The New York Influence Debate… An Irrelevant Big Apple Is Okay

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

When we first got assigned this topic, I was thrilled. I thought this would be relatively easy to argue. But then that Sunday night happened. If you missed it – and I didn’t because I watched much of the game (because this year’s Academy Awards bored me) – but the New York Knicks, in Carmelo Anthony’s third game wearing a Knicks uniform, upset the Miami Heat. I admit it made my argument maybe a tad more difficult. But hey, that was just one game, and just one game earlier those same Knicks did lose to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. Other than getting Spike Lee (Knicks), Rudy Guliani (Yankees), or whatever famous New York sports fan more face time on the tube, I don’t think it really matters what the teams in New York do. After all, we’re still going to talk about them!

It’s pointless to say we are going to ignore the teams in the Big Apple because that is just not realistic at all. Bristol, Connecticut (the location of ESPN’s headquarters) is about 100 miles away from downtown New York City, so there’s just no escaping the teams… even if we wanted to forget about them and throw them into obscurity with the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals, and other somewhat “forgotten” teams. New York City is the country’s largest market, so it would be ignorant of me to ignore that.

Each league doesn’t NEED New York to have a successful franchise. Until the past couple of seasons, how long has it been since the New York Jets have been relevant? Sure, they’ve made the playoffs a few times here and there, but did you know the Jets have only won more than ten regular season games once in the past 25 years before this past year? I think the NFL has done just fine without hearing about Rex Ryan’s foot fetishes and Mark Sanchez’s social life.

The New York Knicks haven’t been relevant since Patrick Ewing was traded to Seattle in 2000 (how many of you remember that Ewing played for the Sonics, by the way?). Despite the efforts of the much maligned Isiah Thomas (who belongs in our future “Who Not to Hire to Run Your Team” debate), and Hall of Fame coaches Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkens, the Knicks have been unable to put a worthy product on the court for New Yorkers for a decade. But that’s alright, because we have spent that decade laughing at the Knicks and the NBA has still grown. We’ve wondered how much Spike Lee is throwing away on watching a 30-win team play courtside every season. We’ve wondered how many times Isiah Thomas is going to keep resurfacing. Thank you New York Knicks. Even when you aren’t good, the league still flourishes because it gets to laugh at you as its whipping boy.

The Mets, when they aren’t borrowing money from Major League Baseball, have, with the exception of one year (2006), been out of the playoffs since the Subway Series. The Mets have become known more for blowing big division leads in the last month of the season, changing managers, and having members of its front office threatening reporters. Yet, still, MLB has flourished.

If you are a fan of a rival team of a New York team, then I’m sorry, but those teams aren’t going away. They can be stuck in mediocrity until kingdom come and they are still going to get possible more media coverage than your team. But, the leagues don’t need the teams in the New York markets to be successful. They are going to get the coverage anyway.

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The Biggest NBA Free Agency Mistake Debate… Amar’e Is a New York Sized Mistake

July 16, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

For the past two years it was told to anyone that would listen that the summer of 2010 would be the summer that the state of the New York Knicks would change. The Knicks had been largely irrelevant since the end of the Patrick Ewing era, but pieces were put in place and moves were made to clear enough room to make room at MULTIPLE maximum contract free agents this off-season. Much of that centered on acquiring the most coveted prize of all, LeBron James. There’s a reason Madison Square Garden was abuzz every time the Cavs came to town. Cleveland featured the player who was going to save their franchise. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Spike Lee becoming a face we have to see a lot.

First, the Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a max contract for five years for roughly $100M. Stoudemire is an extremely talented player. We can all agree on that. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were actually interested in bringing him back, but they were reluctant to go five years due to the expected wear and tear on Amar’e. Keep in mind that he entered the NBA straight out of high school. We’ve seen guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett (other guys who have entered the league straight out of high school) hit that wall a little sooner than others.

The Knicks obviously signed Stoudemire because he is a good player, but it was hoped that signing him would be a key to bringing James to the big apple. That never happened. James decided to chase the sunlight instead of the spotlight. Thus, the Knicks had to settle for Stoudemire as the big prize.

