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Vince Thomas

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Talk's nice, but it's probably best that D-Wade and LeBron stick around next summer.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Free-agent foolishness: LeBron, D-Wade should stay put


Posted Nov 12 2009 3:39PM

Raise your hand if you're sick and tired of 2010 free agency talk. Say "Word" if the thought of eight more months of endless speculation and conspiracies about where LeBron James or Dwyane Wade will end up is less appealing than an endless loop of Lady Gaga and Akon tracks on repeat. Recently, Bron told reporters that he wasn't going to engage in any more free-agency talk until season's end. But that won't stop the obsessive deluge of "Where Will LeBron Go?" talk.

I don't know about y'all, but I was done with it last season, when Bron was going around Manhattan giving away red sneakers and the rumor-frenzies began.

Now all the talk is Chris Bosh is going to leave Toronto or Joe Johnson is leaving Atlanta or Bron and D-Wade are hooking up in Miami -- that is, of course, unless Bron goes to the Knicks and D-Wade signs with the Nets. Enough already! Gag me with an iPhone. I'm usually all for player movement and trade scenarios and the usual stuff, but the 2010 madness annoys and scares me for one legitimate and pressing reason: It'd be bad for the NBA.

How many times have you heard that LeBron or D-Wade playing for an NYC-metro squad would be "good for the NBA." Well, duh. But, guess what? It wouldn't be as good as both of those players staying put and leading contenders in Ohio and southern Florida.

The NBA is enjoying an era in which it has star power, successful teams and fan enthusiasm in practically every part of the country. New England has the Celtics. The Midwest has The LeBrons and the Young Bulls. Texas has two contenders. Cali has Kobe, Ron-Ron, Khlomar and the defending champ Lakers. Florida has Superman Jr. (Shaq will always be the real Superman) and his defending conference champ Magic, and downstate there's D-Wade and the Heat.

Chauncey Billups is in his hometown with Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets, repping the Mountain West. The Pacific northwest has the upstart Blazers. And we can lament the end of basketball in Seattle all we want (and I do) but, if the young Thunder keep it up, they're on the cusp of putting pro basketball on the Middle American map. When is the last time the NBA has had so many stars and good teams spread all over the map?

So what now? Well, instead of Bosh working with Bryan Colangelo to bring a true contender to the Ontario fans (some of the most impassioned and rabid in the league), all the chatter is about him hooking up with Wade. So, I guess we want basketball in Canada to go from bubbling to irrelevant to invisible, huh?

The young Hawks -- one of my favorite darkhorses and still in the process of building a strong following -- can barely get 12,000 people to show up for a Saturday evening game against Melo and the Nuggets, but we're OK with Johnson leaving Atlanta. That's cool? That would have Philips Arena about as packed as an Ashley Simpson concert.

You want Chris Paul to bolt the Bayou as soon as he gets a chance, instead of forcing George Shinn to build a winner in New Orleans? We want LeBron to leave Cleveland, a city that has said, "Screw the Buckeyes and Browns!" and become a Cavs town? Why? So we can read some cornball headlines that the NYC tabloids whip up for the backpages?

Let me tell you something about the Atlantic Division. The northeast has redwood-sized hoops-roots running through it. It might not be as ingrained in the regional culture as, say, SEC football is in the Bible Belt, but you don't need Kobe and a 70-win team for some New Yorkers, Philadelphians or New Englanders to care about basketball. The Knicks don't need a LeBron or D-Wade to matter in New York. All the Knicks or Nets or Sixers need to galvanize their cities are competitive playoff squads. If the Hawks balled in New York, MSG would be rocking every night. If you don't believe me, ask Spike Lee.

So stand up, fans. It shouldn't just be Clevelanders begging LeBron to stay in Ohio. He should be hearing it from hotel staff in Houston and the server bringing him his steak in Charlotte. The whole country should be behind Cavs' fans, telling LeBron to stay home and ordering Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert to make it worth his while. We need D-Wade to stay in Miami. So you know what that means, Mickey Arison? It means your squad has to be more than just six deep. And it means that you folks in Miami have to actually attend games at American Airlines Arena. There is no more stupefying travesty than D-Wade playing basketball -- as good as any human has ever played, mind you -- for a half-empty arena. Man-up, Heat fans.

This is serious. Last week, word started spreading that we could possibly see LeBron and D-Wade playing on the same team. Why would anyone want that?!

Trust me, you do not want LeBron and D-Wade -- who will probably be the two best and most popular players for most of the next decade -- on the same squad. That's not compelling basketball. You want them playing for two teams, in different regions, and meeting in the Eastern Conference finals.

It's good for you and it's good for the NBA.

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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