Posted by: natehughart | July 6, 2010

Have we learned anything from Free Agency so far? (And why I love 2010 Free Agency.)

This is the question. Have we learned anything? I say not much. Then again, I say we have learned that the hype that preceeded this Free Agency period is far greater than the reality.

What have we learned so far?

* Amare Stoudemire likes his money. He’s agreed in principle (contracts can’t be signed until July 8th) with the Knicks after the Suns decided to not pay Amare booku dollars.

* Joe Johnson really likes his money and has reportedly re-upped with the Hawks. To the tune of 6 years and 120 million bucks. Hope it’s worth it Atlanta.

* Rudy Gay really likes his money too. (This is so weird!) He re-signed for 5 years and 82 million bucks with Memphis. (Funny this is by the same owner as Michael Heisley who complains that the salary cap is keeping him from keeping a competitive team in Memphis. Whoops Mike.)

* Hakim Warrick got 4 years and 18 million from Phoenix. Darko Milicic got 4 years and 20 million from Minnesota. (Nikola Pekovic got 3 years and 14 million from Minnesota but he was their pick so that was not entirely unexpected.) Amir Johnson got 4 years and 34 million from the Raptors. John Salmons got 5 years for 44 million from Milwaukee.

This has been interesting from a number of perspectives. None of these (well except for Gay, Johnson and Stoudemire) are big name FA’s. None of them are named James, Bosh or Wade. Right? Wrong.

Teams can’t complain they are cash poor or having problems economically and then go out and sign Joe Johnson to a contract worth near 20 million annually. Not only is it making a bunch of people question owners, there might be a bigger problem: The issue’s owners and players are currently having in this CBA might not get fixed (although I’m not convinced much needs to be fixed other than owners not knowing how to own their teams better).

Here’s the funny part. James, Bosh and Wade haven’t signed yet. At one point, I figured that Wade & Bosh might end up in New York because at least the Knicks would spend money. (I had much to learn as it turned out.) Wade wants to stay in Miami, Bosh wants a S&T cuz he wants his money (shocking), and the world is waiting for the world to stop revolving around LeBron James’ final decision.

Good times. I’m so glad that thousands upon thousands, hell maybe millions, of words were wasted upon the decision of LeBron James and his famous friends. As boring as it’s to write, it’s even worse to say this: Just make a decision. I don’t care if you drag it out but it’s slowing everything else down. It’s making it so that teams can’t sign players and it would be nice to know where Carlos Boozer signs. Not because I think Boozer is a landmark changing player in the NBA, but mostly because it’s nice to know if he’s playing with the Jazz, the Bulls, Nets or the Heat. You know?

At some point this delaying shit and acting like you got the world at your fingertip is stupid and churlish. Someone will lash out at LeBron James for delaying his decision. At this point, on July 6th, it makes no decision because LeBron James can’t sign a contract for another 2 days at the very earliest.

Guess what though? LeBron just wants folks to jump through hoops. And his good friend Deeee-wayne Wade has joined him. Because Chris Bosh is a follower, and not a leader, but not so much of a follower he isn’t going after his money, he’s joining James and Wade in the quest to slow down Free Agency that has made 10 times more noise without them.

That’s the ironic part. All this delaying of a decision has proven that 3 players in this FA class are drama queens diva’s. Wade has some reason to delay a decision because he has more than just money to think about with regards to his children. But, James doesn’t have that issue. His children will be fine whether it’s in New York or Akron or Chicago or Miami. And Bosh doesn’t have kids. (That we know of.)

What I know of today is that players like their money, the diva’s like making the NBA world jump through their hoops, and that ESPN seems to enjoy covering teams like the Knicks jump through LeBron’s hoops.

I can’t wait for Summer League and to see Kings fans freak out when DeMarcus Cousins picks up 9 or 10 fouls. That will provide scores more entertainment than wandering why a national outlet like ESPN shoved a story down our throats as if it was the game changing NBA universe altering story they all told us it would be.

Here’s a hint ESPN (and other major networks): Unless Bosh and James sign together in New Jersey (and I’ll get to this in a minute), this isn’t a major summer. It’s mostly hype and discussion. At the end of the day, players will get their money and it’s quite striking how much the SAME the NBA looks. Funny how that works out when home teams have the better financial advantage to sign their players. (A point that always seems to get overlooked.)

