Posted on: July 7, 2009 11:15 am
Edited on: July 7, 2009 1:25 pm
UPDATES THROUGHOUT with LeBron damage control.
The LeBron 2010 story keeps changing, as does the version that James himself reportedly gave to free agent Trevor Ariza.
After it was reported that James personally recruited Ariza by stating that he'd be in Cleveland beyond 2010, people close to LeBron have circled the wagons to refute it. ESPN.com, which ran the initial LeBron-Ariza story, is now running one with the LeBron camp's denials.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer was first to refute the notion that LeBron told Ariza of his intentions for Cleveland in 2010, "I'll be there. Of course I'll be there." The comments seemed to contradict James' public stance on whether he would decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent after next season. James has consistently stated that he's happy in Cleveland but hasn't decided what he will do.
Either way, James' recruiting pitch didn't work with Ariza, who opted to verbally commit to the Rockets. It was an odd story to begin with, since James would never recruit free agents by telling them he's planning to leave.
Nonetheless, this is an example of how LeBron's clever non-answers and fence-sitting when it comes to what he'll do next summer have come back to bite him. On one hand, he has every right to leverage his player option as a tool for getting the best deal and keeping the pressure on the Cavs to surround him with the best possible talent to win a championship. On the other, could his wavering have hurt GM Danny Ferry's efforts to recruit another free agent to bolster the pre-draft trade for Shaquille O'Neal?
That's where the LeBron conspiracy theory loses me. What is hampering Ferry is not LeBron's uncertain future, but the simple fact that he has only the mid-level exception to offer. Granted, that's what Ariza ultimately got from the Rockets. It's the same deal Ariza turned down from the Lakers. Ron Artest was hell bent on signing with the Lakers, so it didn't matter what anybody else offered. The point is, players are going to sign where they get the most money -- and if money is a wash, they consider a wide array of factors. None of them should be willing to decide the next five years of his career based on what LeBron may or may not do next July. Especially now, since the story changes every five minutes.
Dwyane Wade felt compelled to go public with his position that if the Miami Heat fail to surround him with championship talent, he'll decline his player option after next season and bolt. That's his prerogative. Is Wade going to privately tell free agents and/or players the Heat might target in sign-and-trades that he was just kidding? Either way, the glamour free agents of 2010 reap what they sow in terms of how they choose to leverage their positions. Where LeBron is concerned, his decision has always been and will continue to be about how close the Cavs are to a championship next June.
Posted on: July 6, 2009 5:06 pm
I applaud Dwyane Wade.
Not for his game. Not for his frequent Twitter updates. And certainly not for his honesty.
I applaud Wade for his willingness to openly play the leverage card.
By telling the Associated Press that simply getting to the playoffs is "not enough for me," Wade has quickly filled the void left by Kobe Bryant's decision last week to A) not opt out of his contract, and B) consider signing an extension this summer. Instead of dancing around the question like LeBron, who never answers it with anything other than vapid hyperbole about how he loves Cleveland and doesn't want to leave, Wade has put his cards on the table.
"Build me a team," Wade said. "Put the pressure on me to win a championship. Give me a team and say 'All right, you've got to go do it,' and I'll take that pressure. Give me guys that we feel can compete every year to win a championship. I don't want to go anywhere else."
Will Wade ultimately make good on his threat to leave South Beach for supposedly greener pastures if Miami doesn't put itself on the doorstep of a championship? Probably not. But he has every right to use that leverage in the hopes that the Heat step up and make the kind of roster moves he believes are necessary to contend for a title.
As unpredictable as this summer's free-agent negotiating period has been with only a handful of teams armed with cap space and no top-shelf All-NBA talents available, imagine the frenzy a year from now. About half the league will have cap space, and Wade just put everyone on notice that he might just be the superstar most motivated to move.
Or not. Maybe he's just using the circumstances to his advantage. To which I say, good for him.
Posted on: June 5, 2009 2:23 pm
LOS ANGELES -- When Chris Bosh told the Toronto media that he has no plans to sign a contract extension this summer, the next logical question was: What about the other two musketeers?
In addition to LeBron James, the undisputed top potential free agent in the summer of 2010, Bosh and Dwyane Wade both signed three-year extensions in 2006 for the same reason: All three of them wanted the flexibilty to opt out in 2010 and score a maximum contract before the NBA's new labor agreement kicks in.
The only way their respective teams can avoid that calamity would be to persuade the players to sign contract extensions this summer. Henry Thomas, who represents both Bosh and Wade, told CBSSports.com in a phone interview Friday that Bosh's situation has no bearing on Wade's decision.
"[Wade] has the same contract, but they’re separate situations," Thomas said. "There’ll be a lot of things to evaluate for both of their respective situations. We’ll do it, and I’ll do it, independently."
Bosh's comments came Thursday at an event in Toronto where he was asked about his plans for the summer. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has made it known that his top priority this offseason is to sign Bosh to an extension, which would forestall his plans to opt out of his current contract next summer.
