The Grinch, CP3 and the End of a Lifetime Love Affair

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My love for NBA basketball goes back 32 years, along with with my love for the Los Angeles Lakers.  I watched it flourish from the drug infested rep it had during the 70s, through the resurgence with the help of Magic, Larry, and Isaiah; the glory years of Jordan, Hakeem, and finally Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and D-Wade.  The current NBA has plenty of stars to peek the interest of old and new fans.  As bad as “The Decision” was for LeBron and The Heat, the NBA had its peak year of interest, and then like a hammer, the owners imposed another lockout!

This was the first blow to my love for the NBA game.  Not that the owners wanted more cheddar; that’s just the American way.  But the way they went about it, with their various threats to cancel the season.  After a blockbuster year for everyone, they acted with an arrogance that clearly showed many owners cared nothing about the fans that pushed their popularity to where it is, so that their revenue could be as substantial as it’s been.

I had it in my mind not to care whether the season was cancelled or not.  I felt that for the sake of labor, the players should get a fair deal that reflected the value they bring to the franchises.  If the owners wanted to bluff or cancel the season, then let them.  And then see if the game ends up like the NHL.

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With Christmas and it’s primetime schedule looming, the players and the owners were able to get a deal done and cram a 66 game season in just a few short months.  Initially the stain of the lockout was still in my mind.  I knew it would take me a little while at least to become interested in the league again.  I was more excited to continue watching NFL football and college hoops.

Once the deal was agreed upon and the moving and shaking began where clubs and players would be changing places, the buzz peeked my interest a bit more.  Chris Paul to the Lakers?  Tyson Chandler to the Knicks;  Pau Gasol to the Rockets, Lamar Odom to the Hornets, damn!  Talk about blowing up some teams!  I knew the Lakers needed to make some changes but Odom and Gasol?  That sounds drastic!  (Unless they were going to gun for Dwight Howard but still that was no sure thing!)

I said to myself, Del Demps (the GM for New Orleans) is no joke!  He’s sitting with a team that is owned by the league and where no one seems to want to go, and yet he just set himself up to have a strong team for this season with Odom, (the reigning sixth man of the year), Luis Scola (a double-double man), and guard Kevin Martin! This core gives a potential owner a very competitive team to begin with.  The Rockets having Gasol would make them instant playoff contenders since Yao Ming retired.  And as I said about my Lakers, it helped our backcourt tremendously but left our front line very light with a heavy load being put on Andrew Bynum’s knees.

Del Demps

Ok, maybe I do want to watch on Christmas.  But then at the behest of so called small market owners like Dan Gilbert, The Grinch David Stern killed the deal!  WTF???

It seems that though Demps was told by the league that he had the freedom to make deals as any other GM would, The Angel of Stern at the behest of Gilbert and the likes decided that Chris Paul going to the Lakers under any circumstances was bad for the league.  Part of the owners lockout strategy was to restrict star players from choosing their own destinies.  The problem is that they can’t stop free agency.  If a player is in the final year of his contract and is not going to stay with the team he’s on, he’s going to have a certain amount of power in choosing his trade destination if he doesn’t agree to re-sign with his new team.  That is just the nature of the beast.  Most players in any of the major sports have but one chance in their careers to have serious influence on where they go and how much they can make.

Stern said that the deal was not good enough for the Hornets and that his decision to block a great trade didn’t have anything to do with other owners.  He also thinks Jerry Sandusky only likes to ‘horse around’ with young boys.  But I digress!  Phil Jackson the former Laker coach brought the Paul issue up a year ago with the league owning the Hornets which is a clear conflict of interest.  He was fined by the league for predicting the cluster f#@! that eventually panned out.

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Fast forward a few days later with trade proposals flying like bullets and players being amnestied left and right, the Lakers gave away Lamar Odom to the World Champion Mavericks for a 40oz.  Neither Stern, Gilbert or any other small market owners said a word about that.  Instead of Demps doing the negotiations going forward, Stern took over negotiations from New York rendering the Hornets GM a GM with no clothes.  Oh and this just in: Paul goes to the Clippers instead; the team with historically racist owner the the league has never addressed.  That makes a lot of sense!

I’m just disgusted with the NBA right now.  And I’m honestly not sure if there will be any coming back from it.  This is NOT about the Lakers not getting CP3 either.  Since Jerry Buss turned the team over to his son, the way they have treated many of their loyal personnel like Brian Shaw for instance has shown a total lack of class.  Likewise, not even telling Lamar Odom, a man who has taken a lesser playing role and less money for years as a sign of loyalty that the team was seeking to trade him is reprehensible.  That is a side issue that calls into question my respect for the Laker organization.

What is bothersome is that in addition to the lockout, the league’s manipulation of team business is a huge turn off. I would much rather take my team to task for the way they manage, the way they play, Mike Brown’s coaching, etc. My team has been my team for over 30 years and we haven’t won the championship every year.  I’m good with that.  The issue is credibility!  I want to have the belief at least that the product that is NBA basketball is a legitimate institution.  Where if each team plays by the rules established that they can make or break their own clubs, their own seasons, and that I as a fan can watch the games and root from a fan’s perspective.

At best Christmas morning anticipation of the NBA should feel as if I am waking up to love I’ve known most of my life.  Now it feels like a dirty whore being shoved down my throat dressed with promos of players just recently cursed by owners. Where owners who have less skill and attract-ability can dictate to other teams what they can and cannot do.  Perhaps Stern will make Kim Kardashian an ESPN sideline reporter next.  It seems the league has not been less out of touch with reality.  I am a very educated fan and I won’t be given anything and told to deal with it.

