Tag Archives: David Stern

Daily Rounds 12/10

The Knicks are reloading, under the premise that they won’t be able to acquire Chris Paul.  Reaction is coming quick and guess what?  The Knicks may not get their superstar and the fans are ok.  The Knicks are close to moving pieces to make the Tyson Chandler signing official.  Tim Smith of the Daily News believes that THIS could be the move that finally adds the element of the game that most fans/experts knew was missing: defense.  Alan Hahn of Newsday says this move is beginning to give the team a boost of confidence that will surely help them moving forward.  Mike Vacarro of the Post says the time is now for Mike D’Antoni to deliver.  Or else.  Marc Berman in his report also had a nugget about Mike Bibby being on his way today to sign a contract to become a New York Knick this morning.  Interesting. Ian Thomsen of SI.com sees some similarities between the Knicks team getting Chandler and Boston getting Garnett.  

I’m happy that the Knicks are opting for the more realistic approach.  It seemed that they were waiting for the next superstar every single year.  Rebuilding a perennial doormat in a basketball crazy town is difficult but I believe that this move more than the CP3 move is needed.  Chris Paul would’ve been a luxury.  One more super friend added to the list.  Yes, having the offensive talents of all three would’ve been great but the game of basketball only allows ONE ball to be in play and so to have 3 guys share ONE basketball would’ve been a difficult transition for all three.  Something the Heat are still trying to master.  The Knicks however won’t have to worry about that.  This move ALMOST takes them out of the CP3 running though there is a restructuring clause that allows the three guys with the big money contracts to work around their deals to free up cap space and give the team money to make a run at him.  But let’s for a moment think realistically and admit that the CP3 deal is dead and deal with the here and now.

Here comes Tyson Chandler.  7’1 clogging up the paint as would be scorers try to have their way with quick slashing point guards and scorers.  This is what the Knicks needed.  A body occupying the paint that won’t allow teams to automatically score like its a lay up drill.  No the defense wasn’t that bad, but by most metrics Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire aren’t exactly getting All-Defensive nods.

Its interesting though to look at the parallels between that Celtics team and this current Knick team.  Chandler is not what Garnett is in terms of an offensive threat.  But Garnett eschewed that when he came to Boston and he went to work on the defensive front to ensure that they would be a formidable team on that end.  He knew what his lot on that basketball team was.  His job was to make sure nobody THOUGHT about coming into the paint and if they did, they did so at their own risk.

Now, injury aside, the Knicks did the right thing.  Kinda.  I don’t love this move because it completely throws all the risk on to Amar’e knees.  Without the amnesty clause in the Knicks back pocket they are completely unprotected from a catastrophe befalling Amar’e’s knees and killing the Knicks over the final 3 years of this contract.  For four years, Knick fans will wait with baited breath everytime Amar’e falls to the floor.  If for any reason he doesn’t get up, Knick fans will be worried and have the face they get when relatives call with bad news.  MSG cameras will find fans with hands over their mouth and wide eyes.  Guys holding their hips looking up at the jumbotron.  Guys with their hands on their heads saying nothing for five minutes and then composing themselves and offering up the biggest FUCK YOU!  You know the kind where you summon all the strength from the pit of your stomachs?  Yeah, THAT kind.

But the Knicks made the right move.  I began to think about what Donnie Walsh would’ve done in this situation.  Yes Donnie is still involved as a consultant but the decision falls on Glen Grunwald and God bless him.  This is HIS stamp.  Glen Grunwald decided that the time was NOW for the Knicks.  That Chris Paul was headed, likely, for a successful few years in Los Angeles where he would take the crown from Kobe and take over Hollywood.  Grunwald knew he couldn’t put all his eggs in one basket waiting for the chance to not have a seat once this game of musical chairs ended and thus decided to take his chances on Chandler for this, and the next four years.  Is the price high?  Depends.  That isn’t obvious to me at this point.  The only thing obvious to me is that the Knicks have gotten better on paper.

But what if the Knicks had done the patient Donnie Walsh approach?  We would most likely be looking at a Billups-Fields-Anthony-Stat-Turiaf team that never really got the chance to get a full season under them to mesh.  Fields regressed after the Anthony trade because he was unsure how he fit in.  Could they have been better?  Sure.  But the same defensive lapses would’ve been prevalent.  But now, you play the season out and you say forget CP3.  That trade, as proposed and which eventually will get done as trade talks have resumed, would’ve put the Lakers out of the running for Howard.  Howard may get traded to Dallas (for who I want to know because I see nobody on the Mavs that I would be excited about if I were the Magic), OR to New Jersey.  I don’t see him necessarily staying there.  The Knicks may have had a chance to sign Dwight Howard as a free agent.

Of course that’s a chance that if you were willing to take, could’ve been a possibility.  But there were no guarantees.  Just like this deal isn’t guaranteed to make the Knicks better.  Every deal has its finger crossing moments.  But think about how Amar’e re-did his image during the first half of last season.  He took over leadership.  We laughed when he boldly proclaimed the Knicks were back.  Who were they coming back with?  Raymond Felton?  Wilson Chandler?  Timofey Mozgov?  Give me a break.  Well, guess what?  The Knicks were back.  It made Melo get antsy watching everything happening at the Garden and want to force a trade there and they did no matter how many times I objected to it.  Had the Knicks waited for Anthony to come on board this season, imagine what the starting five would’ve been:

PG- Raymond Felton
SG- Wilson Chandler
SF- Carmelo Anthony
PF- Amar’e Stoudemire
C- Ronny Turiaf

Bench:  Mozgov, Gallinari, Fields, Douglas, Walker, Shawne Williams

That’s a legitemate contender in the East.  The Knicks don’t need an elite point guard.  Now imagine the Knicks still had that team and went up to Orlando and said, here’s Gallinari, Felton and Mozgov and we’ll sign Wilson Chandler and trade him to you to make the numbers work.  You’re telling me the Magic would’ve automatically rejected that?  You’re telling me the Knicks couldn’t have put that to the Hornets?  The Knicks would’ve had a Big 3.  Unfortunately the Knicks couldn’t wait.  They were too itchy.  They were coerced into making a trade that if you asked Donnie Walsh in private circles with a few scotches and two packs of Marlboro Reds in him whether they should’ve waited on the Anthony deal he would’ve said yes.  It was the right move.  The Knicks were building something.  They had a solid team that, if you watched them, HAD a solid young core learning to play with each other.  I liked that team.

