Tag: LeBron James

The LeBron James Decision and Why I Don’t Care

Spoiler alert. It’s NOT because I generally can’t stand basketball. 

I had an epiphany during this World Cup. There are a lot of people I know and respect that just don’t give a sh*t about soccer. They couldn’t care less. They wouldn’t be able to tell you a damn thing about the game, any of its players, or why it was borderline remarkable that the United States made it out of the group of death. 

But they still ask me, how’s the U.S. doing? Are you enjoying the games? Germany beat Brazil 7-1…that’s good, right? Why do they ask me? Because I care. This one month out of every four years is among the most exciting in my life. I sleep less. I take time off of my day job to watch games. Four years ago when it was in South Africa, I got up at ungodly hours to see games live. They know it matters to me. 

My buddy, a huge basketball fan, comes up to me at work today and says, “Dude, LeBron is going back to Cleveland! How crazy is that!?” My initial thought was, “Of all people who might actually give a sh*t about what player is going where, you thought I was a good candidate?” But then it hit me. Why would I be an ass when so many people have been the exact opposite to me, inquiring as to my thoughts about the World Cup because they knew I cared about it and enjoy talking about it. So I made the resolution, I will no longer rudely dismiss conversations about basketball. Let’s not get crazy, I’m not going to start enjoying watching the game. But the least I can do for a fellow sports fan is engage them in a conversation if that’s what they want. 

So my response was, “Hm. I guess I wouldn’t have expected that. Why do you think he’s going back to the Cavs? Are they expected to be better than the Heat next year?” He says, “No! He just wants to go play in his hometown. He wants to make it up to the people of Cleveland for ditching them four years ago.”

The rest of the conversation lasted about seven minutes, and then we got back to work. But I thought about it. Is he really going home to make it up to the people of Cleveland? I did read the Sports Illustrated letter. It’s classy and articulate. I’m sure it was ghost written for him, or at least he was coached through it. But apart from the douchy way James left Cleveland four years ago, he is a pretty classy guy. He doesn’t get in trouble with the law. He doesn’t do drugs. He’s a family man. As far as larger-than-life athletes go, he’s a guy who could definitely fall into the “likeable” category. But let’s be real here. He is a professional athlete, and a mercenary. He’s made plenty of money, but with no shortage of suitors who will pay him the maximum amount of money allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, he’ll go where he has the best chance to win. 

Is Cleveland more likely to win next year than Miami? You bet your bottom dollar they are. DeWayne Wade is a shell of his former self. Injuries have taken their toll. The high-impact style of the former superstar has robbed him of his explosiveness. Sure, he could still be a quality sixth man for a contender. Come off the bench, play 25 minutes or so, and contribute significantly. Chris Bosh is still in his prime, though nearing the end of it, and wants to cash in. Can you blame him? Ray Allen, who Miami brought in for his deadly three point shooting and to be kind of a fourth musketeer to the “Big Three” is another year older. Sure, they made it to the finals, but largely on the back of James’ excellence and a variety of factors would indicate they are not on the ascension, they’re on a decline.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has Kyrie Irving, a mega-stud young point guard. They just drafted Andrew Wiggins. They have the cap room to chase another star player next year such as Minnesota’s Kevin Love, if they don’t work some kind of sign and trade deal for him earlier than that. And what do you have? Another big three with a fourth musketeer.

Sure, Ohio is home to James. That makes Cleveland appealing. But let’s call it what it is. He’s going to a team where he thinks he has a better chance to win than the one where he was. The fact that Cleveland is where he started is a coincidence. Had any other team had the first overall pick in the draft the year he made himself eligible, they would have taken him too. He could have started in Charlotte, or Atlanta, or with the Clippers. Any number of teams. It happened to be a team in his home state. So that’s cool and all, but is there any real evidence that James was a Cavaliers fan growing up? Are there any pictures of him as a youngster sporting a Craig Ehlo or Brad Daugherty jersey? Maybe. 

ESPN/Grantland’s Bill Simmons, an excellent and intelligent writer, describes here James’ performance in Game 6 of this year’s NBA Finals, petulantly not shooting and passing to teammates in a fashion that says, “this is the team you put around me,” or something like that. What exactly was wrong with the damn team they put around him? They made it to the CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS! They just happened to lose to a better team, or at the very least, one that played better for those six games. 