The entire off-season has to be a big letdown for the Knicks. If I am a Knicks fan, I’m a little disappointed in how this summer has played out. I certainly wouldn’t mind having Stoudemire on my team. But I have doubts about whether or not he can carry the load. Not to mention he has a history of injuries. I think I would want him as a complementary player. That’s essentially what he was in Phoenix. He really wasn’t even the best player out in the desert with his former team. It’ll be interesting to see how he player with Raymond Felton as opposed to Steve Nash. No offense to Tar Heel fans, but that’s quite a difference.

Likewise, Stoudemire has to be a tad disappointed himself. I don’t feel sorry for him at all because he is going to be quite the wealthy man. But career-wise, this is a risky move. He moves from the Valley of the Sun where he played with a two-time NBA MVP, to a team where he is expected to be “The Guy.” He was playing for a consistent contender in Phoenix, and now he goes to a team that hasn’t won more than 33 games the past six seasons.

It’s a risky move on both ends. Perhaps it works out, and Amar’e is able to make the Knicks relevant again. But from how it looks now, it just looks like this move could be a disaster on both sides.

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The Biggest NBA Free Agency Story Debate… Super Friends in Miami

July 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

It’s over! Done! Finished!

No, I’m not talking about the mind numbing drama of the LeBron James free agent extravaganza. I’m talking about the 2011 NBA playoffs. That’s right, I said it. Mark it on your calendars – July 8, 2010 – a date which will live in sports infamy because it is the day the Miami Heat won the NBA championship before the season even started.

In the immortal words of Will Smith, “Welcome to Miami, Bienvenido a Miami.” This city has just become the center of the basketball universe as three real life supermen – LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh – converge on the same team and leave the rest of the league reeling in the wake of this Earth shattering decision. This is the single most shocking development in NBA free agent history. Never before have stars of this caliber collaborated to assure the creation of a super team and potentially one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

For all the doubters and haters out there that question if three such stars can coexist and work well together I’d like to point out they already have. James, Wade, and Bosh are a world class trio and they’ve got the gold to back it up. Former Olympic teammates, the fearsome threesome helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in basketball at the most recent Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Olympic teams are comprised of the best players each country has to offer, and now three of the best players from the world’s best team will be running the boards during each home game in South Beach next season. One key to the Dream Team Reboot’s success was a less selfish approach to the game, something we are going to see demonstrated all season long in Miami next season. They have done it before, and they are going to do it again. Coexistence won’t be a problem, but deciding how to divide a league MVP three ways might be.

While I don’t pretend to be a soothsayer or fortune teller, anyone can see the writing is on the wall for the Heat to win multiple championships over the next five years. They pretty much have to, because LeBron’s legacy is riding on it. He cited the urgency to “win championships” as one of the most important factors in his decision. Wade and Bosh figure to help him do exactly that, and continue doing it for a long time to come. Last night during the ESPN coverage of “The Decision” Michael Wilbon said he thought that the Heat were likely to win three championships over four years. I think that’s a conservative estimate.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good teams out there, but they won’t be able to compete with this new breed of mega team. Riding the success of just one of these stars, Wade, helped the Heat make the 2010 playoffs. LeBron alone was enough to lead the Cavaliers to the conference semifinals, where his team even took a couple of games from the eventual conference winning Boston Celtics. Add them together, and throw Bosh in the mix, and this looks more like an honest to goodness All-Star team than anything else.

There is no way anyone else can compete with the Heat now, especially since a number of teams mortgaged their immediate future attempting to clear space for James. The Knicks have a great weapon in newly acquired forward Amar’e Stoudemire, but the Heat have three times the talent (if not even more) in James, Wade, and Bosh. While the Knicks wait yet another year to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle (and Knicks fans made no bones about who they want as chants of “Car-mel-o, Car-mel-o, Car-mel-o” filled the night sky around the Garden yesterday), the Heat will be dominating each and every game.

