Posted Jul 9 2010 10:30AM
Welcome to a special prime-time, ego-feeding, media-slobbering edition....
He had to go. If it is about hometowns, comfort zones, family and pure emotion, staying in Cleveland is great and understandable. But LeBron James couldn't say with a straight face that it's about winning championships and re-commit to a team going backward. The Cavaliers lost in the Conference finals in 2009 and a round earlier in 2010 and this season probably wouldn't have had anything close to a championship roster, depending on decisions later in the summer. He couldn't have said it was about the best chance for titles and stayed.
Look at the supporting casts on the teams courting James during this free-agent bonanza. The second and third-best players in Miami are Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The second and third-best players in Chicago are Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. The second and third-best players in New York are Amar'e Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari or maybe Wilson Chandler. The second and third-best players in New Jersey are Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, with No. 3 pick Derrick Favors on board. The best players in Cleveland after James? Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams. Basketball wise, the Cavaliers were the least-attractive option.
Somehow Chris Bosh will become a major villain in all this just because he didn't want to play in Cleveland. A lot of people don't want to play in a lot of places. Their choice. But the sense that James would have stayed if Bosh went to the Cavaliers in a sign-and-trade, if one could have been worked out, turns Bosh into the guy who could have stopped the giant asteroid from hitting Cleveland. It's not fair, but the people of northeast Ohio don't want to hear about fairness right now.
The first Heat visit to Quicken Loans Arena could be a bad scene. Even if nothing happens, tensions will be very high, security will be increased and the game itself will mean nothing, unless some Cavalier wants to earn a lifetime of free drinks and meals by dropping LeBron as he comes down the lane. Pacers-Pistons for the first time at the Palace after the brawl will shrink in comparison. The first Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal reunion will become a summer-league game.
Speaking of the soon-to-be-released schedule: Will the Lakers be in Miami on Christmas or will the Heat be in L.A.?
Love the read by Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter: "Mario Chalmers might want to call Rajon Rondo. Suddenly Chalmers becomes Rondo, circa 2008. Lot of pressure." Spot on. Rondo was viewed as the weak link as a second-year point guard when the Celtics added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Paul Pierce, then quarterbacked the Celtics to a championship. Chalmers is a third-year point guard as the Heat add James and Bosh to Wade. The only difference is James and Wade will handle the ball a lot anyway.
The Cavaliers roster is, obviously, cratered, but it will take years to total the financial impact for the city of Cleveland, especially downtown. The likelihood of small crowds at the Q and fewer home dates as the playoffs disappear means less eating in the surrounding neighborhood, less parking, less excitement to buy Cavs memorabilia from stores. The little guy is told to take the charge.
This was always about so much more than just basketball. That's why the story deserved so much attention, as much as it too often veered into silliness. It's about a city with a history of sporting heartbreak that just couldn't take another devastating blow but got it anyway, a city that did commendable work to put a new arena and baseball stadium downtown to help rebuild and change an image problem beyond sports, and a guy who just became a villain in his own hometown. That's compelling theater even if it was bad TV on Thursday.
"I know how loyal I am," James said during the televised announcement. Reached for comment, Ohio disagreed.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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