CLEVELAND BASHING BRINGS BLOGGER OUT OF EXTENDED VACATION
Sorry for the long layoff. I'm sure you all have toiled with that unbearing void of not having "Keeping Score" to read.
I couldn't bring myself to write about the Indians much after seeing them underachieve so greatly in the first half of the year. Now 40-47 at the all-star break, the Indians are sellers in the trade market, not just because of how bad they've been, but because how good the rest of the division has been. In either case, my overwhelming pessimism and frustration was better kept in my head than on this Web site. For your dose of Tribe trashing (and it's deserved), check out fellow Crusader Scott Miles's blog at http://jack-city.blogspot.com.
Now, on to other matters. A couple of days ago, I was under the impression that LeBron James was going to be lifer on the Lake Erie lakeshore--at least, that's what local reports would have you believe. Everything coming from the major pundits said that LeBron would accept the Cavaliers' 5-year, $80 million contract extension.
Well, his acceptance of a deal is not in question, but appearantly, according to my "pals" at ESPN, the duration is. Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post and Pardon the Interruption suggested that James actually wanted a shorter deal worth less guaranteed money so that he would have another chance in three years to test the free agent market. So cleverly, Wilbon called it a "pre-nuptual agreement" to a marriage. Cute.
What really set me over the top, though, were the teasers on Sportscenter. "...and will LeBron be leaving Cleveland sooner than we all thought? Stay tuned to find out" as LBJ's highlight reels play to the Sportscenter theme. Wait a minute. Leave Cleveland? Sooner? He just agreed to a deal! Sure, even if it's not five years, it's still a deal. The exact terms will come out later in the week.
Stephen A. Smith (quite frankly, you talk too loudly) thinks LeBron has agreed to three more years at $60 million with an option for a fourth. That puts James in Cleveland until at least 2009.
The figures make sense. The NBA salary cap is a bit complicated, but I'll give it a shot. James wants to be a seven-year veteran when he tests the free-agent market because then, he can legally occupy up to 30 % of a team's cap room instead of the current 25 %. I get the business behind it, and I can't really blame him. Even with this as the case, the Cavs are a very profitable enterprise right now, so I'm not worried about any team really outbidding Dan Gilbert in three years.
But the so-called experts from the national media will tell you that this is LeBron's way of protecting himself in case the Cavs tank. If they aren't in the hunt for titles every year, LeBron will decline his option and bolt, they say. In fact, these experts (hmmm...hmmmm...Dan Le Batard--or as I call him, Dan Le Retard) use "when." They find it so hard to believe that the Cavaliers are, or will be, a legitmate title contender. These windbags, completely removed from the situation and covering teams hundreds of miles away, are suddenly LeBron and Cleveland experts.
It makes me wonder whether or not anyone really watched the Cavs/Pistons series. Sure, it was a seven-game loss, but it proved that the Cavs--not just LeBron--are for real. I honestly think they would've taken the champions, the Miami Heat, to seven games, as well, if they had gotten the chance. Everyone's talking about how all the pressure is on Danny Ferry and Mike Brown to "put the right pieces" around LeBron, and how if they don't, he's gone.
Well, for the most part they have, and what they haven't done, they will.
The Cavs already have Larry Hughes, who can only be better this year than he was last. Z will be around for a while, and though he lumbers around at times, when he's at his best, only Shaq, Yao, and maybe Amare Stoudamire are better offensive centers. Donyell Marshall and Anderson Varejao are sure to stay around for a while. Though decisions will need to be made about Gooden, Murray, and Jones, I believe they made out extremely well in the draft. They proved they can play lock down defense, and as long as they get improved outside shooting, I would put them in the upper echelon of the NBA.
But to the national sports media, it's still Cleveland. They'll find a way to screw it up.
That's why it's completely unfathomable that the NBA's biggest icon would want to stay in a dinky little town of 500,000 people where it snows 300 days a year and nobody has ever won anything (This is what they think, anyway.)
So to the LeBron conspiracy theorists, I deliver this message: I really hope the sensationalism draws you more readers/viewers. Go ahead and tease people into thinking LeBron will dash to "bigger markets" where he can make a few million more from Sprite and Nike (like he can't make commercials and still play for the Cavs?) It will only make more people see the egg on your faces in three years when you're wrong.