Despite tough words from the Cleveland’s owner, the Cavs now face the uphill battle of building a winning team without the anchor they’ve relied on for the past seven seasons. The voodoo-esque curse that he tried to saddle LeBron with, that he wouldn’t win a championship until he does right by Cleveland, is ridiculous for a two reasons: a) Dan Gilbert is an NBA owner not a gypsy and b) LeBron already did right by the Cavaliers for the past seven years. There is no way Cleveland poses a threat to Miami. The only team that stands a chance is the L.A. Lakers.

With the magic of yet another Phil Jackson three-peat in the making, Kobe Bryant will match his best against the Miami Triad. That seems more like a fair fight, but the smart money remains on the triumvirate of league greats. Kobe is great, arguably the greatest player of all time, but can even he hang with James, Wade, and Bosh? Only time will tell.

The emergence of the Super Team in Miami is revolutionary, athletes of the highest caliber placing winning above money and team above self. It is a model in sports that has a proven track record, but rarely been implemented. I do not think this will inspire other stars to follow suit, but it will make for the most interesting basketball of our generation.

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The NBA Free Agent Double Standard Debate… We Are All Witnesses… to a Crime

July 8, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Thank goodness it all ends today!

My office sits right in the heart of Cavalier Country (or perhaps LeBron Land is the more appropriate term), right next door to Quicken Loans Arena on East 9th Street in Downtown Cleveland. Outside of my office window sits one of the hundreds of banners hung all over town to tell LeBron James how much the city of Cleveland loves him. Outside and below my office window for weeks stood groups of people who were literally REQUIRED by their employer to stand, waving similar banners, blowing air horns, and inciting traffic to honk back at them.

Why? As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes, “So that these hard-working people can “beg a diva who doesn’t care about them to accept a $100 million contract.”

Sounds ridiculous, right?! Well, it is.

LeBron James has made a joke of himself (a WEALTHY joke, perhaps, but a joke nonetheless), and a joke of the good people of Cleveland. Whatever his decision, his actions leading up to tonight’s pathetic excuse for a serious announcement will have forever altered the relationship he has with the city he once claimed as his home.

If he leaves, he will join the ranks of Art Modell as one of the most vile, despicable people to have ever associated their name with Cleveland sports. If he stays, the pain and anguish that he put the city through will nevertheless hang like a shadow over the collective hearts of Cavs fans everywhere.

They will forgive him, but they will never forget.

And although this abhorrent display of pompous selfdom has reached a fever pitch since Free Agent season began on July 1, it is actually the culmination of a process that began several years ago.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that this circus developed organically, either. The NBA, and the greater sporting world at large, has actually been little more than pawns in a game that LeBron James and his cohorts around the league began playing more than two years ago. They have manipulated the league and its fans like puppets in a show, all designed to build up towards the climax that will be “The Decision.”

For the past two years LeBron has strutted all over the NBA like a tease on prom night, feigning interest in anyone who would bat an eye in his direction just long enough to get them worked up to a near frenzied state – only to a cold shoulder just at the point where it would make them crazier, rather than turn them off.

He has been very blatant in his intentions, and spoken openly about how excited he was to play the field when the 2010 period of free agency opened. He made it known that he would openly solicit all suitors, getting team officials and fans alike salivating at the possibility of having “The King” grace their own court.

For two years LeBron has dangled his free agency like a carrot on a stick, all for one reason – to inflate his already overinflated value. Unfortunately for everyone who is NOT LeBron James, his strategy worked.

So what did Dwayne Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, and Joe Johnson do? Like a shark smelling blood in the water, they joined in on the fun.

And of course the scavenging media quickly followed. Every tweet from one player to another, every piece of clothing that one of the players wore, and every game played in the city of a prospective future employer became a headline story. And when James, Wade, and Bosh allegedly met for a “summit” (the fact that it was even dubbed a summit is ridiculous) to seriously discuss all options and strategize what would be the best thing for each of them to do, the process which started out as little more than a self-marketing campaign took the plunge into full-fledged collusion!

