not have to leave Cleveland to accomplish all of his goals. It is also apparent when reading the two arguments that Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek disagree on the job that Ferry has done in his time as general manager.

What turned the tide for me is the point Sports Geek made about LeBron not needing the market. It occurred to me that perhaps he MAKES the market. Did you see the NBA schedule that was recently released? The Cavs are on national television 29 times, including 14 at home. Almost all by himself (and with or in spite of Mike Brown, depending on which side you are on), James has made Cleveland a BASKETBALL market. Players want to come play in Cleveland and basketball fans, even the casual fans, want to watch Cleveland on television. Even fans from other cities go to watch their pathetic teams play when Cleveland comes to town. I have friends who care nothing about the Atlanta Hawks but who paid $100 a ticket to attend a Hawks game just to watch LeBron in person. Maybe Cleveland really does rock after all, right Drew Carey? James can continue to build his legacy from the comforts of his home state. He can still accomplish everything he wants both from a team standpoint and from a personal standpoint. He is already one of the most recognizable faces in sports. Perhaps, eventually, he can give Cleveland the championship it so richly wants (and thought it might get in 2008). Many Cavs fans are tired of seeing “The Shot” aired on television over and over again. It is like a dagger to the heart, and they need James to take that dagger out!

Now, whether or not James WILL stay in Cleveland is a totally different topic, and something only he knows the answer to. But, for this debate, Lebron should accept the extension and build on the legacy he is creating in Cleveland.

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The Lebron James Staying in Cleveland Debate – The King Is Leaving Cleveland By Way Of ‘Ferry’

August 4, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that LeBron James should stay in Cleveland.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the year of LeBron James has officially begun.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have kicked off this auspicious celebration by offering LeBron a contract extension. While the particulars of the offer are unclear (it is believed that the offer was for an additional three years), we can all rest assured that we will be hearing about this – and EVERY – offer LeBron will receive for the foreseeable future!

The good news for Cleveland fans? Although I find it HIGHLY unlikely that James accepts this offer, Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers will not go down without a fight. This is merely the first of what will be many attempts to convince the reigning MVP to stay in Cleveland. Cavs fans can at least sleep at night knowing that Ferry and team owner Dan Gilbert’s highest priority is to keep King James among his hometown fans for many years to come.

The bad news? It will still not be enough. The Cavaliers will be able to match any kind of offer that LeBron receives EXCEPT the one that matters most. The REAL reason why LeBron should skip town and head to greener pastures is because Danny Ferry will NEVER be able to build a championship team in Cleveland.

James is already an international superstar. He is already the highest paid athlete (including endorsements) in the NBA, has been named MVP, has played in multiple All-Star Games, and has represented his country in multiple Olympic Games. He doesn’t need to leave Cleveland to get any of those things, because he has already accomplished them WITH Cleveland. The one thing that he is not, though, is a champion.

Since joining Cleveland five years ago, Ferry has been criticized for an inability to lock-up “major” deals. In fact, it took him three seasons to make any kind of a serious move towards improving his organization, and that came in the form of a three-team trade which brought in center Ben Wallace, forward Wally Szczerbiak, guard Delonte West, and forward Joe Smith to the Cavs. In the season-and-a-half since those four joined the team the Cavs failed to reach the NBA Finals, Wallace was traded away, Szczerbiak’s contract is not being renewed, and the only reason Joe Smith (who was traded away last year) ended up in a Cleveland uniform at the end of last season was because the Cavs had a serious injury problem and needed fresh meat on the court. So much for improving the quality of the team with that transaction!

The other “big” trade Ferry put together was to bring Shaquille O’Neal to Cleveland, but it appears that deal was a couple of months too late. If he had been able to make this deal happen at the trade deadline during the season – when it first came up – it may have been enough to put the Cavs back in the Finals. However, Ferry could not get the deal done when it mattered most, and this comes off as too little too late.

With age and injury concerns, I have to question whether this deal was more about bringing a high-profile player to Cleveland than it was about bringing viable talent to the team. Sure, Shaq WAS a championship-caliber player. But, if he stays healthy (and that’s a big ‘IF’), his age still only gives him two more years at best where he will provide any kind of real impact at all.