As far as Bosh and James in Jersey, I think it’s possible that James would take a 5 year deal and sign in Jersey. Because of Prokhorov, the willingness to spend, the young core in Jersey, Bosh and Avery Johnson. It’s been said LeBron James has wanted a coach with playing experience (which Johnson has), and he will probably will want to go to a team that has another All-Star like Bosh who won’t threaten LeBron James’ alpha dog existence. None of the other current Nets threaten that existence but all have enough talent to form an elite core. Even if the Nets end up doing a S&T for Bosh to Toronto, and give up Favors (won’t likely be Brook Lopez), then the Nets still have a ton of talent up front. Bosh and Lopez is hardly a chump front line, Terrence Williams has a lot of talent and is still learning the NBA, Devin Harris is a former All-Star, and Courtney Lee has proven to be a very valuable rotation player playing amongst elite talent.

If LeBron James is to leave, and he’s to leave where he can pair with Bosh, I see the Nets being the spot for both to do it. Bosh gets his money, James gets his high priest status, and the Nets have the young core to compliment both stars perfectly. Chicago has had to gut most of their roster to get even close to 2 max slots for a FA, and none of any S&T can include Luol Deng for Toronto. Joakim Noah is said to be the guy the Raps covet in any S&T, and why would the Bulls do that? Essentially if LeBron goes to Chicago it’s a solo dash and I just don’t see that happening with LeBron.

But people underestimate Cleveland as a market and that’s important to remember. It’s not just Cleveland and NE Ohio that the Cavs end up having as a market; it’s all of Ohio literally. And, while we’re at it, a lot of Western Pennsylvania including some of Pittsburgh. There isn’t a NBA team in any of those places, and with Lebron’s popularity it’s not hard to convince fans (who would otherwise despise every inch of Cleveland) to be a Cavs fan.

Because of those things, the Cavs have excellent TV rights in Ohio. (And excellent market share in Western Pennsylvania I bet.) It’s said that Cleveland’s market isn’t very good, but that’s true of maybe a third of the NBA markets. Sacramento’s market isn’t swell either by comparison to, say, New York or Chicago’s market. And, what markets do? The reality here is that if LeBron goes to the Nets he’s doing it to win championships, make money in the Tri-State area (if he can), potentially open up connections oversea’s using either Mikhail Prokhorov’s personal connections or indirectly through Onexim (Prokhorov’s investment vehicle; it’s similar to the Vulcan’s that Paul Allen employs).

In the end, I think the chance to make money anywhere, and LeBron will make it anywhere (as he has already shown), the chance to do right by Cleveland for a few more years (which is there), and see what happens then. Nobody in Cleveland should believe that if the Cavs stall for another two, or at worst three, seasons that LeBron won’t demand a trade and ultimately get it. But at the end of the day if the Cavs don’t win in another two or three seasons and LeBron is traded, that will be more about the Cavs organization. If LeBron leaves as a FA and is a pariah in Ohio, his life will never be the same. His family and friends live there. His “dream” house in Akron is there. He’s left alone at times when he walks in the mall. (According to Brian Windhorst. Windhorst has covered James for the Akron paper, and now for the Cleveland paper, The Plain-Dealer.) LeBron James likes his fame, the lights, and all that. But LeBron James also loves his peace and harmony.

It seemed that all LeBron ever wanted to know was that he was loved. He got that love. If Cleveland doesn’t do right by him in the next 2 years, that love affair is over. And, to be honest, even I won’t blame LeBron for wanting to leave then. But now? Now, given all the circumstances and difficulties the Cavs had trying to make LeBron happy and other things, I don’t have empathy for LeBron James at all. LeBron James is just as responsible as Danny Ferry/Dan Gilbert was for the state of the Cleveland roster and despair in 2010. But in 2012? Only so many things can keep happening before you can say there is no fire beyond the current smoke that’s making things murky. It’s getting near that point with LeBron. Right now I see LeBron signing the max deal in Cleveland for 6 years. (He can force a trade out. He doesn’t necessarily need to worry about becoming a Free Agent.)

Needless to say, I don’t care what really happens to Chris Bosh. He’ll end up in Jersey with James or Miami with Wade.

Dwyane Wade will end up signing in Miami and managing to get custody of his kids in Florida. (He’s the sane parent. His employment is in Miami. Simple.) And I’m sure that 100+ million dollars will help him figure out the right legal representation to do so.

******

You know what? After days & days & days of speculation, I feel like I’ve written this before. (I have.) That’s why I love this year’s 2010 Free Agency class. They’ve taught the public how nearly impossible it is to remake your team through Free Agency.

Knicks fans in NYC were so convinced that LeBron was coming. There was a mural of Lebron James in Rucker Park. Knicks fans BELIEVED they were getting LeBron. Nothing was greater than New York. Nothing. Nothing!!! It’s LeBron James!!! A big part of this, I suspect, is due to the Yankees influence. After all, the piss ant rich pinstripe fuckers by anything they want any way they want. Due to MLB rules (which ironically I don’t completely mind), the Yankees can buy players in Free Agency, and because players have longer careers in MLB it’s totally feasible. The problem? The NBA doesn’t have the same career lengths, and there is a cap on contract limits. NYC fans were always setting themselves up for disappointment because this is why the NBA has the rules it has: To give home teams the advantage in re-signing their players. That’s the point!