If this three-ringed extravaganza had been put on by team officials trying actively to recruit LeBron and company, they would have immediately been punished. The NBA prohibits collusion among team officials because they don’t want teams to have the ability of manipulating league conditions to manufacture an unfair advantage over the players or fans.

That rule does not apply to players, though, and so LeBron and his buddies were permitted to run unchecked, and the result was the manipulation of EVERYONE, all for their own selfish gain. It was a vicious cycle that continued to feed itself, ultimately snowballing into one of the most absurd and ridiculous sports spectacles ever.

A pack of free agents, led by LeBron James, was able to completely monopolize the free agency process.

What would have surely been an intense period of contract negotiation instead transformed into a sports version of “The Bachelor.” with the free agents each holding open court to see which teams would jump highest and bend farthest to give all they had.

Teams cut their own throats for two full seasons, all on the promise that they would be “allowed” to talk to James, Wade, and the other free agents. Fans across the country had to endure frustration, grief, and anguish, all on the hope that it would be worth it after July 2010.

The problem is that only one team can sign LeBron James and/or Dwayne Wade, so what about those other teams? The New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks, for example, had dumped every possible contract they could to make as much cap room available as possible. If they should fail to land any of the marquis free agents (Amar’e Stoudemire will be playing in the Big Apple, but by himself that is small consolation) the teams will both be hamstrung for the NEXT three to five years, after having willingly committed suicide over past seasons.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are another organization completely crippled by this power heist the players have committed. LeBron James had worked the system so much in his favor that the Cavaliers literally NEED him to sign with them. They had invested so much time and money into supporting him that if he leaves, the team will be crippled. They will have no means to begin the rebuilding process, and would simply be cast aside like a used up husk, all because LeBron James no longer found value in their organization.

What will happen to the Cavs?

When the curtain falls on this Shakespearean tragedy, many teams will be left in utter ruin, all so that four or five free agents could get maximum contract offers (AND maximum exposure). They have hijacked the entire NBA, and forever altered the course of professional basketball.

If the NBA wishes to regain ANY control over the situation to prevent this from ever happening again, the league needs to impose the same restrictions on free agents as it does on team executives. The “business” of basketball should play out in a business-like fashion, with the same rules applying to both sides of the bargaining table. Without that EQUAL responsibility, you end up with what we are “Witnessing” today, which is a one-sided free-for-all, where the whims and egos of a few can assume far too much control over the many.

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The Getting LeBron James Debate… A Big Apple Shaped King’s Crown

June 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Living near Cleveland, and near LeBron James’ hometown of Akron, allow me to go on the record and say that I am disgusted with LeBron James.

I have written several pieces on LeBron throughout the last NBA season and post-season. I have also done several radio appearances where I genuinely voice dismay at James’ decision-making. It has become apparent to me now, on the eve of “The Decision” or “The Meetings” or whatever dumb name ESPN will slap on it, that LeBron James will respond to the strongest pitch he receives – and that pitch will come from the New York Knicks.

The Knicks essentially have to overcome two nuanced but primary advantages over LeBron’s stated frontrunner, the Cavaliers.

First, the hometown effect. I could bore everyone by stating the obvious advantages of living in New York versus living in Cleveland, but I think we all get that. Of course, LeBron does have strong ties to northeast Ohio, and those cannot be dismissed. But New York offers tremendous advantages that start with an unparalleled nightlife and an endless stream of admirers with the business opportunities LeBron covets. Sure the hometown is important, and I am sure the Knicks would allow for relocation for his entire family to New York in a few swanky downtown lofts… complete with Jay-Z rapping something about how home is where the heart is. New York has an edge here, if the reps play the diplomacy game properly. And I am sure they will.

Second, we all know that economics play a factor here. While it is true the Cavs can offer LeBron the most money, what is often left on the editing floor of virtually every story published on the subject is that Cleveland can only win the money game if LeBron were to sign a long term – six year – contract.