No I loved that team.  That team made it worth it to watch the Knicks again.  They were fun.  They liked each other.  The Garden was bumping again.  They gave the Celtics fits and that team wouldn’t have laid down against the C’s like they did in Game 4.  No, that team fed its energy off the crowd.  The teams that went to the playoffs in the 90’s were built around one superstar and a bunch of guys whose careers were never promised to them, but earned.  Yes they were talented but they were not great players.  The Mavs proved that teams win championships.  Guys like Tyson Chandler are the guys that the Knicks were avoiding.  Guys like Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, are guys the Knicks were not going for.

The Knicks did the right move.  This was a basketball move to make the Knicks relevant again.  Am I sad that they have little to NO SHOT of getting Chris Paul or Dwight Howard now?  Sure.  But I saw a guy take his team through a 64 team tournament on his back.  One superstar in his one year in college.  Carmelo Anthony CAN lead his team but he needs a team.  Grunwald is building him a team.  I’m glad.  The Knicks and its fans deserve one.

Go New York! Go New York! Go!

More reaction is coming out from that CP3 deal, which according to multiple sources is now being reworked and reframed to the Commissioner’s liking, and it ain’t good.  Mike Wilbon of ESPN thought it showed how gutless the league and David Stern had become and speaking on similar themes, Bill Simmons said this will be the moment we knew that Stern didn’t have it anymore.  Vishnu Parasuraman said the financials of the deal made no sense for the Hornets, a league owned franchise, to do.  

Most people looked at the deal from just a player perspective and said this is a fair deal.   They looked at Stern’s veto as being part of a larger fight between players and owners from their days at the bargaining table.  They saw it as something personal and not business and that’s why feelings were hurt and people took such vitriol and hatred out against Stern.  Which quite frankly was understandable.

Look, David Stern made the unpopular move but fair move considering the uncomfortable position he’s in with all 29 owners being part owners of the Hornets.  Its not an easy position to be put in but the Commissioners job has never been an easy job.  But this move seemed shady from the moment it was announced.  Then the slap in the face: it was shot down for basketball reasons.

I understood it from a business sense: Who’s going to buy a team that has no viable superstar to build the team around or prospects of having a top draft pick in 2012?  That’s why that Clippers deal was probably the best from a selling standpoint.  Get young players AND get enticing draft picks.  The Clippers offer, EVEN WITHOUT Eric Gordon would’ve been better per say.  But this deal would’ve allowed the Lakers to save $10 million, money that would’ve went into resigning Paul to a long term extension.  But you have the problem of Andrew Bynum’s contract which is a player option for next season.  Something he would’ve picked up had he remained on the team leaving the Lakers with 6 million before the luxury tax.  That’s why I felt that Bynum’s contract has to be moved in order to clear space for Howard.

But here’s the crazy part of this.  Say Dwight Howard decides that he wants to come to the Lakers.  Say the Magic and the Lakers don’t work out a trade during the season after the Lakers trade away everyone FOR Chris Paul.  The Magic don’t find any takers for Dwight Howard or can’t make a deal that appeases them.  In the offseason the Lakers can still pull a sign and trade and offer Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard which would clear out about 16 million in cap space to use that money on signing Dwight Howard.  In that scenario the Lakers could win with CP3, Bynum, Metta World Peace and Black Mamba, and then go into next year, get younger and much better with a core of CP3, Metta, Mamba, and Dwight Howard.  Now, in that scenario imagine what players who are in the I’m chasing a ring portion of their careers would think?  Wouldn’t that situation be more appealing than playing for the Miami Heat?  Somehow, Kobe wins.  LA wins and most importantly and more to the disdain of Dan Gilbert, big markets win. *
*= This is all pending that I’m understanding this new CBA correctly.  

But the hate towards Stern was expected but given the fact that the Lakers were basically giving themselves cap space to sign Howard and CP3, this looked bad.  But we see, thanks to Grantland’s Vishnu, that it was bad financially for the league’s teams.  Why would owners agree to a deal that virtually had them paying more for a team they are in direct competition with?  That doesn’t make sense.  It makes sense for the teams involved.  The Lakers we know why it makes sense.  For the Rockets it gives them a big man to fill the space that Yao Ming left when he retired and then they could’ve made a run at Nene by offering him a lot more money than I’m getting the feeling that Denver is actually willing to give up to sign him.  The Hornets would’ve had a nice complement of talent and a number one draft pick (to be fair barring a complete collapse and multiple injuries that pick from the Knicks is going to be a late first rounder).  They would’ve been a playoff competitor.  Yet, Stern’s actions gave rise to the theory that perhaps Stern has more control that we care to admit, but it also created a situation where fans reacted before knowing the full story.  What does that mean?  That fans don’t trust Stern and maybe, Simmons is right: Stern’s power and influence being questioned is a sign that nobody is scared of him anymore.


