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!