Henry’s already covered this with impressive zeal earlier this week, but I gotta follow up after reading The Sports Guy (a definite Dead Ball Icon) on the subject this morning. The part that caught my eye came in response to a common reader question, about whether it was OK to change the Knicks name to the New York Expiring Contracts. After a couple of pars agreeing with the notion, and speaking to the essential strangeness of an entire city apparently being cool with abandoning two seasons, including one which had been going pretty swimmingly until a week or so ago, in favour of a chance of glory, he drops this absolutely dynamite conspiracy theory in our lap:
“But here’s the part that I love (just a pet theory of mine): Team LeBron is making everyone think they have a chance at LeBron in 2010 so multiple teams clear cap space and weaken themselves competitively in the short-term (like Detroit did) … which inadvertently gives Bron a better chance to win a title over these next two years! It’s devious and hilarious. I love it. I would do the same thing. Can’t you see Worldwide Wes whispering to Dumars, “Yeah, LeBron loves Detroit, he could totally see himself there, you should kill your 2009 chances so we can maybe sign with you.””
I nearly fell off my chair when I read that. It makes such great sense, and is exactly why – as Simmons himself later notes, alongside a reference to the decline of big-scoring teams in this year’s comp – watching the machinations around the sport is nearly as much fun as straight basketball this year. The thing that makes me think maybe the theory might have some legs is plugging Simmons’ theory that the Cavs are encouraging the bidding war (the one which if it comes down to dollars they win by default) to weaken teams over the next couple of seasons into a piece in Wednesday’s New York Times.
It’s an elegantly-constructed imposition of the five stages of grief onto a few statements from the Cavs into questions about the potential loss of James in ’10, but what really sticks out is the relaxed attitude the likes of Lance Blanks have to the situation.
“Oh really? That’s what they’re saying? Awww, man. Please don’t take him.”
The NYT is calling that denial, but these guys sound quietly confident to me, like they know something no one else does about how this thing’s going to play out. The piece notes that the Cavs have just constructed a huge new training facility near West Akron, James true hometown (the Hamilton to Cleveland’s Auckland, according to Henry – So I guess this thing is in like Huntly) where the King himself has built a mansion. Both those sets of circumstances would be strange if either party thought this relationship only had 18 months in it.
Anyways, it’s just a theory, though a very seductive one, and Simmons himself still believes James is likely to head to New York because he wants both rings AND next-level international celebrity. According to Simmons, that means moving to a major market, and there’s none bigger than New York City, right? Right… But Michael Jordan (who’s hilariously parodied later in this near-perfect piece) did everything that he did (which is: everything that can be done), and defined the parameters of modern sporting superstardom from Chicago, which might be bigger than Cleveland, but is no NY or LA. In some ways making your town the centre of the universe shows the magnitude of your talents even more than making it in the biggest pond on earth.
That’s all I’ve got on that, but as long as Sky/ESPN international keeps showing horrible matches like last night’s Magic-76ers I guess the off-court stuff will remain uppermost in New Zealand NBA fans sights. One last thing though. Later on in the piece (seriously, I can’t praise it enough) he talks about how ESPN needs to capitalise on all this off-court two-years-down-the-line-is-where-our-minds-live stuff by launching a new show called The Summer of 2010, hosted by Matt Winer, Tim Legler, Jalen Rose and… Tim Hardaway.
While youtube-ing for clips of Penny Hardaway in reponse to Dave’s piece a few days back, Justin came across this completely wild bit of audio from Tim Hardaway (which apparently sent him – Hardaway, not Justin, he’s gone already – into something of a meltdown). To hear it is to wonder how anyone could let the man near a live mic again.