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The Star problem

I decided that instead of doing a sports roundup for today I’d address a pretty major relevant topic this morning in a ranting format.  ESPN’s TrueHoop blog which has become mandatory daily reading for me,  has an article up written by Henry Abbot, who I began reading daily thanks to his excellent lockout coverage and most of all his common sense perspective, in which the title and point is that stars act like stars because they are…wait for it, STARS.

The Chris Paul furor on twitter/radio/national landscape has been unbelievable.  I admit I’m a Knick fan first and foremost.  I admit also that barring Imam Shumpert is the second coming of Isiah Thomas*, the Knicks don’t have anything remotely resembling an enticing package to trade to New Orleans for Chris Paul.
*= Where by I would argue then that the Knicks shouldn’t trade for CP3 and should focus on who I believe SHOULD be their primary target and that’s Dwight Howard. 

Ok, I get all that.  But why all the hatred?  The entire twitterverse has been raging over on beat the Knicks down testosterone as if the competition hasn’t been doing that for years.  Its these same know it all critics that confidently pointed out that the Knicks didn’t have enough to trade for Carmelo Anthony* and well we all know how that turned out.  I’m not saying they are wrong here.  I’m just alarmed at how angry these fans/”objective journalists” get when they talk about the Knicks having no shot at getting Chris Paul.
*= Which I STILL think was a mistake because now we’re here.   

Aside from the no-assets argument, they say that Chris Paul would NEVER leave money on the table, a reported $26 million if he doesn’t sign with a team that owns his Bird rights.  But this was all a reaction to a Yahoo Sports report that his agent, Leon Rose who also represents Carmelo Anthony for CAA, notified New Orleans management including GM Dell Demps that he would not sign an extension in season and requested a trade to the K nicks.  Suddenly groans were being bellowed and sarcastic (and actually funny) remarks were being made that Melo had orchestrated this whole thing and that all the leverage that the owners talked about taking back had just been virtually erased with one fail swoop from a superstar’s agent.

What?  The owners didn’t destroy their leverage, they worked on getting more of it with this new CBA.  The whole point of this was to gain competitive balance which is a hypothetical fantasy land filled with fairies and gnomes.  That place only exists in the minds of those who read numbers and conjure up arguments to support that case.  Competitive balance is the understanding that a system is in place that allows EVERY TEAM To fairly compete in an economic landscape.  But our society in general doesn’t have that so why should sports be any different?  If we relate NBA teams to everyday status roles, the Knicks and the Lakers are the rich kids while the Hornets are the orphans and Oklahoma City is the middle class.  New York and LA will always hold major advantages over other places because they can.  They have the most financial opportunity.  They have the most wealth and its not even close.  If its a competition why should New York and LA forego their advantages because everyone is throwing a hissy fit?

But now, Chris Paul is the latest superstar diva trying to screw over a small market team with his grandiose dreams of making it in a big city.  So, if I have this straight he SHOULDN’T leave money on the table to go and play for a team that employs one of his best friends but he’s also a scumbag because of how he’s deserting a small market?  Huh?  Come again?

Make up your minds.  He’s either a greedy person and stays with the Hornets currently owned and operated by all 29 franchises.  Or he’s not greedy and is destroying the NBA by creating a superstar alliance of his own in New York.  There’s a good/bad side to everything I guess.

Somewhere, signals got crossed and this became a moral argument.  It began with Lebron and ended last year with Carmelo and begins anew with Chris Paul.  And its a wonder why they are such close friends.  Suddenly superstars were beholden to teams and supposed to stay in their lanes.  No one would’ve had a problem with Lebron staying in Cleveland.  I’m not absolving him from how he announced it and I agree that it didn’t help his public image.  But he did something even greater than all that albeit in spectacularly stupid and insensitive fashion.  He let the NBA and his fellow superstars know that THEY, and not the powers that be that run their teams or the CBA have the power.  If you are willing to give up a little in terms of compensation from your teams, you can dictate the terms.  That’s real power and that’s real forward thinking.

We were all kind of blind to the situation when it happened but I get it now and moreso when Carmelo asked for a trade.  His intent to go to the Knicks was known and it became front page news in Denver and New York when it leaked that his destination of choice was New York.  He had roots there and wanted to play under the bright lights of a big city.  He was exercising his God-given right to do what he pleased and you want to know why the Nuggets listened?  Because he’s a superstar.  Because he holds weight and if he says he wants to go somewhere he will find a way to get that done regardless of whether it makes sense.  Its that kind of power that makes Kim Kardashian continue to have her show picked up by E!  Its their talent and ability to draw that gives coked up former Hollywood heavyweights the ability to continue making million dollar deals.  No matter what, you can’t ignore talent and can’t tell talent what to do if they know they have the leverage.  And players have always had the leverage and always died to exercise that leverage and no one of Lebron’s stature had done anything close to what he did when he made the Decision.

But the NBA and namely David Stern has been creating this beast slowly but surely over the last 30 years.  The NBA moreso than any other league is star driven.  You don’t come to see the Lakers, you come to see Kobe play.  You don’t come to see the Heat, you come with your Lebron Haterade filled signs and come to see Lebron and D-Wade.  Stars run this league and rightfully so.  Would you pay the high ticket prices to come see Eddy Curry?  No.  You’d ask the Knicks to pay you to see that garbage.  Stern has enabled players to become the superstars and earn the high priced endorsement deals outside of basketball and has given them unseemly amounts of leverage.  It was a calculated risk that worked in the 90’s and its working today in albeit a different form.