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Perhaps it seems I’m taking this all too personally.  But I doubt it.  Even if we the normal fan cannot pay for NBA salaries, the fan base is the foundation that drives the revenues.  The time and dedication given by the average Joe in caring about what happens to his/her team gives the league the core value that the dollars and cents can be worth investing in.  Stern and the likes, have polluted that image.  Now it seems the games are played in boardrooms through conference calls to New York.

I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out for me as a fan.  Right now, it’s looking like the NFL will be the television featured in my house on Christmas Day.  And for that, I’m sorry.

 

SIDE RANT

*****If you examine Gilbert’s letter closely, he details how the initial trade may benefit the Lakers as they were to get Paul, while clearing salary from their books.  And by doing so make themselves eligible later for even more attractive free agents.  Under the rules mind you that the owners just agreed to.  What he didn’t say which is apparent, is that he (Gilbert) was not smart enough to do the same.  And that no attractive free agent will ever want to play for his team because of his ineptness not to mention the way he showed his ass after LeBron left.  What he was essentially saying is, “Thanks to me the Cavaliers ARE the Washington Generals.  Since I don’t have managerial smarts or the ability to make my team attractive so stars will want to play in Cleveland, let’s focus on making teams like the Lakers suffer so that my idiocy is not so apparent.”  I mean, what has he done to date thus far to improve his own situation?  

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LeBron, Harpo and Dan Gilbert’s Huckleberry!

In the midst of LeBron-A-Thon ending with the TV non event of the year, let’s just start with Cleveland Cavalier’s majority owner Dan Gilbert’s letter to Cav’s fans:

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Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”

You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….

 

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Ouch!  I suppose that felt good to old ‘Danny Boy’.   But by responding in this fashion, he’s made himself look even worse than “King Prince James.”

Make no mistake about it.  This LeBron-A-Thon which started around the same time as the NBA Finals with LeBron going on Larry King, Nightline, and any other show short of Oprah, (I’m sure they called her) was a farse to begin with.  The Celtics were playing the Lakers for godsakes.  Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher were going against Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  Doc Rivers was trying to win his second NBA title in three years as Celtics coach.  Phil Jackson was in the midst of winning his 11th as coach.  At that point, personally I didn’t give a damn about what LeBron was going to do.  His team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.  Still he couldn’t resist but to move the attention on to himself.

The primetime ESPN special was also a joke.  How vain can one get;  Especially since the “Chosen One” that hasn’t won in the NBA?  Sure I watched it!  It was the ultimate train wreck.  I rubbernecked from start to finish and watched James sit uncomfortably as Jim Grey threw James softball after softball questions that he could not seem to hit out of the infield.  To hear James tell it, Cleveland wouldn’t be Cleveland if it were not for him.  In reality, he didn’t do more than Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Larry Nance for the Cavaliers franchise.  And two consecutive MVPs or not, the difference between he and Kobe Bryant isn’t even close.  Bryant is clearly more concerned about his historical basketball legacy in which greatness is clearly defined by championships.  James is more concerned with branding, merchandise and ego.  For all of his talents, he thinks more highly of himself than he should.   He was created to be that way since he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated while driving that Hummer around in High School.  And yea, the story is marketable in a summer where there is nothing but baseball and a boring soccer matches hardly anyone cares about.

That being said: Dan Gilbert’s self-righteous victimized rant came off as if LeBron slept with him for a night but didn’t stick around to cuddle the next morning.  This is the same man who would have given his chosen one $130 million for 6 years had James decided to stick around in C-Town.

Gilbert wants to rant on LeBron about loyalty?  Hell last I heard James was a free agent as of July 1.  This was indeed his time to choose whatever team he wanted to chose.  The real issue is that with James’ departure, the value of the Cavaliers franchise dropped faster than a bad stock.  Last night may as well be called Black Thursday as far as Gilbert is concerned.  Still I’d like to ask him about loyalty when it came to coach Mike Brown who won the most NBA games this past season.  I’d like to ask him about his courting of college coach Tom Izzo as if he were going to take the Cavaliers anywhere let alone have the respect of James as well as other NBA players.  LeBron never went to college so why would he respect a college coach?  I’d like to ask him why he ran out one of the best GMs in the league in Danny Ferry. 

Is Gilbert the pot or the kettle that’s all I’m asking here.  Now he’s barking off about how LeBron quit in the playoffs throwing the guy under the bus.  And any of this talk about leaking more of LeBron’s tresepasses I’m sure has been shut down by a phone call from David Stern.

My favorite quote of his entire letter is this one:

“The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”

Are you serious?  Were you just watching The Color Purple Thursday afternoon because it sounded very much like what Celie told Albert:

 “Till you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna’ fail.”

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Gilbert’s eagerness to court James and willingness to give him a max deal, then slamming him as James headed to South Beach is tantamount to a thug who pursues a woman at the club.  After being turned down several times finally fires back with something like this: “F’-U then!  I didn’t want your number anyway.”

As much as James is a self-glorified egomaniac, the fact of the matter is that he did indeed give the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland seven exciting years.  He made the team and the city a lot of money.  It was an even trade-off.   Now that the affair is over, it’s over.  Gilbert should turn the page.  And if he can’t, he should touch himself and think of the memories.