Marc Stein is one of the few NBA writers at ESPN (along with Chris Broussard and J.A. Adande) that I actually respect. He's candid, he does his homework, he sticks to his opinions (except for his power rankings, which obviously must fluctuate week-to-week), and he knows the league as well as anyone.
When Marc Stein says or writes something, I pay attention. There's a reason that he—and not any of the jack-offs I'm about to mention—is the senior NBA writer at the four-lettered network.
Unlike Chris Sheridan, he doesn't have massive orgasms whenever somebody mentions "LeBron James" and "New York" up to 745 words apart in a conversation. Unlike Tim Legler, he doesn't just spew B.S. only to flip-flop every day, just to hear himself talk. Unlike Ric Bucher, he doesn't say or do stuff that any idiot off the streets could do for free. Unlike John Hollinger, he doesn't just throw numbers together and make sweeping generalizations without knowing anything about the game itself.
Adrian Wojnarowski doesn't write for ESPN, but he would be treated like the dude who steals this guy's scooter if we had our way.
That's why when Stein wrote a feature on Friday regarding LeBron James and 2010 (our faaaavorite topic, right?), he had my attention:
The Cavs, though, are still in a pretty good spot. James, for starters, is a certifiably proud Ohioan, which has to help. What happens if they make one more trade for one more difference-making sidekick this season or next? What happens if they actually manage to win it all once before LeBron's contract expires? The Cavs better have a convincing championship plan to hit James with when he's free to leave, because the closest thing to a sure thing in this whole process is what we were told this week by one source close to LeBron: "He knows that championships will determine his legacy." Then again, they're not that far off with what they've got right now to surround their potential 22, 10 and 10 guy.
We're convinced that this could all be much worse for Clevelanders, too, no matter how they've suffered for decades in various stadiums and arenas. Lusting after their LeBron isn't personal, or even original. Orlando lived with the same panic and insecurities every day of Shaquille O'Neal's first four seasons, except for one crucial difference.
The Magic Kingdom's Hall of Fame-bound, larger-than-life superstar, if my recollections are right, sure seemed more determined to leave than LeBron does.
The main purpose of Stein's brilliant article was to point out that it's still too early for anybody to lock in any plans a good 600 days before LeBron is a free agent. He pointed to the example of how Kobe Bryant was supposed to be traded to Chicago in October of 2007 and eight months later was playing in the NBA Finals alongside Pau Gasol in a Laker jersey.
Let's get this straight right now: LeBron is not going to Detroit. He's also not going to East f'ing Rutherford, New Jersey, no matter who the 1.47 percent minority owner is.
When this crap started at the beginning of LeBron's career, it was all about the "endorsement kicker" in his Nike contract. Some said it was bull, including, at first, our guy Brian Windhorst back in the Akron Beacon Journal. But to a casual bystander, LeBron James in New York or Los Angeles made sense—at least, as much as it pains me, compared to Cleveland.
But Detroit compared to Cleveland? East Rutherford, New Jersey?
Back during the first go-round of this nonsense during LB's rookie contract, we tirelessly pointed to several things.
First, the fact that under the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement, no team can offer LeBron James more money than the Cavs. It's called the "Larry Bird Rule," and it's the very definition of homecourt advantage.
It would have come into play with Carlos Boozer had Boozer been with the Cavs for at least three years, which makes the fact that Gund and Paxson didn't pick up that team option in '04 even the more baffling. But I digress.
The Cavs will be able to offer roughly six-years and $152 million in 2010. When you want to talk numbers for 2010, that's the trump card. Any other team—any other team—with ample cap room can offer no more than five years and roughly $110 million. Do the freaking math. LeBron would be leaving $42 million on the table.
If there's a Nike kicker coming, that's still a lot of money to make up. Still, it makes sense if he left that money on the table to go to New York (but as discussed earlier, it's way too early to channel your inner Chris Sheridan just yet). But Detroit? The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw put it best:
I can think of three reasons James would be interested in leaving Cleveland for Detroit.
1) He thinks it's too tropical here.
2) He likes the shape of their potholes better.
3) He'd like to see Canada from his porch.
Think about the massive illogic behind a move for LeBron from Cleveland to Detroit: Less money, crappier city, boring basketball team, and fans who think they can take Ron Artest. There's no place like Detroit. Especially in Game Five of the '07 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Nets have been trying to move to Brooklyn for, like, five years now. We heard back in 2005 that they'd be there by 2008 when LeBron was supposed to become an unrestricted free agent (many haven't learned from their mistakes the first time around, but oh well). Now, this:
In the last month, three pieces of news have surfaced about the Nets and all of it may contribute to doom for their dreams of getting James' interest despite what you may read, listen to and see elsewhere.
First, a New York appellate court cleared a lawsuit to go forward that will further delay groundbreaking of the Nets' Brooklyn arena for at least six months. James, of course, piqued interest over the summer when he said his favorite New York borough was Brooklyn. Nary a mention of the Bronx, home of his supposed beloved Yankees, or any community in Jersey where the Nets currently play in perhaps the most dilapidated arena in the NBA.
The $1 billion Frank Gehry-designed Brooklyn project, which once promised to be opened by late 2009, now may not be ready until the 2012-13 season, a full two seasons after James' free agency. But, in reality, there's a chance it may never open at all.
Second, the New York Times reported the Nets' $400 million arena naming rights deal with Barclays Capital has a clause requiring financing to be settled by the end of this month. The team owner and Cleveland native, Bruce C. Ratner, has been tussling trying to get bonds for the arena, part of his $4 billion Atlantic Yards development. Barclays recently said it is still supporting the project, but here's two things you don't want to be doing these days if you are a real estate developer: attempting to get new financing or re-negotiating terms with an investment bank.
Third, the New York Daily News broke a story this week that Ratner met with investors earlier this year in an attempt to sell controlling interest in the Nets to cash out some equity. No word on whether Jay-Z wanted to dump his minor investment in the team. The Nets denied it but the Daily News stood behind their source, an investor who said he listened to Ratner's pitch.
When I talk about "doing your homework" and "thinking for yourself" before you let the mass media stuff B.S. down your throat, this is what I'm talking about.
Since Dan Gilbert took over the Cavaliers as owner, the bar has been raised infinitely for the entire organization. The arena, the technology, the scoreboard, and even the locker room have taken a step up, including a brand new state-of-the-art practice facility in suburban Cleveland.
So believe you me when I say that LeBron is not going to leave Ohio to play in that dump or an arena they have in New Jersey. Again, Jesus Christ could be their owner and it still wouldn't make a difference.
And if you're a fan of an NBA team that is pinning its hopes on 2010, I seriously pity for you. All you have to look forward to is betting that a guy is going to leave the state where he grew up while his current team is doing everything in its power to re-sign him.
You're betting on a hypothetical. You're going for broke. And if nobody comes your way in '10, let alone LeBron, then you're screwed. Maybe for a long, long time, too.
The Cavs, meanwhile, have a championship run to worry about. At least—at least—for the next two years.
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