Then you have the Anderson Varejao deal. At arguably the most critical time for the Cavaliers organization, the time when they need to prove to LeBron that they CAN put a championship team together, Ferry signs foward Anderson Varejao to one of the most absurd and laughable contracts I have ever heard of. I still cannot figure out what Ferry was thinking when he offered a six-year deal – worth as much as $50M – to a bench player with a reputation as a ‘flopper’ and only averages 8.6 points and less than one block per game. I guess that after failing to land Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, Ferry panicked and wanted to make it look like he was doing SOMETHING for the team.

Now, compare those moves to Ferry’s counterpart in Boston, Danny Ainge, who brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett into the Celtics in support of Paul Pierce. The result – Boston wins the NBA Championship. Or you can look at Mitch Kupchak, who managed to bring Pau Gasol to the Lakers. What happened next? The Lakers reach the NBA Finals that year (only to lose to Ainge’s Celtics), and they WIN the Finals the following year. THOSE are examples of REAL championship transactions.

Danny Ferry has proven time and again that he cannot pull the right strings to make Cleveland a championship team. If LeBron really wants to be called a champion one day, then he should get as far away from Danny Ferry as possible, and fast!

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The LeBron James Staying in Cleveland Debate – Home is Where the Rings Are

August 4, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that LeBron James would be better off if he left Cleveland for a bigger market.

It probably seems like this debate has been done, or even OVERdone. But, there are some essential truths that the mainstream media undervalues about LeBron James. For all of the talent, for all of the will to win, the business ambition, the Yankees hats, the international travel, AND the high profile New York friends… global icon and international basketball sensation, LeBron James, is misunderstood.

There’s a reason LeBron does not have the reputation as a “player,” a reason he does have his kids sitting courtside at home games, a reason he accepts his NBA MVP trophy at his high school (about a five minute drive from his multi-million dollar mansion – with traffic), a reason he holds an annual bike-athon in his hometown Akron, Ohio for charity, and a reason he leaves a bouquet of flowers on his mom’s courtside seat every Mother’s Day. The reason? He’s just a Midwestern family guy… plus all that basketball stuff, too.

I can hear Bleacher Fan exclaim as he’s reading this, “Sports Geek, you bleeding heart softie!!!” Okay then, let’s talk business.

There is little doubt that LeBron James will be a success in business, even by his own lofty standards of being the richest athlete ever. It is funny when really studying the Top 50 Richest Athletes list – where LeBron sits third – if only he could swing the crooked stick. And, ironically, his salary is the smallest percentage of his income, as he pockets a cool $28M in endorsements. Not bad for a guy without a ring from dinky old Akron.

Here’s something else our mainstream friends do not realize. Though he plays in Cleveland, he’s from Akron, which in Greek means “highest point.” Is there a better defined city for LeBron to represent as the richest athlete ever?

For our less literary inclined readers… LeBron James can become the richest athlete ever. He’ll make more money than once super-wealthy athlete and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher. For a better comparison, he’ll make more money than Michael Jordan. But, he doesn’t have to leave the homegrown comfort of Northeast Ohio to do it. In fact, it’s the ability to reach his goals – without leaving the Cleveland market – that will ultimately separate him from all of the other wealthy athletes throughout history.

Every rich athlete has gobs and gobs of money. But, they adapted their circumstances to fit their ambition. Schumacher traveled the world and signed the largest contracts with the sexiest racing teams and best sponsors in the most popular form of racing on the planet. Jordan had tremendous skill out of the gates in his professional career, but he also benefited from the Chicago media market to help augment his fame and fortune – despite those years playing baseball. LeBron has the skill but not the market. The difference is that he does not need the market.

LeBron is on track to realize his ambition without adapting his circumstances. He’ll continue to maximize the value of every contract, too – which is exactly why he should sign the extension Cleveland offered to him on July 18. The Cavs have shown a willingness to pay the luxury tax for the right player (yes, LeBron fits that bill). The Cavs can offer him max money now – a year before the salary cap is expected to begin coming down, meaning the sooner LeBron signs, the more money he’ll squeeze into his contract. Plus, the players that LeBron is counting on being surrounded with (and his general manager Danny Ferry has shown the ability to get) are going to come to Cleveland – see Shaquille O’Neal. For example, Shaq said he would never sign with a team in a cold weather climate. LeBron’s presence made that happen. LeBron is attracting big time superstar talent to Cleveland. LeBron is the one player, maybe in the league’s history, that is able to take a smaller market and bring superstars to him. Superstars, and fame and fortune.