The problems ratifying a new CBA this year was linked to Lebron’s Decision from last year for the following reasons: small markets were complaining that this new precedent and formation of super teams would make it impossible for them to convince their star players to stay.  But let’s study the real facts here.  Lebron was drafted by Cleveland in 2003.  Took it to the Finals in 2007.   Got them the number one seed twice in the East.  Gave them seven transcendent seasons and it became a problem that he was leaving.  Seven seasons of dominant basketball, no title, no sign of cap space to sign an extra piece and yet this was Lebron’s problem?  Dirk Nowitzki proved this season that if you surround your superstar with enough good talent you will win.  Lebron’s late game heroics aside, the Cavs only came close ONCE.  Did Lebron quit the last two seasons in Cleveland during inopportune times and did he shrink during the Finals again last year?  Yes.  But the fact remains he does not get the lions share of the blame for him wanting to explore his options.

But it became an even bigger issue when Carmelo Anthony, another 2003 product and close Lebron ally, told Denver management that he wanted to be traded.  The Nuggets as a team have never preached defense during their time and only ONCE did they find a team capable of escaping the first round of the playoffs and yet the blame was laid on Melo’s lap because that’s the gift and curse of the superstars.  In their failures they are given the blame and during their best times they are given the credit.  But for seven seasons with no change in sight suddenly Melo was wrong in wanting a scene change to somewhere he’d rather be.  And now CP3 is asking for virtually the same thing.

I don’t get the villainry angle that is slowly emerging.  Why are they wrong for wanting to do what they want?  Would you be blamed for wanting to better your situation?  Wouldn’t you find it odd that people criticize you for wanting a job at a bigger company?  Are you supposed to be at the same company you were at from the time you entered the workforce forever?

Stars sustain this game no matter how you want to look at it or love it.  The Knicks will always have the advantage of being from New York.  Their failures like the Heat will be displayed on billboards for all to see.  This country loves its underdogs yet it doesn’t remember that they are the big dogs.  They are the world’s bullies.  In much the same way, the NBA’s small market teams like to see itself as underdogs in this situation when they were the bullies that almost torpedoed the season and wound up costing the fans, vendors, local businesses 16 games worth of experience and revenue respectively.

The point is, this whole argument against a player wanting to exercise his lawful right to explore his options is beyond hypocritical.  If you want to criticize someone, do it because Chris Paul is poisoning his team.  He isn’t.  He’s working out with his teammates and trying to keep a level head.  Don’t heap this all on his head and make him the face of this new NBA where players still have the leverage and proclaim it to be a bad thing.

He’s either greedy and a loyalist for staying with the Hornets and taking the biggest contract possible OR he’s another spoiled rotten superstar who gave up the largest possible contract to play for considerably less but be where he wanted to be.  So he’s damned if he does and damned if he don’t.

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the Inevitability of the NBA Finals

I dont know if Dirk Nowitzki knows this or not, but he’s the last line of defense.  He’s the last thing that stands in the way of Lebron James and inevitability.  The last stand against the great army that marches from the beaches in the South.  This aint Normandy but its imperative that Dirk and Co. storm that bleep.

History may say different, but for me personally and everyone my age, there has NEVER been anything like this.  In fact, let’s go one step further: there has NEVER been anything like this.  Imagine the best player in the sport holding it hostage over a year period prior to his free agency and then well into the summer until finally announcing his decision on a nationally televised “fundraiser”?  You can’t.  It has never happened.

Even Lebron can admit somewhere that the “Decision” was a misguided endeavor put together by friends and people who advised him to do this.  People who have constantly given him this sense of entitlement that rules don’t apply to him.  What else could be the cause of a human being putting on such a show?  It doesn’t make any sense.

The fact is, the Lebron James Summer culminates in these Finals.  I don’t expect anything less than a raucuous atmosphere in both American Airlines arenas.  I watched the game at Tonic last Thursday and the waves the fans were riding with each Lebron shot in the Fourth Quarter, in which he destroyed the league MVP in much the same way Michael Jordan did to Karl Malone when Malone won in 1997, was incredible.

We constantly compare Michael to Lebron but criticize Lebron for taking a much different path.  Michael didn’t let down an entire city because before he had to make a “Decision” the Bulls had drafted Scottie Pippen and had assembled the necessary pieces to make a run.  Michael had his shoe deal and hype coming out of college.  Lebron had his starting at age 13.  Michael went to North Carolina to learn his craft, Lebron played in front of a very demanding home town crowd who expected nothing but great things out of the kid from Akron.  Michael scored, and scored and scored but Lebron has had to score for his team, set up the offense and grab rebounds.

Consider the stat that STILL blows me away about Lebron James: he’s led his team in points, assists and rebounds, all three categories in the same game 19 times.  19!!!!  Nobody in NBA HISTORY has done it more than 3.  Let that sink in before you start cursing out Lebron.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still hate the prick for choosing to take his talents to South Beach over coming to the big city and taking on a real challenge but think about the even bigger challenge he created.

He brought this incredible weight and pressure on himself.  He chose to do go through with the Decision.  He chose to dis Cleveland as their owner said in his dis letter of record to Lebron.  He decided to join his friend Dwayne Wade in Miami and throw a big championship parade prior to the season and declare his intent of winning “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six…..”  He’s the one that made everyone pissed off at him to the point that we laughed at every failure.

I remember a sense of unbelievable pride when the Knicks came back and beat the Heat.  Suddenly I fooled myself into thinking that this regular season game was bigger than what it was.  I remember believing the Knicks were better than the Heat.  That’s what Lebron did for the game of basketball.  He made EVERY single game matter.  Every loss was vindication for Heat haters.  Every win was greeted with cynicism; “only won by 15 eh?  WEAK!”

