No Excuses, No Ceilings

Posted: July 12, 2010 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NBA
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Last Thursday it all came to a screeching halt, and while I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure the earth’s axis came to an ESPN-produced screeching halt.

When LeBron James opened his mouth answer the question posed by Jim Gray on behalf of everyone in the sports world, and world at large, the collective fates of the several U.S. cities were on the wing. When he announced he was going to South Beach, everything changed everywhere else in the NBA. He went immediately from hero to tragic villain, in a matter of seconds in many places. It was symptomatic of what his real worth and purpose is in several different places. In Chicago, New York and New Jersey the business plan took a detour, but continued on. But the story in Miami and Cleveland was drastically different, where the results on each team leave an effect similar to the Berlin Wall.

The Heat have a World Class tandem. Now the real work begins.

For Miami, they completed perhaps the most talented trio of players ever assembled. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, on talent and impact, could immediately enter the discussion of the greatest duos of all time. Only Jordan/Pippen or Malone/Stockton being able to be potentially mentioned with their potential as a long-term duo. Add in Chris Bosh to the equation and the only the 80’s Bird/McHale/Parish led Celtics or Magic/Kareem/Worthy led Lakers could stand up to them. So, in other words Miami has more than enough tools to get it done now and build one of the great runs in NBA history. Perhaps anything short of this would be deemed a great failure.

This could be the expectation bar set for the LeBron/Wade pairing. Can even they jump enough to reach it?

In Cleveland, the situation is much different. The departure of LeBron is painting Cleveland as a post-apocalyptic

The Jim Brown-led 1964 Browns are still Cleveland's most recent champs.

wasteland. He takes with him much of the revenue and all of the spotlight that had been shed on a city that has not won a major sport championship since the 1964 NFL Championship (pre-Super Bowl) win of the Cleveland Browns. He was the most dynamic competitor the city had boasted since Jim Brown led those Browns. In the few days since his announced departure, his image and likeness has been stripped, burned and defaced by both the city, its inhabitants and even his former boss, owner Dan Gilbert. In the history of sports, I cannot recall a fallout over a departure of a sports figure since, well…..the original Cleveland Browns left to become the Baltimore Ravens. To sell it short, the city of Cleveland is cursed and this may be the final ingredient it needed to make it irreversible.

Post LeBron Cleveland? Take your pick at who is the city’s athletic pride point now. The Cleveland Indians are back to resembling the take on them from the take of them from the “Major League” movies of Wild Thing Rick Vaughn fame. Their record in 2009? 65-97, 4th in the American League Central. So far this season they have accumulated a 34-54 record and are firmly entrenched in the last place. With star Grady Sizemore out with his second consecutive season-ending surgery, don’t look for this to change anytime soon.

How about the Browns, who have had more seasons (6) in last place than winning seasons (1) since LeBron first put on a Cavs jersey in 2003. They have averaged 5 wins per season over this stretch and have not boasted one single player that has even been close to turning the tides of their fortune.

How about the Cavs? They could regroup in the post LeBron era and remain the face of Cleveland, right? Boasting such talents are Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson and Anthony Parker, they could make some noise and be the rallying point for the Cavs.

The King's abdicated court is wasting no time removing any memoirs of his reign.

No? Okay, now that we have established that as a fantasy point, lets hit the reality of the situation. LeBron raised Cleveland from a 17-win season before he arrived into a 61-win team by his final season in Cleveland, and pushed them to their only NBA Finals appearance in 2007. His departure will set this team back into perfect attendance level participation in the NBA Draft Lottery, again. Free agents aren’t even looking at Cleveland now and once Jamison and Williams contracts expire they will leave too. There is no drawing point to want to play in Cleveland now and they will be more competitors with Detroit or Indiana for last place than Chicago or Milwaukee for first place. This could be Clippers East for the next decade at least.

However, is this LeBron’s fault. Hell no. If anything, it goes to show why he made the right decision in heading out of Ohio. If you can take one player off of a team and watch its value plummet like the Cavaliers’ has, then clearly he wasn’t playing with a group of peers and there is only so much one man can do by himself. Even if that man is maybe the most supremely talented player of his generation. In the NBA, no one player does it by himself and he was never given what his contemporaries were given to reach the summit of the league. When Kobe Bryant struggled to push the Lakers over the hump, they gave him Pau Gasol. He rewarded them with two championships, and counting. To get over a playoff hump, the Nuggets grabbed Chauncey Billups to ease up Carmelo’s load and they gave the Lakers all they could handle in 2009. Wade got Shaq and he gave Miami a Championship in his next year in the League. The list goes on and on where teams aggressively added to their roster to maximize what they could do. Did Cleveland ever honestly do this? No.