There’s a bunch of other stuff in the article about James being a genius, or something like that. It’s entertaining to read, but the reality is, he’s a 6 foot 9, 270 something pound mega athlete who is physically superior to nearly everyone who attempts to defend him. So opposing defenses throw multiple defenders at him, leaving teammates open. I hardly think it takes genius to pass to an open teammate when three defenders are focused on you. It’s a statistical certainty that at least half of your teammates on the floor at that point are uncovered. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. It’s still a good read. 

Anyway, this is why I don’t care. It’s all crap. James is used to Ohio and likes it there, apparently. The team is in a position where it can field a competitive squad for years to come. They can pay him the maximum amount of money allowed by a team he wasn’t already on the previous season. No more, no less. Does that make him a bad person, taking the situation that is quite simply best for him and his family, and nobody else? Of course not. Superstar players across all sports go to the highest bidder all the time. The only thing fans should be concerned with is that the player gives 100 percent on the court or field while he is on that team. Sure, it’s romantic to think there’s a sense of loyalty, a la George Brett or the late Tony Gwynn. But more realistically, just look at all the players who have taken the money to go to the Yankees, or Dodgers, or Patriots, or Broncos, or Manchester United and Bayern Munich, the list goes on. 

Again, James is not a bad person for doing this. We all do what’s best for us and ours. I like my job quite a bit, but if someone offered me a maximum salary of some sort, say for argument’s sake double what I make now, to work elsewhere, I’d take it, so I could afford the house my wife and I live in, and to provide a more comfortable life for us and our future children. That makes sense, right?

And this is why I don’t care. All the notions being invented out there that his move “back” to Cleveland is anything other than a man doing what’s best for him and his are fantasy. There is no drive to make anything up to the fans that burned his jersey upon his departure, or the owner that eviscerated him in a public letter. If he did it for half of the maximum contract, I might buy it. Might. 


LA Sports Media Needs to Shut Up About Clippers’ Thrashing of Lakers

It must be a slow time in Los Angeles sports news, because the Clipper’s 48 point drubbing of the Lakers is all anyone with a microphone or a keyboard seems to be talking about. And now, I’m part of the problem. See what you people in the media do to me!?

The sheer stupidity of it all hit me on my drive home from the day job today as I was listening to the Petros and Money show on AM 570 out here. I like those guys, and for the most part they’re fun to listen to, though Petros needs to lower the volume just a scoche. Is that how you spell scoche?

The questions being asked, and not just by Petros and Money, but by most of the basketball media, are simply preposterous. Let’s tackle them one by one, so each of the moronic notions can have it’s own little section of ignominy here on The Stain.

Is Los Angeles now a Clippers town?

Really? Look, I know I’m in the minority here, but if the teams I support (Dodgers, Kings, Galaxy, Lakers) don’t bring home the hardware, I hope the other local teams do. I have no problem pulling for the Angels, Ducks, Chivas or Clippers if my primary teams are out of it. But that notwithstanding, Los Angeles is a city about far more than who the flavor of the month is in the sports world. The Clippers are clearly the superior team here these days, but they have won the same amount of NBA titles as you and I have. Until they win something, how can they even be compared to a Lakers franchise with a truckload of titles, led by superstars like Jerry, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Kobe, Shaq and company. Look, go Clips. Kick ass. Take down the Western Conference, and lay the smack on Indiana or Miami, whomever it is that will represent the East. But until that happens about a dozen times, they are second fiddle. Is it fair? Maybe not, but nobody ever said the World was a fair place.

Is this the most humiliating defeat in Lakers history?

Again, preposterous. The term humiliating implies that somebody actually gives a crap on the Lakers. The only guy who can truly claim to bleed the purple and gold is Kobe Bryant, who has spent his entire career here. But he’s hurt. The classy Pau Gasol cares, to a degree, but he wouldn’t have turned down a trade to a contender. Not in a heartbeat. In any event, he’s still good but he’s a few years removed from being a star. The rest of the guys on the team are guys trying to rack up numbers they can point to in job interviews next season. If Xavier Henry’s 15 points including 3-3 on three pointers helps his season ending averages, is anyone going to remember that it came in a blowout loss? These aren’t the iconic Lakers of old. They’re mercenaries wearing the purple and gold jersey this year.