The Jordan comparison got to be ridiculous.  Jordan would’ve NEVER done this, never done that.  Jordan would’ve made that game winning shot.  Jordan would’ve passed there.  All this because we hated Lebron and those of us who had seen Jordan at his apex remember what a dominant figure he was capable of winning games by himself.  “Lebron can’t win by himself.  Look, he ran to Wade to get help.  He’ll never be number one.”

But after the last two rounds of these playoffs you tell me who’s team the Miami Heat is?  Who’s carried the Heat down the stretch hitting clutch shot after clutch shot?  The Heat trailed the Bulls in the last two games of that series and yet there was Lebron bringing them back.  I clenched my fist and held my tongue.  Finally, we were witnessing.  Finally, with a decent supporting cast, Lebron James was providing us with the magic that we were all promised from the moment he arrived in the public consciousness.

I won’t forget watching the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 where Lebron scored 25 points down the stretch of the fourth quarter to will his team over a still formidable Pistons team.  Lebron James went on a rampage and could not be contained and THAT moment convinced me that he was special.  He was better than any player.  Nobody could stop him.

Throughout this entire playoffs I’ve been a third hating him, a third marveling at him, and the final third just being mad that he wasn’t taking over.  He’s had this ability all his life and he didn’t seem to understand how to harness it.  It came and went and when it wasn’t there he looked like a guy who didn’t care and as an NBA fan when you see a guy that big, that strong, that fast not able to post up Muggsy Bogues you’d be mad too.

I’ve always seen Lebron as a guy who could be, can be, and should be.  He isn’t.  Yet.  The scary part is, if he figures it out, he could go on a Jordan like run.  A run which the NBA hasn’t seen the likes of since Jordan himself.  There’s that name again.  A few days ago Scottie Pippen drew the ire of every basketball fan when he dared to suggest that Lebron James could be better than Michael Jordan.

Physically, its possible.  Mentally is what separated Jordan from the pack and even there I think Lebron has a feel for the game that very few have.  By NO MEANS am I a Lebron fan.  I want the Mavs to win because I think Mark Cuban being handed the Larry O’Brien trophy by a pissed off David Stern is must see t.v..  Because I think Jason Kidd deserves to win a championship and because I think Dirk Nowitzki will NEVER be appreciated if he doesn’t win one here.  Because the 2006 Finals were such a complete and utter disgrace officiating wise that karma MUST reward the Mavs with a title over this star laden team.

But if Lebron does win, I’ll be happy as an NBA Fan.  Amazed that one man put himself in such a hole and in such a bad way and can somehow still come away with a victory with a majority of the NBA fan base so violently rooting against him.  Against the inevitable.


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New York and the NBA after “The Decision”

New Yorkers are incredibly resillient.  That much I’m sure of.  So recovering from the mess that was Lebron took only a few hours.  We’re a city that moves so quick that tourists complain about our rudeness.

We’re not walking fast, you’re just walking slow.

So no wonder that yesterdays press conference to announce 4 new players to the Knicks roster was met more with answers of what was to come than what wasn’t.

Allan Houston, the Knicks GM-in-training, knows about defeating the Miami Heat.  He lives on in New Yorkers hearts for his teardrop shot to shock the Heat during the 99 season. A season where an 8th seed like them beat a 1 seed like the Heat, a scenario that the Knicks could find themselves in this season.

Projected records so far have the Knicks winning between 38-42 games which would be, at best, a 12 game turnaround.  Its entirely possible that the Knicks could be the surprise team if you buy into all the doomsday theories of the Knicks going back to irrelevance now that Le-Bum spurned New York’s advances.  If we had anything over the past two years, it was hope that Lebron was on his way like a knight in shining armor to save the day.

But that prince turned into a frog instead.  He became Hollywood Hogan and went AWOL on the good guy list.  Now he’s the villain universally.

My question is..was that…a good thing?  Hear me out Knick fans.  Maybe I’m just sipping from the kool aid a bit too much but I’m thinking pretty clear, I promise.

My points are all purely circumstantial so I have nothing to stand behind but a hunch.  What if Chris Paul’s reported announcement of his own big 3 wasn’t all talk?

If you haven’t read the newest rumor to drive Knick fans crazy, here it is.  Marc Berman, the Knicks beatwriter for the New York Post, said that in a speech during friend Carmello Anthony’s wedding, which James was also in attendance for, said he, Melo, and Amare would form their own Big 3 in New York to challenge the one in South Beach.

How much truth lies in that statement remains in question.  Remember Knick fans, Lebron started flirting with coming to New York two years ago too.  So let’s hold our horses and not get set up again.

Ok, so let’s start imagining a scenario I’ve been thinking about since this newstory leaked.  What if this Big 3 forming in Miami sparked an idea in the minds of all free agents to be that the only way to assure yourself of greatness is to be teamed with a really good squad and form your own super team?  What if guys like Chris Paul and Deron Williams (both free agents in 2012) want a championship badly enough that they would let statistics be damned and join forces to make it happen?

It makes sense now that the discussion on the superstars are changing.  If stars no longer care about competing against each other then expect more super teams to come together.

So now the only relevant topic left is to scout potential landing spots for that kind of star power and all signs point to New York being the last glamour spot left in the NBA for stars to really shine on a huge stage.  The Knicks and Nets can basically play up the image part of being a champion in New York now that its become clear what this generations stars are after.  Its not about individual glory.

Which brings us to David Stern’s comments regarding Lebron’s exit strategy.  He said his decision making was poor and he wished he had informed Dan Gilbert, the crazy owner of the Cavs, sooner than he had about him leaving as opposed to a nationally televised audience.  The interesting part is how Stern views this shift.  Its bigger than you think.

