So now Danny Ferry finally understands what he must do to make LeBron James happy enough to remain a Cleveland Cavalier.
|LeBron James' greatness is undeniable, but he's going to need help to win a championship. (AP)|
The hard part is in discovering Scottie Pippen II.
It has been established these past few months that James is every bit the real deal, even after you deduct points for irrational hype. Nobody doubts that any more, not even the "He can't make the shot to win the game" crowd that made a brief appearance in November and December.
In short, James has made the first part of his bones, just as Michael Jordan did at this stage of his career.
But the Pippen thing, that's the hard part. It is the one thing that kept Jerry Krause from being dismissed as a fool (well, except by Jordan). It's the one thing that took the Bulls from comers to the team of an entire decade. It was the building block that completed Jordan, and somewhere in the world there must surely be a Pippen for LeBron James.
Ahh, but who? And more important, would Ferry be able to find him, sign him and sell him on the idea of being the next great second banana?
To be sure, Ferry is still in an enviable position in that the next Pippen is on his shopping list and so few others'. In performing as they did during the Detroit series, the Cavaliers showed that they are as well positioned to become the next great team as any.
That is, the "next" great team, which means the Pistons and Spurs are still the "current" great teams, because the Cavaliers aren't ready yet. The second half Sunday proved that. The final score line proved it, too. Sixty-one points in a defining game is a finger in the eye, period.
So the next move is Ferry's. He ought to be able to convince James that the Cavs are close, and that Cleveland money spends just as well as New York, Chicago or L.A. money. But he has to convince James that the Cavs are one move away, that he knows what the move is, and that he can make it happen.
It should have been how it worked with Krause in Chicago, but he let his ego clash with Jordan's, the basketball equivalent of Switzerland-France. Krause thought it was important that, having found the missing piece, he needed to be recognized for having done so, and in feeling that way forgot the First Two Rules of Praise:
One, there's never such a thing as the right amount. And two, you don't look for it, it finds you.
Champions are always overpraised, and the slop-over fills all the cracks. The smart person wins, and then sits back and waits for the spillover.
Krause couldn't wait. Plus, he couldn't have it be seen that Jordan was the first among equals, which is why he never saw it when it became true. He gathered a great team, but Jordan made that great team work.
This is where Ferry is now -- a guy short, but with the template before him to make it work the right way. All he has to do is prove that he gets it, and there is a fair amount of pressure in that. Great possibilities also enhance the chances of great failure.
The alternative to Ferry's dilemma, though, is certain doom, and he must surely understand that. He has a chance to be the Jerry Krause That Got It, and that is worth nearly any risk, even in the dangerous world of reputation-building.
One guy away -- and eternal glory so close that he can taste it. Yeah, it's good to be Danny Ferry -- right until it sucks.