Since business thinking is driving this entire enterprise right now, I highly doubt that LeBron will sign a six year deal, no matter where he signs. That would mean he would be ineligible for free agency until he is 31-years old. We all know why this is such a big decision… because LeBron will play his prime years under the next deal. But it is just bad business to sign a six year deal. A three year deal means he can get max money from anywhere – the same amount. That neutralizes any Cavs financial advantage.

New York representatives can easily overcome any Cleveland advantage with a well crafted pitch. New York cannot be Cleveland or Akron, but it can host the people that make LeBron feel at home. New York cannot offer as much money, but it can offer the same amount of money – and a very enticing world where business and pleasure off the court are easily accomplished. New York also offers a connection to basketball’s history that is an X factor for a guy like LeBron who really does care about, and have respect for, the history of the game.

New York also has enough money to add at least one more high priced free agent, and likely another mid-level talent. New York sure has a lot of roster holes – a fact the brass does not back away from – but it sure has the space to make some key additions. LeBron and Joe Johnson, and one more talented player, is plenty of firepower. It is enough to remind us all of a move Boston made a few years ago. Should the New York representatives include that model in their presentation, it is hard to argue with the success.

Plus, if New York does not get LeBron, they will get some other big free agents. LeBron would have to choose to join them, or fight against them every chance he gets. I am guessing the New York brass may bring that up, depending on how the pitch interaction goes.

In a recent radio appearance I told ESPN radio’s insightful and entertaining Matt McClusky that LeBron had a decision to make between becoming a championship professional basketball player and becoming a global business and marketing icon. I wrote an article for The Sports Debates about LeBron choosing to remain in Cleveland, and that if he did, he would be choosing a real shot at a championship.

Choosing New York as his destination means choosing his business ambitions over basketball – and all of the distractions that come with it. While Michael Jordan won first and then began closing business deals, LeBron’s business ambition outpaces everything else. Whether it is selfishness or greed or both, neither is part of the formula for winning a championship.

So while I go on the record yet again stating that New York is the wrong choice for LeBron, I firmly intend to eat crow tomorrow on that statement. I expect LeBron to choose New York over Cleveland, to choose business over authentic, championship success. And while a chorus of “good riddance” rises from Akron, Ohio, New York is getting an incredibly talented, incredibly selfish basketball player that will tease fans with close calls – but never deliver when it counts. Cleveland has suffered enough on those types of outcomes.

To LeBron, I offer just one piece of advice – bring earplugs when you return to The Q… and when you return home for Thanksgiving.

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The 2009 NBA Draft Debate – This Draft Was No ‘Thriller’

June 26, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s opinions.

I don’t know about you, but to me, last night’s NBA Draft reminded me an awful lot of the American Idol auditions.

There’s some marginal talent, a lot of probable duds, and I just don’t see any of them turning into the next Michael Jackson of the NBA.

So in this year’s draft, where any pick after the first was ‘Bad’, I decided to give some credit to the one team with enough foresight to ‘Beat It’ right out of the draft – the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards were slated to pick at #5 and again at #32. Having come off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, they didn’t want to place their hope in some ‘Pretty Young Thing’ that may or may not pan out, especially in this lackluster draft. Their needs were immediate, and so new head coach Flip Saunders didn’t want to risk courting the new young boys of the NBA.

When the Wizards drew the fifth pick in the lottery this year, they immediately began shopping it around and listening to anyone who would make an offer. After soliciting offers from the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Portland Trail Blazers, they finally responded when the Minnesota Timberwolves ‘Moonwalked’ over and said they ‘Wanna Be Starting Something’ in a deal for that pick.

After negotiations were finalized, the Wizards traded away the expiring contracts of Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, and Oleksiy Pecherov – along with the fifth pick. In return, they received from the Timberwolves guard Randy Foye and combo forward Mike Miller, both of whom will make an immediate contribution to the team.

Foye, who averaged 16.3 points per game last season in Minnesota, will make an outstanding complement to the already dangerous guard rotation of Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, and Nick Young.