Stern’s marketing made his stars huge.  In the early 80’s basketballs ratings were so poor that the Finals were shown on tape delay on CBS.  Magic and Bird brought the NBA back with their rivalry and MJ took it to a whole other level.  Basketballs popularity skyrocketed with MJ’s emergence.  The marketing job they did on Jordan and helping take his accomplishments and multiply its importance was and remains why we view Jordan the way we do.  Stern always had a star to build around.  Like the sun to the rest of the planets orbiting around it.

Its why when Jordan left, the discussion was where the NBA would find its next Jordan.  How could you follow that act up?  It took years and years before fans were able to accept that there was no next Jordan.  Remember Harold Miner? T-Mac? Vince Carter?*  All good players but never nearly as great as we as fans thought they’d be.
*= I especially hate Vince Carter because I was almost positive he was the next best thing.  He came from Jordan’s alma mater, North Carolina, and he had all the easy athleticism that made Jordan so enjoyable to watch even though he was beating my franchise down.  But his injuries never seemed genuine and he quit on the franchise that invested in him.  I just had very little respect for a man who I felt was wasting his talent and not using it which is why I suppose this Lebron “Decision” irks me too.

If championships are the only category to worship then Russell is the champ.  If its scoring ability its Kareem.  But because of his flair and the commercials and the aura he built with the marketing dollars, we all ceded that it was Jordan.  I believe Jordan was the greatest because you just knew when you were watching him that you were going to be treated.  A singular talent like him shined brightest on the bright stage as if he did it without a supporting cast, as if there was no Pippen.

Need a more contemporary example?  Everyone that watched the Finals know that Gasol outplayed Kobe in game 7, but Kobe, with a 6/24 shooting performance won the series MVP.  Why?  Because Kobe is the biggest star.  Kobe basically had to show up in order to win the MVP.

The NBA is a star’s business and Stern was a master in pushing his sports top athletes.  He understood that and he made it profitable.  So when he sees Lebron make a business decision personal to join friends in search of championships, he’s seeing his biggest meal ticket ruin what could be millions more in branding and other things.

Now Stern has to sell the team to fans as opposed to two separate entities.  He can’t just market Lebron by himself.  He has to market him with Wade.  Wade and Lebron are close enough to assume sporting headlines in matchups against each other.  Remember the NBA on NBC ads? “Jordan and the Bulls vs Ewing and the Knicks.” Who but the Lakers can match in star power?

Stern’s anguish was evident during the press conference.  He looked like he went to happy hour a few hours prior to the presser.  He looked tired and stressed like he’d been on multiple conference calls to sort out the mess that he knew he was in.  Imagine having crafted your business one way and now having to change it even slightly not because of your customer base but because of your employees.

Stern doesn’t have his heir apparent to Kobe.  It could be Wade but he had Lebron fitted for that crown.  Now its up in the air and Stern has to wonder what it means for the future of his stumbling league if stars are leaving smaller market teams to join together and form super teams then Stern will have an even bigger problem.

Guys talking about joining together publically?  The biggest star in the game coming out of this with more trash flying at him than Hulk Hogan when he made the heel turnV  Stern now has a PR and business problem at hand.

But Stern’s loss may end up being New York’s gain.  What if the summer of 2010 ended up shifting the thinking among young stars.  If a guy like Lebron cedes he can’t lead a team by himself then everyone may begin feeling the same and by the time your done in a few years you have 5 or 6 really really good teams and a bunch of bad ones.  Its natural to assume that the NBA will be in trouble and Stern should be worried about how this summer has gone but you think Miami Heat fans are worried about the state of the NBA?  Well if it benefits New York then neither should we.  New York is resillient, we will get through the hate.

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Ten Things I learned while watching All Star Weekend

Honestly, its been ages since I sat myself down through the entire All Star Weekend and forced myself to watch it.  Here are ten things that I learned while watching All Star Weekend:

1.  Tyreke Evans is a beast, but he was smart to share that award with DeJuan Blair. Blair had 22 points and 23 rebounds.  He played more minutes than anyone in the game for a reason.  In these All Star contests, the coaches give every guy an opportunity to play but give the hot hand most of the playing time.  Evans is a spectacular player but Blair is the guy who really stole the show.  Its amazing what guys with a chip on their shoulder can do?  How do teams like the Spurs end up with guys like this?  Isn’t it easy to see that his work ethic was extraordinary?  The first round is littered with talented blue chip prospects you hope will mature into great players but the second round is filled with players you need to score high on the “i’m going to work my butt off in the gym to prove I belong on an NBA roster” scale.  Blair is described as many as one of the most likeable and personable people you will meet which of course is always a plus and he was selected with the 37th overall pick in the second round by the Spurs.  When I heard he went in the second round, I knew that whatever team selected him would have a steal and of course it had to be the Spurs.  He’s going to be a double double machine who is not afraid to use his wide frame and bulky build to punish opponents down low which he showcased in the Rookie-Sophomore game during all star weekend.  Tyreke may have walked away with the MVP award, but everyone walked away wowed by DeJuan Blair.

2. The DUNK contest should no longer be the premiere event of ASW, unless they get a major name to participate. There’s an APB going out to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and any other basketball player who fancies himself a great dunker.  Since Vince won it, I’ve never been really wowed by a dunk contest.  Every year the originality has been sucked out of it by the fact that there are so many “we’ve seen this done” dunks repeated and worse missed a few times and then done.  Nate won it for the third year in a row but does it really matter?  That’s how bad the Knicks are, even when their players are winning awards its for pointless things like the dunk contest.  I Facebooked on Saturday that perhaps I was spoiled as a youngster watching the likes of Michael Jordan, and Clyde Drexler and Vince Carter participate in the dunk contests.  Don’t ever expect to see that kind of star power happen today.  Imagine if LeBron were to lose the dunk contest? How hard would it be for him to have the tape of that dunk contest mysteriously disappear?  Probably not that hard.