LeBron will not leave Cleveland because he does not have to. Good athletes always want a challenge, and LeBron is no different. For him, becoming the world’s richest athlete in a smaller market is just the kind of challenge LeBron loves – and can conquer. It is also the kind of challenge that will separate him from every other athlete in history.

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The 2009 NBA Worst Free Agent Move Debate – Wild Thing is No Rick Vaughn

July 20, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that the worst move is the Rockets signing Trevor Ariza and Loyal Homer’s argument that the worst move is the Magic re-resigning Marcin Gortat.

The original Wild Thing in Cleveland sports is not a 6-foot 11-inch center/forward from Brazil with ridiculous hair. No, the ORIGINAL Wild Thing was a pitcher out of the California Penal league with ridiculous hair. And while “Veg-head” may have stolen a car, Cleveland’s newest Wild Thing has just committed highway robbery!

Anderson Varejao inked a new contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers last week that will keep him on the shores of Lake Erie through 2015, and could net him as much as $50 million dollars.

Surely, Varejao must be one heck of a player for the Cavaliers, who are trying to do everything in their power to keep LeBron James in town, to make that kind of an offer! I mean, it’s not like they would give that contract to a center/forward who averages less than one block per game and only scores 8.6 points per game off of the bench, would they?! Apparently, they would!

I do not mean to imply that Varejao is a worthless player. He is a high-energy player with above-average defensive skills, and he is not afraid to give OR receive a hard foul. The best word to sum up Andy’s style is, “hustle.” He will give 100 percent of himself every minute that he is on the court. Since when did hustle warrant that kind of cheddar, though?!

Varejao’s time spent with Cleveland has always been tenuous. During a contract holdout in 2007, the Cavs refused to offer him a five-year, $45 million deal. When Varejao realized that NOBODY was going to offer him that contract, he finally accepted an offer sheet from the Charlotte Bobcats for MUCH less. The Cavaliers matched that offer, and were able to keep him on their roster.

When that contract came up for renewal this past offseason, the Cavaliers gave every indication that they were willing to part ways with the Brazilian. Once again, it appeared that Varejao and his agent, Dan Fegan, were going to ask for another ridiculous contract, and Varejao declined to exercise his contract option with the Cavs for the 2009 season.

Something changed, though, within the Cavaliers organization. Whether it was the Cavaliers’ inability to sign free agent Trevor Ariza, or the rumored interest that Varejao was receiving from the Portland and Oklahoma City organizations, the Cavaliers surprisingly decided to make this offer to Varejao, which drew much skepticism from the public.

Whatever sparked the change of heart for Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry, they are now stuck with a sub-standard offensive player who, despite a high level of intensity, is a very sloppy ball handler. With all that, he has also gained a reputation as a flopper, something the NBA officials are quick to recognize. As a result, he has drawn the scrutiny of the NBA officials, and therefore gets little to no leeway from them when he is playing.

I sure hope Danny Ferry knows what he is doing. His entire career rides on every decision he will make in the next year, and whether or not he will be able to keep LeBron James in Cleveland. If LeBron ends up taking his talents to another city after this season, this will be added to the list of doubts cast on his ability to be an effective general manager, and it will likely result in his unemployment.

The Fire Mike Brown Debate – In Defense of Mike Brown

June 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s opinion.

We’ve all had a bad day at work before, right? Somebody says something snarky in a meeting, or grates on nerves, or steals credit for a project. Instead of just letting it go, what do you do? You vent. You might vent to a co-worker in a back room or call a friend in a hallway. When you vent you don’t think about being politically correct, or taking everyone’s feelings into consideration. You just want to vent… you want to get those negative feelings out of you. Who’s to say having a front office job for a major NBA franchise doesn’t have the same situations taking place? My guess is that’s all that happened – in contrast to the “reports” that surfaced Thursday stating the Cleveland Cavaliers were considering firing reigning Coach of the Year, and owner of more pair of fashionable glasses than any other grown man, Mike Brown. The sports media is, once again, making a big deal out of nothing. Plus, Mike Brown does not deserve to get fired.