Miller, who shoots just above 40% from 3-point range, should also make an immediate impact for Washington, who struggled last year with a 3-point average of only 33%. His presence on the perimeter should also help create better scoring opportunities for teammates Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler.

Consider the impact of those two new players on the already explosive Washington Wizards offense now led by the very offensive-minded Saunders. Compare that upgrade to the players they could have taken with the fifth pick in the draft, like Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, or Stephen Curry. The Wizards were smart to take the experienced Foye and Miller and sneak out like a ‘Smooth Criminal’ in the night.

As for pick number 32, it was sold to the Houston Rockets for the small fee of $2.5 million. That $2.5 million could go a long way towards helping them land another key free-agent who will once again bring immediate results to a team that just last year was believed to be a serious playoff contender.

At the end of the 2009 draft – where even NBA Commissioner David Stern seemed to be half-asleep – the Washington Wizards still found a way to bring the right talent for their team and improve exactly where they needed… SHA-MON!

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 – Nobody Rides For Free

June 12, 2009

Rumors abound right now regarding the future of Mike Brown as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Cavs are smart, they’ll pull into a gas station, ask Brown to run in and ask for directions, then take off while he’s inside. I would get as far away from him as possible, and fast. Sticking with Brown may cost the Cavs LeBron James.

Sure, Mike Brown has coached a successful team. His record as a head coach is very strong, sitting at 211 wins to only 117 losses. It’s hard to argue those numbers. But, let’s realistically consider where those numbers came from – LeBron James.

LeBron is, without question, one of the best players in the game today. In a game where you play only five people at a time, having 20% of your on-court staff qualify as “one of the best in the game” gives you a distinct advantage. Basketball, unlike baseball or football, creates an environment where a team can be carried by a single player. In no way does a single player guarantee a championship; but, he can single-handedly take credit for many wins along the way. Therefore, I challenge anyone to prove to me that the Cavaliers’ success is due to anyone other than LeBron James.

“But Bleacher Fan,” I hear you say, “Mike Brown was named coach of the year! The Cavs CAN’T fire him.”

I argue, having watched the Cavaliers falter quite embarrassingly against the Orlando Magic, that Mike Brown did not win Coach of the Year because of his coaching ability. He won Coach of the Year because his team had the best record in basketball. To recap, WHY did the Cavs have the best record in basketball? Everyone say it with me… LeBron James!

Now, why did the Cavaliers lose the Eastern Conference Finals to the Magic? Because of Mike Brown’s coaching. Sure, the Magic were able to capitalize on mismatches created in the line-up, but those mismatches were manufactured by a superior coach, Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy out-coached Brown to the point that the Cavs actually looked like they didn’t belong in the Eastern Conference Finals.

To give Brown some credit, his strategy coming into each game was relatively strong. The Cavs were able to run up a quick (and rather large) lead in several of the games. Where Brown failed, though, was his inability to anticipate or respond to the adjustments made by Van Gundy, a much better coach. The end result was that Brown got schooled, despite having better talent on the court.

The 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, though, is not the first time this problem has popped up. The Cavaliers were outscored in the third quarter in 50% of their games this year (although the problem has been ongoing since Brown came on board). Mike Brown is incapable of making any type of a half-time adjustment. Think about it. The Cavaliers were one of the top two teams in first half scoring all year. Yet, somehow, during the halftime break, they became sub-standard. It is because the opposing coaches make adjustments during halftime that Brown is incapable of handling. This is something that can be overcome when playing teams like the New York Knicks or the Washington Wizards. When you are playing teams with superior coaches, such as Stan Van Gundy, the stakes get raised and overcoming that obstacle becomes a little more challenging.

Getting back to my original point, why should the Cavs fire Mike Brown? Because in pressure situations, against the better teams and better coaches, Mike Brown will always come up second best. Under Mike Brown, the Cavaliers will NOT win a championship, and LeBron will seek greener pastures as a result. If Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert REALLY wants to promise Cleveland an end to their championship drought, then he should begin with the taking care of the problem, and fire Mike Brown!

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s opinion.