3. PRIDE is lacking. Which naturally leads us to the problem with All Star games in general.  Really there’s no incentive for the players to put on a show other than pride.  You know when pride kicks in?  with about 7 minutes left in the All Star game.  These guys don’t compete hard against each other.  Familiarity usually breeds contempt but not in this case.  Bill Simmons, the page 2 writer, made a good point a few years ago when he said that a lot of these guys grew up together.  They played on AAU teams and in summer travel leagues.  They stayed with each other.  Got their first blackberries together and have been texting each other box scores since they were 13.  So how do you expect two friends to be super competitive with nothing on the line?  You can’t.  Not even for normally hyper competitive guys like LeBron and Carmello and D-Wade.  Back in the day, Jordan and Magic and Bird all fought for alpha dog status.  It meant something to them because they came in as loners.  Imagine going to a conference and meeting everyone for the first time in a competitive setting.  You know no one.  You don’t owe them anything or have any link to any one there.  If you channel your normal hyper competitiveness into that room, you’ve got a bunch of highly talented guys trying to be “the man” for lack of a better term.  Now THAT would be sensational.  You don’t have that.
All Star games are not meant to do that but that’s the beauty of basketball.  The NBA is the only sport that can actually have an entire weekend filled with activities to showcase individual ability.  The 3 point contest, the Slam Dunk, HORSE (which as a basketball fan you have to LOVE, although it does need some minor tweaks), and skills competitions are all great ways for fans to see how truly athletic and gifted these guys really are at specific things.  No other sport can claim to have events that truly showcase the wide range of abilities like this.  I mean the NFL, if it were to make a big deal of those QB competitions and skills competitions may come close but it doesn’t so we can’t say that.  The NBA properly uses these events to showcase their talent.  If we raised the pot for the winners of some of these competitions or added a few wrinkles to some of the events, maybe just maybe players might give a damn but with so many outside factors and the globe more tightly connected than ever thanks to facebook and youtube and camera phones, players are more protective of their image and scared to fail because of the possibility that everyone will have the ability to see it in almost real time.

4. Craig Sager can wear normal suits, but his outfit altogether can’t be normal.  Has anyone in sports ever solely kept a career alive thanks to his wardrobe?  He mumbles when he talks, has the creepiest smile in America, and no NBA player feels comfortable enough to look him in the face when they talk.  Would anyone be surprised if we come to find out that his suits were actual human skin painted to those colors?

5. The NFL isn’t the only league in trouble. After the withdrawal of the NFL wore off, the attention quickly shifted to Dallas where David Stern was bombarded with questions about a possible strike looming in the NBA in 2011.  The Players Association apparently ripped to shreds the Owners latest proposal and are not willing to take a paycut to allow owners to have some breathing room as the economy recovers.  Its a tough sell for Memphis fans who really have no ties to their NBA team to sell out every night when their team is barely in playoff contention.  The problem has always been to put an NBA team where it fits.  Not where the guy with the deepest pockets are willing to spend on a team.  Putting a team smack dab in the middle of college basketball country will always be an epic fail and the people who love expansion don’t see that.  Developing a winner takes time and when you are expanding a recession will undoubtedly cause the team to take a hit.  Players have to accept the truth that the league is losing money hand over fist (the NBA is reporting an average of $200 million lost each year over the last 3), and guaranteed contracts will be impossible in the upcoming CBA.  Perhaps partially guaranteed contracts with long term contracts having an out after 3 seasons.  Who knows what kind of details need to be worked out but what we do know is that several teams are in the red and have been for a few seasons now and the CBA must be reworked to fix that.

6. Charles Barkley is by far the best pre game, halftime and post game entertainer in all of sports broadcasting. Since like I said, its been a while since i’ve solely concentrated on basketball, I forget how great it is to have a Charles Barkley around.  I imagine production meetings going on and Barkley walking in, then going to the toilet after about two minutes and sitting there for the duration of the meeting since you know Taco Bell offers you lots and lot, its especially good after you smoked lots of pot.  He walks out with toilet paper sticking to the bottom of his shoe (there’s no relevance to the rest of the comment but come on, you know that’s how it plays out) and he goes out there and totally wings the entire show.  He’s by far the only person with carte blanche to say whatever he likes on national television and rarely see anything more than a slap to the wrist for doing that.

The three best Charles Barkley moments from the All Star Weekend:

A. McLovin coming on to the set (I know he has a real name but I refuse to write it and if he knew what’s best for him, he had better embrace that name for the rest of his life).  Charles looked admiringly at McLovin, and not in a nice way.  He had finally found a guy that Kenny “the Jet” (the most overblown nickname ever by the way.  He was never that good to get a cool nickname like that) Smith and Ernie Johnson (white guys with black people names hall of fame) might look at as more ridiculous than Sir Charles (who by the way has my favorite mock nickname I’ve ever heard given to him by Hall of Fame sportswriter Peter Vecsey: Sir Cumference).  But of course what was unexpected was McLovin thinking the exact same thing about Charles.  He finally had the chance to be on stage with someone that people thought was on the same speed as him.

B. Charles Barkley’s funniest comment of the weekend: “you ever notice how gatorade doesn’t work on players who suck?”  Very true Sir Charles.  This was while you saw Nate Robinson take a chug from his gatorade bottle.

