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 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 LeBron Handshake Snub Debate – Who Shall Cast the First Stone?

June 4, 2009

(Site note: Look to the bottom of this post to find links to the other opinions and intro to this debate).

As hard as it may be for fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers to believe, LeBron James IS human. When you cut him, does he not bleed? Despite superhuman qualities on the court, he even feels sadness and anger. Is it really that hard to believe that a man whose life has been built around athletic success would get upset when he loses in a competition that he was “supposed” to win?

LeBron has accomplished many things in his short career. He’s been named NBA MVP, made multiple All-Star appearances, represented his country in two Olympic Games (and won one gold medal), made more money than he can ever spend, and still has the majority of his career in front of him. Despite the success, there is still one achievement that eludes him. The one thing he wants more than anything else… a championship.

Over the past two years, Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry took it upon himself to build a championship team around LeBron. In 2008 he orchestrated a blockbuster, 3-team deal which brought in guard Delonte West, small forward Wally Szczerbiak, power forward Joe Smith, and center Ben Wallace. In the off-season, Ferry added point guard Mo Williams to the roster. On paper, it looked like the Cavs were moving in the right direction.

Throughout the 2008-2009 season, all signs pointed toward championship. The Cavs finished the regular season with the best record and one of the best home records of all time. For the first time in franchise history, they had the top overall playoff seed, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Then, the playoffs began.

The Cavs swept the Detroit Pistons in round 1, with round 2 bringing more of the same as they swept the Atlanta Hawks. Once again, everything seemed destined toward a championship for LeBron.

But, that’s where the story ends. In the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron and his Cavaliers were faced with a harsh reality in the form of an Orlando Magic team that seemed to always be one step ahead of them. Thanks to mismatches on the court combined with nearly unbelievable field-goal and 3-point shooting accuracy, the Magic dispatched LeBron and his Cavaliers in six games. It could have easily been only four games if not for some magical moments by “King James.”

It’s not like its LeBron’s fault! He averaged 38.5 points per game, along with averaging more than 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game. He did everything he could, but it wasn’t enough. Sure, he’ll probably win a championship eventually, but this year was SUPPOSED to be his first. So imagine the heartbreak, disappointment, and frustration he felt.

Now, in the heat of that agony, would YOU want to have that thrown in your face? Would YOU want to sit in front of a bunch of media reporters who will most likely try to instigate you into calling out one of your teammates for “dropping the ball?” Would YOU want to look into the eyes of someone who just stole your dream for this season and tell them “good job?” I wouldn’t.

Was it being a poor sport? Maybe. But, nowhere does it state that LeBron is required to shake another player’s hand. It is not required that he meet with the press, either. I find it ironic that people are mad at LeBron for letting his emotions dictate his actions, so they respond in an equally emotional and immature manner by launching a crusade against him. By the way, LeBron has up until this point been extremely gracious and welcoming to the media. LeBron is also the first to cross that half-court line pre-game and laugh it up with the players of the opposing team, including Dwight Howard, who was his teammate on the USA Basketball team during the 2008 Olympic Games. He meant no ill-will with his actions. He just wanted to be left alone.

And so I say to you, let the person (or should I say robot) who has never reacted to their emotion cast the first stone.

(Site note: Read the intro to this debate, Bleacher Fan’s opinion, Sports Geek’s opinion, and Loyal Homer’s opinion, too. Let the voting begin!!