How does a guy get a prestigious award like NBA Coach of the Year? Coaching a team that went 66-16 in the regular season, and 39-2 at home, is a good start. Brown has been credited far and wide for inspiring his star LeBron James to put in the same effort on the defensive end of the floor as he always has on the offensive end. Mike Brown has made LeBron James a better defender and a more complete basketball player. In fact, James has grown so much as a player in the 2008-2009 regular season that he earned his first NBA MVP award this year. Mike Brown is good for LeBron James.

Mike Brown has also improved as a coach each year he’s been in the NBA, despite the fact that he has really only had one consistent contributor on the roster since he started coaching – LeBron James. Brown, like James, has suffered from a lack of talent and depth on the roster. It’s hard to install elaborate motion offense if the other players on the team cannot hit an open shot. Which leads me to my next point…

The Cavaliers do not have abundant talent on their roster, Bleacher Fan. How can Mike Brown be asked to create a championship team with only one championship player? The Cavs have no dominant big player (a must for any championship-quality team in this era of the NBA). They also lack depth in the backcourt. For Bleacher Fan to claim the Cavaliers had superior talent to the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals is completely false. The Magic have 4-5 players who can take a game winning shot – the definition of a true team. The Cavs have one, which they proved.

Those realities make it unfair to place all of the blame for the Cavaliers unlikely demise at Brown’s feet. Name any championship coach in NBA history – Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, Greg Popovich – and it’s easy to see they all had more than one championship caliber player on the roster who performed well on a consistent basis. It’s unfair to expect championship quality teams from Brown, but not give him the tools to live up to those expectations. The mismatches Bleacher Fan talks about were not manufactured by a coach. Stan Van Gundy didn’t make Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu grow to 6’10.” He didn’t sign them to contracts, either. Their General Manager Otis Smith did. Mike Brown is in a difficult situation because the lack of talent, height, and depth on the Cavaliers roster.

Brown’s job as a head coach is to formulate a philosophy that will win championships. He chose defense – a proven path to the Larry O’Brien trophy. The players even bought into that philosophy and played hard for him – another proof point that Brown is an effective coach.

Not only should the Cavs not fire Mike Brown, they can’t act unilaterally. It’s also important to note that LeBron is in a position in Cleveland where all decisions regarding coaches and personnel must be approved by him. You can’t fire the coach for the best basketball player on the planet and not consult him… unless you want zero chance of resigning him when his contract expires in 2010.

The key to helping Mike Brown fully realize his potential as a coach is getting him more good players that perform consistently and fit his philosophy. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not an athletic, tough center. Neither is Anderson Varejao. Or Joe Smith. Or JJ Hickson. Mike Brown’s success is in part tied to Danny Ferry’s ability to surround the franchise star with more talented players. Even good coaches can’t make something out nothing.

The Fire Mike Brown Debate – Should The Cavs Fire The Coach of the Year?

June 12, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s opinion.

The 2009 NBA Finals is in full swing, and that should be the focus of NBA fans right now. But, rather quietly, Mike Brown’s status as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been called into question by some.

Congratulations Coach Brown. After winning 66 regular season games this past year, you have to fight for your job?

There are conflicting reports about Brown’s status.

Reportedly, several “sources close to the situation” are saying that the front office is divided on the status of Brown’s future. Others are saying that Brown’s job is safe. If the reports about a divided front office are true, what should Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry do?

Brown’s record after four years is an impressive 211-117. That’s a .643 winning percentage. Not too bad, huh? How about a 66-16 record this past season, including 39-2 at home. And, oh yeah, he is the reigning NBA Coach of the Year!

That’s the good news. Now, the bad news.

Brown’s team (or maybe LeBron’s team?) made the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as the odds on favorites over the talented Orlando Magic. But, they were upset by the Magic in six games. King James is due to be a free agent after next season (in case you haven’t heard… and if you haven’t, where have you been?).

The question posed by Loyal Homer, and by a good portion of America’s sports fans, is:

Does Mike Brown deserve to lose his job as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Brown hasn’t taken this team to the next level and more is expected by the coach of LeBron James’ team.

Sports Geek will argue that Mike Brown has done enough to keep his job.

Present your case to me so I can make one of you happy and one of you mad!