Friday, July 9, 2010

Cleveland Seether: Cavs Get the "Business" End

First thing's first: LeBron James made himself bigger than the league with his University of Phoenix infomercial. Michael Jordan dealt in press conferences, and when he really wanted to get some tongues wagging, a fax. Cloaking sports history's most shameless self-promotion to date in the altruistic robes of charity is simply polishing a billboard-size turd of narcissism.

That said, Dan Gilbert needs to get over himself. The only differences between Miami poaching LeBron and Cleveland trying everything possible to poach Chris Bosh are that Bosh was blatantly obvious about his desire to get the hell out of Canada and that the Raptors were bound to get something for their pain. (Surely, Anderson Varejao's hot Brazilian blood would have greatly enjoyed Toronto in the winter.) Congrats, Danny, you've now scared the ever-loving shit out of every potential free agent/draft pick that may ever end up there, as nobody wants to feel like they're running for the door before the owner starts shooting.

All this bitching and moaning from Gilbert makes him look every bit the enabler, since ever since the day he bought the franchise, he's the one who's been green-lighting every move that's given LeBron this big a hammer in the first place. No one's said no to this guy since he was in about seventh grade, and you're surprised that he's not terribly concerned about your bottom line and your team's well-being? You dug this grave, don't begrudge someone else for throwing dirt on you.

Cleveland fans have fallen into the same trap that every small/medium market fanbase has since the advent of "big/small market" distinctions: they convince themselves that their athletes are theirs, they own their athletes, and they demand unconditional devotion from their athletes, even when those same fans reserve every right to boo and slam an athlete when his effort flags. When he leaves, you'd swear he'd bombed the Federal Building on the way out of town.

It's time for the city of Cleveland to get over themselves, as well. It's business. Always has been, always will be. Take it personal and decry the evil athlete all you want, just remember that no one's really listening.

What I'm more interested in, far more than how this new hydra in Miami will keep its three monstrous heads from eating each other, is what the Cavaliers decide to do from here. Frankly, the fans need to be glad that Chris Grant is in charge of the process instead of Danny Ferry, and let's examine why.

June 27, 2005: Danny Ferry hired as GM
August 2, 2005: Signed Larry Hughes to 5-year deal for more than $60M
--Hughes was coming off a 22-PPG season in Washington, and it was expected he'd be LeBron's caddy. In two-and-a-half seasons, however, he averaged 14.3, and his career's never really recovered.
December 5, 2007: Matched 3-year, $17M offer sheet for Anderson Varejao, including player option for 2009-10
--File this away for later.
February 21, 2008: Acquired Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, and Delonte West in three-team trade
--This deal waved the white flag on the Hughes and Drew Gooden era, bringing in a 33-year-old offensive albatross, a one-dimensional shooter, a guy who Seattle (20-62 that season, mind you) mysteriously gave up on after only half a season, and a former number-one overall pick who even then was standing on highway overpasses with a sign saying, "Will warm bench for food."
August 13, 2008: Acquired Mo Williams in three-team trade
--The Cavs only gave up Joe Smith and Damon Jones, so that part of the price was right, especially for a point guard who'd averaged 17 points and six assists for Milwaukee the prior two seasons. Unfortunately, Mo was only one year into a six-year, $51.5M contract.
June 25, 2009: Acquired Shaquille O'Neal in trade with Phoenix
--So, you've got a young, athletic, up-tempo team that you think may be on the threshold of a title, but you've got an aging, undersized albatross of a center. What to do? Oooh, how about trading him for an outrageously oversized albatross of a center who's two-and-a-half years older and has just gotten done weighing down the offense of another athletic, up-tempo team? Fair for all sides, sure. It simply reeked of two teams making a move for the sake of saying they were making a move.
July 9, 2009: Re-signed Anderson Varejao to six-year, $50M contract
--Eight points, seven rebounds, and 61 percent from the foul line apparently earned you $8.5M per year in Cleveland. Considering the Cavs were adamant about turning down a host of trade offers for J.J. Hickson (who had extremely similar numbers per 36 minutes), wouldn't it have made sense to remove the main obstacle from his path to the floor? The only way this deal would have made sense would be if every man, woman, and child in the greater Cleveland area bought Sideshow Varejao wigs to pay for it.
July 23, 2009: Christian Eyenga signs three-year contract with DKV Joventut of the Spanish League
--Who? Oh, yeah, their 2009 first-round draft pick. Sure, you had the last pick of the first round, number 30 overall. But if you're drafting a guy with absolutely no intention of seeing him come to camp that season, why not make a trade? Guys like DeJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, and Sam Young turned out to be fine picks in the second. San Antonio's won multiple titles not just because of the lottery luck that brought them David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but because they also don't punt the late picks. Blair slid to them at 37, Manu Ginobili was the next-to-last pick in 1999, and Tony Parker was the last pick of the first round in 2001. Cleveland hasn't even taken the draft seriously these last two seasons, and at least this year, they were smart enough just to not show up.

Cleveland fans, do you want a sign of optimism? Ferry's gone.

Unfortunately, the stink of some of these deals will linger on for a while.

Your team's got about $9M in cap room, but unfortunately, all the guys worth that kind of scratch are spoken for already. Asking you to get excited about the prospect of a J.J. Redick (a possible Wally 2.0), a Josh Howard (who's completely misunderstood all the talk these days about "going green"), or a Brad Miller (one of my Purdue boys, but he's kind of long in the tooth these days hisownself) is actually sort of insulting.

Still, LeBron has to react to his surroundings, and honestly, his surroundings aren't all that attractive. You wanna blame somebody? Blame the deals that came before and handcuffed your team's payroll. If this team looked good enough to stay with, maybe he might have done so.

These were LeBron's options: 1) playing with two Olympians and going to one of America's primo women-in-thongs destinations whenever he saw fit; and 2) playing with a guy in a fright wig and another who (allegedly) banged his mom in one of America's primo women-in-parkas destinations.

Tell me you'd make a different decision, and I'll call you a liar.

This isn't The Shot...

or The Drive...

or The Fumble...

...where the sports gods tempted you with thoughts of glory and then cruelly dashed your dreams. This was a business decision. A poorly played business decision that wipes excrement all over the decision-maker's "brand," but a business decision nonetheless.

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