C. Barkley looking like a proud kid when David Stern gave him a compliment.  Look, even I get a little frightened when I hear David Stern speak but it was funny to see the oversized personality that is Charles Barkley address the commissioner in a slightly less demonstrative way.  Stern is an imposing figure for a small guy, but Barkley’s back pedaling and look of sadness when the commissioner gave Kenny Smith a compliment at the expense of Barkley and then paid Barkley a compliment two minutes later was about as revealing to you how scary Stern is and how much of a kid and crazy figure Barkley is.  You just never know with him.

7. I’m convinced NBA players are the least interesting people on the planet.  I had an interesting conversation this weekend about Dwight Howard.  Ever notice how we get all giggly about anything Dwight does and how we gush about his childish acts and get all gaga about it?  I realized why after about two David Aldridge interviews with Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade about how absolutely boring these guys really are.  They don’t even know how to formulate proper sentences.  OF COURSE DWIGHT HOWARD is funny, compared to most NBA players he’s Dave Chappelle. Dirk Nowitzki, God bless him, looked like the least comfortable man on the planet saying “everything is bigger in Texas.”  Its as if he had a cue card and was reading it monotone.  In fact he was walking off as he said it.  He wanted no part of the big stage.  Kobe Bryant always looks pissed off while being interviewed.  I hear LeBron James talk and I just wish he didn’t go to “Clyde Frazier teaches English 101”.  You know, using big words in the wrong context.  Meanwhile there’s only two superstars who I could see being a normal human being outside the court with their friends: Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.  I mean normal in the context of you or I behave with our friends.  I understand that stars operate on a different universe and different rules apply to them.  I would put LBJ on this list but LeBron falls short in one key area.  Amidst all the hype that surrounds him, all the commercials and everything else, looks like a guy that teammates naturally gravitate to.  Bill Simmons a few weeks ago talked about presence.  Jordan had the presence.  That being, the ability to make everyone in an arena or whatever setting they are, stop what they are doing and just watch a person’s every move.  What’s more, Simmons wrote, LeBron knows its and embraces it by putting on shows during pre game warm ups and horsing around.  LeBron is the rare superstar who’s comfortable in his own skin and willing to embrace all that comes with the hype and all the pomp and circumstance.  In that way, LeBron is normal because he hasn’t allowed himself to get caught up in everything around him and looks like a kid when he plays.  But his major flaw other than his language skills is the fact that LeBron needs to be the leader of the group.  He HAS to be.  Every group has that guy who needs to plan the trips and makes the phone calls to find out what everyone is doing or names the email chain you’re in and LeBron is that guy.  He would automatically be the leader of your group whether you wanted him or not.  He knows no other way.  He’s the alpha dog which I will get to more on the LeBron sweepstakes handicap article I will eventually do.  Those guys end up leaving the group and being replaced or he learns to be able to blend in better and not insist on being that guy.  No two ways about it.

Nash and Howard on the other hand are so similiar, they just look like goofy kids.  What sealed it for me for Nash was him accepting the Skills Challenge trophy and doing the goofy “strain to lift the trophy” thing but this article (http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/postedsports/archive/2010/02/11/steve-nash-is-the-most-internetiest-basketball-player-in-the-world.aspx) should further prove to you why any guy that takes himself that seriously could fit into any group.  Also Howard is always smiling and always putting on a show and never afraid to be silly.  When David Aldridge asked him about the Shaq controversy (who’s approaching bitter old man status real soon), you could see the pained expression as if telling David through his facial reaction that he did NOT want to talk about this and didn’t feel comfortable being serious.  That right there did it for me.

Otherwise, no other player seems that interesting to me and I despise listening to them talk.

8.  Steve Nash had the best weekend in all of sports. He went to Vancouver to carry the Olympic flame in his native Canada.  Flew to Dallas the next day and won the Skills Contest and then Sunday got almost as loud a reception as his good friend Dirk Nowitzki.  Its easy to see why so many NBA ball players love him and love playing with him but very few can say that they had that kind of weekend.

9. Dallas Stadium raised the bar for all sports All Star games. No doubt the NBA was smart to capitalize on the new Dallas stadium before even the NFL had a chance to (think Super Bowl 2011), but the NBA’s brain trust couldn’t have foreseen how successful the game was going to be.  Granted the competitive level got to normal with about 7 minutes left, but guys were genuinely trying to do the best dunks just so they could run back look up to the rafters at that beautiful screen and see them on the humungo jumbotron.  Granted pride is no longer part of the conversation for All Star games, but certainly guys angling for plays of the game and MVP’s were most certainly trying their hardest.  But how does the NBA address that next year when it comes to Staples?  The flash and the intrigue of having an NBA game at Dallas stadium has come and gone.  How does the NBA make it matter for NBA players next year when they are in a regular arena?  The fact that its in Hollywood will only affect the extra curricular downtown LA area and also Vegas (its only 3 hours away).

10. Everyone wants to be LeBron’s teammate. Just look at the East Squad’s entrance and the West squad’s entrance.  Its clear that LeBron’s repoire with his fellow players is so high and it makes him so likeable to everyone involved that its hard to hate the guy.  He commands attention and respect even from veterans.  We know how great a teammate KG is, even at the All Star Game he was acting like it was  regular season game, at the edge of his seat and cheering on his teammates, but even he takes a backseat to LeBron.  LeBron gets all his teammates involved and the genius of him to do the group intros is further proof of the extras that LeBron just naturally brings.  I see why Cleveland fans think that he’s developed this repoire with his teammates in Cleveland, but if the All Star game proved anything, he can build that up with just about anybody.  Just give him a few minutes, he can teach David Lee how to shimmy.

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