All LeBron ever got was Antawn Jamison, a Shaq that was so over the hill he was back on flat ground and Mo Williams, who achieved his All-Star status as a result of open shots made by playing off of LeBron. That is a huge cut below what is needed to make it with teams with the depth of Orlando and Boston. The Cavs played the hometown loyalty card and leaned on being able to pay more, and lost. In the end, he decided that he had done more than enough for the hometown team and that the money was not the issue. He left to go play with the type of players that he needs to play with to achieve the level of success a talent of his level deserves. The Cavs wouldn’t do it, he decided that seven years of waiting was more than enough. He gave as much as could be expected and maximize what he could do with the tools he had.

The main criticism of him now is how he made such a grand stage of everything leading up to him deciding who he would play with, from the individual neutral site meetings with teams, to the individual ESPN showcase for him to make the simple statement of who he would play with, to the bold statement of who he will be playing with for the next 5 years. It is to be expected that the forthcoming results following this announcement will need to be as bold as the steps that led to it to justify it (if possible still). It is a rare case of the Supernova overtaking the star in place. The Miami Heat now are only Wade’s in theory that he has longer tenure there. This is LeBron James’ showcase now. All of the attention and blame will fall on LeBron now due to the way the decision played out, so it is his responsibility to make sure that the world of expectations placed on the Heat come to play out. A four-to-five championship streak is not totally out the realistic realm of expectation.

It's a nightly All-Star game on South Beach. Can they deliver on the hype?

What has happen is simple: he has put himself in a win-only scenario. There is no more room for any reasoning why he should not become a multiple time champion now. LeBron must take his NBA version of the Justice League into battle, and live up the role of Superman. He has to go into LA and Beat LA, the MVP performances must continue to happen. Anything short of an unprecedented domination of this decade of professional sports would be missing the mark now.

The pre-game show is over, it’s time turn up the spotlight even brighter. There’s no limit to what can be for this pairing of players, but when there are no ceilings, there can be no excuses.

  1. Oates says:

    Agreed totally.

    1 thing that LBJ will have in MIA that he didn’t have in CLE is a GM/Owner that won’t beckon to him. The thing about his team in CLE is that LBJ personally requested a majority of the players on that team (according to Chris Broussard). LBJ will have Pat Riley who like Reinsdorf/Krause was for Jordan & Buss/Kupchak are for Kobe a strong enough group to tell LBJ “No” “Go back downstairs & play basketball, we got this up here”.

    I do fully expect Pat Riley to take over head coach of the Heat by the All-Star Break. Erik Spoeldstra (sp?) will be over his head especially w/ a Heat team that won’t hit the floor running IMO. Riley has a degree, if you will, in corralling superstars & curing them of the “Disease of More” (term coined by Riley for 3-peat Lakers of 80s).

    I do disagree w/ you on whose team it will be. LBJ is a worldwide talent w/o the will to perservere, very similar to A-Rod. A-Rod often came up short in the postseason w/ Seattle ( a team that @ the time people said was not talented enough but looking back on it, just wasnt true. Might be the Cavs). A-Rod joins the Yankess & watches as the less-talented but heart of a lion Jeter shows him how in October (June for LBJ) that guts are what wins it. Wade has that, LBJ doesnt.

    1 thing that isnt an argument is that this team should compete every year for the title. No excuses, save catastrophic injury, should be made.

    The Lakers, Orlando & a pissed off Bulls organization ($50 says Noah punches LBJ in the face over the next 2 years) await them…

  2. The A-Rod/Jeter model is a good example of how uber-stars co-exist, while one is responsible for the fate of the team. And it very well could workout that way. It would be best for LeBron, because I feel no lesser a pull to A-Rod’s greatness in the game, because he went to the Yanks.

    But I think the intensity of the interest in LeBron and his decision is going to place the responsibility/blame on him more than Wade in Miami and more than if falls on A-Rod in an unmatched Yankee roster (in both star power and talent) in sports.

  3. Gator says:

    LeBron = Superman
    D. Wade = Flash
    Bosh = Martian Manhunter

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