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Defending Lebron’s decision and pondering how good the Heat will be July 11, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, NBA.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I still don’t condone what Lebron James did when he announced he will be taking his talent to South Beach, but now that the dust has settled a little, I am beginning to get a different perspective.

Yes, I am going to defend Lebron’s decision.  Not the way he declared it to the world, but ultimately, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers is a good decision.

(click on ‘more..’ to read on)

Defending Lebron’s decision to go to the Miami Heat

We say Lebron is selling out to join 2 other superstars in Miami — but did Chris Bosh not do the exact same thing in abandoning the Raptors and joining Wade (and let’s face it, most likely with the knowledge that Lebron was coming too)?  The only difference is that Bosh did it the RIGHT way by making it clear from the start he’s likely to leave and he didn’t act like a prick by pretending he might stay, only to tell everyone on a national TV special that he’s leaving.

I think we all want Lebron to be perfect and do what WE want him to do as opposed to what we would do if we were in HIS position.  We would all (except for Heat fans) have loved it had he persisted with the Cavs and eventually brought them a championship.  We want him to be the hero that stuck it through the tough times and did it “by himself”.

However, Lebron realized he’s not going to win in Cleveland (can’t even get out of the East, let alone challenge the Lakers) and he would have a great chance if he went to Miami.  If you were in his position would you stick it out knowing that you probably won’t win a championship for the next five or six years at least, if ever?  Or would you give yourself the best chance to win by going to (from what I hear) the nicest city in the country and play with your two best friends?

And it’s not like he joined the Celtics or the Magic, the teams that ousted the Cavs the last couple of seasons.  These guys are his friends.  He’s never even faced the Heat in the playoffs.

How is this different to say when Shaq left the Orlando Magic to join the LA Lakers after failing to deliver a title to them?  At least Lebron is going because he wants to win.  Shaq just wanted to make more movies like Kazaam and Steel.  And apart from joining the Heat (to get away from Kobe), didn’t Shaq take the easy way out by joining teams like the Suns and the Cavs for the sole purpose of winning more championships?

What about Kevin Garnett?  How is this different to him joining Paul Pierce’s team, along with Ray Allen, to form the Big Three in Boston?  Instead of sticking it out with the Timberwolves until the end of his career, he took the easy way out by giving himself the best chance to win.  Should Lebron have waited until he was KG’s age before leaving?  The emotional decision is seldom the smartest one.

People forget that guys like Magic, Bird, Jordan, Duncan and Kobe all had plenty of help in winning their championships.  Not one of these guys did it “on their own”.  They were just more lucky than Lebron in that they had a better supporting cast.  Should Lebron have been more patient and waited for the help to come to him?  Probably.  But don’t forget Kobe demanded a trade (which is even worse than leaving via free agency) and is only where he is now because the Lakers refused to give in to his demands.

Isn’t free agency all about allowing players to be “free” to choose what team they play for?  What’s the point of it if players are pressured into staying with the same team out of loyalty, regardless of how hopeless that team is?

Once again, I bring it back to the WAY Lebron destroyed Cleveland fans’ hearts.  Maybe he was being honest when he said that he didn’t really decide until the last day (I don’t buy it).  But even assuming he was, why the whole TV debacle?  It was a reflection of just how clueless Lebron is as to what he means to Cleveland and the state of Ohio.  All he was thinking was how momentous this announcement was (after all, that’s all we’ve been telling him for the last two years) and how important he is (he’s been hearing this since he was 12).  Surely one of his many handlers would have whispered in his ear, “I don’t think this is such a good idea.  You’re already abandoning them — don’t make it worse!”

I’d be curious to hear how Cavs fans would have felt had Lebron simply said after the Cavs exited the 2010 playoffs that he was going to join the team that gave him the best chance to win and that there was a very real chance he would be leaving, and then, after telling the Cavs owners, release a simple media statement and then a press conference.  Would it make them hate him any less?  Surely they wouldn’t be burning his jersey in the streets?

Having said all of this, the reactions of the fans and owner Dan Gilbert have not exactly done anything to make Lebron regret his decision.  After all the courting, the pleading, and all the sucking up to make Lebron think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, they turned on him just as quickly.  They are understandably hurt, but doesn’t it (and Miami’s opposite reaction) just show that sports heroes are only revered and loved as long as they act in the interests of their fans and owners?  They can literally go from most loved to most hated in a split second.  And Lebron was only loved because of what he brought to them and made them feel.  As soon as he was no longer of value to them they tore him to shreds.  Why would Lebron want to make the biggest decision of his life for these people rather than for himself?

Lebron may have shown his “true colours” that night, but he wasn’t the only one.

How good are the Heat going to be?

This is such an intriguing question.  As I said in an earlier post, the Miami Heat now have two of the top three players overall in the entire NBA playing for the same team, plus a top five power forward.  All three are in their primes.  Lebron is 25, D-Wade is 28, and Bosh is 26.  If they stay together and get the proper pieces around them, this team is going to contend for a title for at least the next six years.

That’s why if Lebron truly wants to win at all costs, then leaving Cleveland was the best decision for him at this stage of his career.  If he stayed, maybe the Cavs eventually get him the supporting cast he needs (not that they hadn’t been trying for the last few years).  But he’s 25 and he wants to win and he wants to win now.