Are the Lakers as an organization at a crossroads?

In short, no. This is how sports dynasties work. You get a collection of stars. Win for several years. Those stars get old, and their level of play starts to decline. But you can’t get rid of them because they are under contract. And you had to sign them to a lucrative contract that extended into their older years, because if you didn’t offer that, some other team would have and you don’t get them for their good years then, and as a result, don’t win. It’s pretty straight forward. The other thing is, when you win, you don’t get high draft picks, so your odds of landing a Paul George type are super slim. The Lakers are just at a point now where their stars are old, and they need to rebuild. So they’ll get a good draft pick, hopefully use it well, suck again next season, hit the draft again, and sign a big free agent or two, and voila. Contender. It’s not neuro science.

Do the Clippers have extra motivation against the Lakers?

If they do, there’s something wrong with them. It’s a basketball game. Wins against the crosstown rival don’t count any heavier in the standings than a win against Milwaukee. It may be a bragging rights badge for local fans when your team beats up on your buddy’s team, but these guys are professionals and already on to the next game. Extra motivation is a horrid sports cliche. Nothing more. If any game ever would be cause for extra motivation, it would be a finals game or a game where you were facing elimination from the playoffs. Your proverbial life on the line could add extra weight. Anything else, doubtful.

Will free agents even want to come to the Lakers now?

Well, if you want to live in a town with a fast-paced nightlife, huge media market, and a disproportionately high number of beautiful people, then you will. If you prefer a quieter, more anonymous course for your stardom, then probably not. The previous season’s record can’t be a motivating factor.  But let’s say for a moment that the Lakers are indeed afraid their brand, and therefore their recruiting power has faltered. The Buss family is not stupid. Fire D’Antoni. Hire Phil Jackson. Problem over. For the record, I’m not advocating this. I enjoy D’Antoni’s fast paced philosophy (as much as a guy like me can use the word “enjoy” in the same sentence as the word “basketball” anyway…) way more than Phil Jackson’s methodical triangle. And I’ve always thought he was overrated anyway, and that much of his success was a product of his teams having the preponderance of good players. But you can’t argue the fact that he is revered in NBA circles.

Are the Lakers tanking?

If they were, would it matter? What do you think Philly is doing, or Milwaukee, or Utah? But if I have to weigh in on this ridiculous notion, no. Why would they go into Portland and gut out a victory against a very good Blazers team that in no way helps them in the standings? If they’re tanking, they’re doing it wrong. Something like 12 of the fifteen guys on the roster are not guaranteed jobs next season. I promise you, those guys WANT jobs next season. So they need to put up numbers, and that is going to occasionally end up in your team scoring more points than the other guys. And the fact that the winning basket was scored on a highlight reel alley oop won’t hurt Kent Bazemore and Wesley Johnson’s job prospects either.

Are the Clippers championship contenders?

Yeah, if you’re dreaming or on narcotics. They’re a good team. They have good young players. Chris Paul is a leader. But they can’t defend the interior. For all of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s dunking on offense, there’s not enough paint protection. It’s one thing to lay a beating on a doormat, it’s entirely another to do it against other playoff teams. They may get out of round one, but any farther than that would be shocking. I’d love to eat crow with this one. The more hardware my hometown gets, the happier I am. But it ain’t happening this year with this team.

Are you ready for baseball to start yet, Torsten?

Yes. Yes I am. Perhaps something other than the monstrous man that LeBron James is jumping over a small, inferior player and dunking the ball might end up on a highlight show. For the life of me, I can’t understand how a man the size of James, or the average NBA player for that matter, stuffing a ball through the hoop is impressive. It’s something that contains ZERO DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY! A third baseman barehanding a bunt by a speedy hitter and firing to first base on the dead run to get him by a fraction of a second, that takes skill.

Ok, stepping off of the soap box now. Hopefully we covered everything on this Lakers Clippers nonsense so we can stop hearing about it.