The Kings have sat out this summer because there was no benefit to playing the LeBron kiss ass game. Wade wasn’t coming here, and Bosh probably has little interest in the Kings roster despite he would fit well in some ways with the Kings. (I do think Bosh may consider a S&T if going to Miami isn’t something he prefer. Which, honestly, I doubt. But the fact remains that Bosh hates playing C and would likely have to do so in Miami.)

At any rate, rather than pretending to be a major mark for the big names, or even the 2nd tier of names like Johnson, Gay, Stoudemire, Boozer or Nowitzki, the Kings have sat back. Jason Jones is reporting nothing brilliant as of 3 days ago. (By brilliant, I mean nothing looming.) And no updates as of this morning on July 6th. The Kings are out there dangling comfortably and feeling relaxed. No need to make a move and what not. Fans in Sac are already excited about Reke-DMC. There is no need to bring in Bosh to create “more” excitement unless it’s the right move for this team to make.

That’s why I like what Geoff Petrie has done. Unlike Toronto, Milwaukee or Phoenix, the Kings have cap room. The Kings have options. The Maloof’s especially would love to entice a player like Chris Bosh and make some noise nationally despite the fact the Kings are quite often left off in national publications when having cap room. (They have near max room. In a potential S&T, they have plenty of salary to give back to Toronto to make a S&T more about the pieces than the money.)

If Free Agency hasn’t taught you that the aggressive and hopeful isn’t always the way to go, you’ll probably never learn. If you’ve learned that being patient and having several plans (the Nets and Kings), you’ll end up in pretty good shape regardless. If Nets fans are lucky enough to snag LeBron James and Chris Bosh, they won’t care about losing out on John Wall (in the grand scheme of things) when it comes right down to it. The fact is, it makes it easier for the Nets to trade Favors in a scenario that brings back Bosh than it would be with Wall. Favors fits in with the current Raps roster and Wall really doesn’t.

Free Agency was supposed to give us a new NBA. It was supposed to change the way we thought about the league. It was supposed to be the summer of LeBron and mostly he’s acted like a tease. (As expected.) It was supposed to be a summer where the big name FA’s would change the fundamental nature of the NBA as we knew it. We were supposed to see LeBron James have more power than the Cavaliers.

So far all we’ve gotten is that WorldWide Wes (who was telling people that LeBron was all set to go to Chicago) may not have the power over LeBron people were saying he did. Players have agreed in principle for some extreme (high) sums of money and that doesn’t include the James/Wade/Bosh contingent.

The Knicks have snagged Amare Stoudemire barring unforeseen circumstances (LeBron basically), and I shouldn’t be surprised. That may be the “curviest” curve ball of ‘em all. The Knicks got a reasonably talented player for the max cap slot.

I gotta say, just for the sheer teaching factor that Free Agency isn’t the landscape changer many have purported it to be, 2010 has been a very valuable success for teams. Hopefully, fans now realize how difficult it is to change your team with cap room and so many teams having it. It’s not just enough to have cap room, but to have cap room AND the right timing whether it be assets or the right situation to sign a player.

Free Agency is incredibly difficult and has not convinced me that a big market team (save maybe the Lakers) could remake their team in Free Agency. Players want their money, want to be the guy who leads the team to glory (read: championships) and they want to eat their cake, your cake and tell you “I told you so”. The special ones get to do that. The rest of those guys? They get to be pissed off that the world doesn’t revolve around their pinky finger.

Personally, I find the egomaniacal nature of the NBA makes it fun. If only because of the silly and totally pointless things that happen as a result of the egomaniacal behavior. Trade rumors, silly perks and the like. (Best entertainment in the world if you’re asking me. Plus, Basketball is the best sport too. But since when is the NBA more about top flight basketball than marketing?) If you were expecting fireworks and major paradigm shifts, I’m sorry if you go away disappointed. Hopefully next time you’ll know better.


Responses

  1. [...] Pookey from EvilCowtownInc has another amazing piece on the Kings and free agency – one that touches on the benefits of [...]

  2. [...] I contend that LeBron could end up in Jersey, but that mostly means he’s willing to play without Bosh. I think his most likely destination is to play in Cleveland. And, unlike Michael Tillery of The Starting Five, I think LeBron will sign a full 6 year max deal and not play the FA game again. A trade is something LeBron can force to any team if he wants to. [...]

  3. “Hopefully, fans now realize how difficult it is to change your team with cap room and so many teams having it.” – that is except for Wolve’s fans who have understood since the 09 draft that they are doomed, regardless of how much cap space Kahn had.


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