Some say Lebron’s best chance to win was to go to the Chicago Bulls and join a solid nucleus of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and new addition Carlos Boozer.  Had he done so, that would have been a pretty impressive team too, probably even better than what the Heat will be next season.  But the trio of James, Wade and Bosh is far more interesting in my opinion.

First, I don’t think many realise just how good a team the Heat are going to be with Lebron and D-Wade.  Not since Kobe rose to prominence while Shaq was still in his prime in 2001 have we seen such a lethal combination.  This is Jordan-Pippen territory we’re talking about.  They are unselfish, all-round players who play on both sides of the court, two of the best finishers in the game, and with the exception of Kobe Bryant, the two most unstoppable players in the league when they are feeling it.

Lebron averaged 29.7 points (second in NBA), 7.3 rebounds (fourth among SFs), 8.6 assists (first among SFs and sixth in the league) and 1.64 steals (ninth in the league) per game last season.  Wade, on the other hand, averaged 26.6 points (fifth in NBA), 4.8 rebounds (sixth among SGs), 6.5 assists (first among SGs and 1oth in the league), and 1.84 steals (fourth in the league).

Throw on top of that Chris Bosh, one of the elite big men in the NBA who is well into his prime.  Bosh averaged 24 points, 10.8 rebounds and shot almost 52% from the field last season.  As power forwards go, from a statistical standpoint, Bosh was arguably the best in the NBA.  Amongst PFs in the league, he was third in double-doubles with 49 in 70 games, second in scoring (behind Dirk Nowitzki), fourth in rebounding and seventh in field goal percentage.  At just 230 pounds, Bosh is going to get abused on the defensive end by some of the big bangers on opposing teams.  But as trios go, this is the best in the NBA (far outweighing Boston’s Pierce-KG-Allen trio when they first combined and gets a strong nod over the Lakers’ Bryant-Gasol-Artest trio).

Second, I don’t think egos are going to get in the way as many are speculating.  In willing to take a pay cut and public scorn by jumping from their respective teams, Bosh and Lebron have shown that they value winning above all else.  Lebron and Wade are guys that always try and make the right play, whether it is scoring or passing.  Bosh looks like he acknowledges that Lebron and Wade’s statuses are above his and he’ll defer to them when necessary, but being a terrific finisher himself, opponents won’t be able to leave him alone either.  They played together on Team USA with great success, and have tremendous respect for each others’ games and abilities.  If they were that concerned about who is going to take the last shot they would never have ended up on the same team.

Third, who is going to supplement the Big Three?  How many veterans are going to be willing to take a pay cut to play alongside these three guys?  How many previously unheralded players are going to step up and be that big time role player?

The biggest misconception is that the guys filling out the remainder of the roster are going to be useless scrubs.  People forget that no matter who ends up on that team is still a professional basketball player in the best league on the planet.  Some of them will thrive in situations where all they’ll only have one or two roles to fulfill (eg defend or rebound or hit open threes).  It’s bound to happen.

Anyway, right now all we know is that the Heat will have third-year, serviceable point guard Mario Chalmers.  He’s no Rajon Rondo, but he doesn’t need to be.  The question is whether he’ll become more submissive or confident playing alongside three All-Stars.  They should also have reserve center Joel Anthony, who could get a bigger role depending on who else they add.

At the moment there is a lot of guessing but nothing concrete yet.  Sources say sharp shooter Mike Miller is close to signing a deal with the Heat, and if so, he’ll be a massive asset shooting open jumpers all day.  Let’s not forget Miller shot over 50% from the field, 48% from 3-point range and 82% from the line last season.

Who else?  Banger Udonism Haslem is a distinct possibility and would be a wonderful piece to add to the puzzle.  Reliable point guard Earl Watson from the Pacers is another.  What about the defensive-minded, offensively competent Raja Bell?  Derek Fisher?  There are even whispers of Shaq following Lebron back to where he won his last title.  All they need are a couple of these types of guys and a few youngsters to step up, and the Heat will be prohibitive favourites alongside the Lakers for the championship.


1. Nate - July 12, 2010

that dust is far from settled my friend. I’ve had to hear about this *non issue* for months! and see it on every newspaper, and now people won’t shut up about it. It’s far from over.

pacejmiller - July 12, 2010

Haha — I wonder how the New Yorkers feel about this considering they gave away everything for a chance at landing Lebron and in the end they weren’t even close…at least they got an offensive minded power forward with knee problems in return!

2. Matthew Ho - July 12, 2010

great analysis. i agree that its more intriguing and will bring more interest to the sport in general with this new big 3.

one issue that i have is that the NBA draft was meant to bring some parity to the league. By giving the worst teams the best picks of players entering the NBA. Toronto, Miami and Cleveland signficantly improved through the draft and made playoff appearances and in miami’s case won a chip.

Now these draft picks, have decided to collude and create a super team. There’s a lack of parity now, as the better teams get EVEN better!

They were free to choose where to go, and I have no problem with that. But NBA Live would never let you make this trade!!

Your a competition lawyer, you can explain it better than me =

pacejmiller - July 12, 2010

Tell me about it…I’m a Pacers fan, remember?

Not only can the Pacers not draft anyone good because they keep winning at the end of seasons to sabotage their pick, no free agents are willing to come to Indiana…

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