Wade has not committed either way to the idea of signing an extension this summer and has chosen his words carefully in discussing his future, saying that his plan all along was to give himself flexibility in the next two summers. Thomas said that unlike Wade, Bosh was ready to disclose his plans not to sign an extension because there has been more media speculation about his future than about Wade's.
"We did this contract in this way for a reason, and that reason was in part to have flexibility at the time that he is scheduled to have flexibility," Thomas said. "We'll see how it unfolds."
Posted on: June 4, 2009 9:54 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2009 10:11 pm
LOS ANGELES – About an hour before the start of the NBA Finals, the stamp on what he called a "season for the ages," David Stern offered his most dire prediction yet for what the recession will do to the NBA.
Posted on: May 3, 2009 5:56 pm
ATLANTA -- It was too early for Dwyane Wade to assess his future plans and those of his team after the Heat were knocked out in the first round with a 91-78 loss to the Hawks on Sunday. Suffice it to say he'll be weighing in with his opinion on what needs to be done to upgrade the talent around him when he meets with team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison this summer.
"Coach Riley and Mickey Arison make the decisions on this team, and I’ll leave it to them," Wade said. "Of course we have conversations throughout the summer. But at the end of the day, those guys make the decisions."
Wade, who led the Heat from a 15-win season to the playoffs in a year, will have a chance to rest for the first time in 12 months. It's been a long year, and the countdown now will begin to his impending free agency in July 2010, when he can decline a player option for the 2010-11 season.
"I started working out last year to get ready for the Olympics this week," Wade said. "So it’s been a year going strong. But it’s been a great year, from winning the gold medal and coming back this season and beating expectations of what people thought of me and my team."
If Game 7 was any indication, the Heat will need to add a significant piece to complement Wade if they expect him to be enticed to stay in Miami beyond next season. At one point on Sunday, Wade had about half the Heat's points. He would up with 31 of their 78. If he thinks he's tired now, just wait until after another season of that.
Posted on: May 1, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2009 7:20 pm
Game 6 of the Heat-Hawks first-round series Friday night comes down to exactly what we thought it would: Is Dwyane Wade enough of a one-man wrecking crew to contend with the deeper, more athletic Hawks?
Conventional wisdom -- including mine -- has been that you don't pick against the Heat as long as D-Wade is showing up. Despite a sore back that has affected him in this series, Wade will show up Friday night and presumably will do what Wade does: Put his team on his back and help the Heat stave off elimination and force a seventh game Sunday in Atlanta.
Injuries that will keep Al Horford and Marvin Williams out of Game 6 further bolster this argument. But not so fast. How have Wade and the Heat performed when facing playoff elimination during his six-year career? Not so good.
The Heat have faced elimination four times during Wade's career, and they're 1-3 in those games. Wade has shot .395 from the field (30-for-76) and averaged 20 points -- well below his career playoff average of 25.4 ppg.
So what gives? Wade is going to need some help. With no Horford around to protect the basket, it's going to have to come from Michael Beasley, who is shooting a miserable 31 percent in the series. Jermaine O'Neal has been solid, but he's not the prolific scorer he once was before all the knee injuries. Someone is going to have to draw some of the defensive attention away from Wade, and the best candidate is Beasley. In my mind, he's the key to whether Miami can force this series back to Atlanta for a seventh game.
One more thing: What is the over-under on the time in the game when Josh Smith really starts to regret that dunk-contest stunt in Game 5? I have seven minutes into the first quarter.
Posted on: March 22, 2009 6:28 pm
I see Dwyane Wade was himself at the Palace of Auburn Hills Sunday, with 39 points and two key blocks in the Heat's 101-96 victory over the Pistons. That wasn't the same Wade who looked rusty and tentative Friday night in a 96-88 loss to the Nets.
So I'll stand by my opinion that if Wade has run out of gas -- with his nagging hip flexor and the pressure of having to carry the Heat on his back all season -- then Miami's chances of going deep into the playoffs are somewhere between slim and none.
Based on Sunday's performance, though, it appears that D-Wade has a little something left in the tank. Just wanted to point that out. Carry on.
Posted on: March 22, 2009 6:20 pm
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Somebody is going to try to blame me for this, I just know it.
Having seen Dwyane Wade play in New Jersey Friday night, I of course made the trip across the bridges and tunnels to see his pal LeBron James Sunday. Rule No. 1: Never miss a LeBron appearance in the New York metropolitan area.
As LeBron spoke with the usual gaggle of reporters about an hour before the game, I asked what was intended to be an innocuous question about Wade, his close friend and growing personal rival. This was meant to be a notebook stuffer, something I could incorporate into a story I'm planning for later on.
I asked LeBron a couple of questions that were phrased pretty much the same as those I asked Wade Friday night. One of them focused on the fact that, as long as LeBron and Wade are in the same conference, their rivalry will grow because they'll play each other more often -- but it'll suffer because they'll never compete against each other for an NBA title. Which would he prefer?
His answer is going to be chalked up to another New York-based writer harassing poor LeBron into talking about free agency. But as you can tell from my question, that wasn't my intention at all. LeBron, who always manages to stoke the 2010 flames when he passes through these parts, dropped a juicy little tidbit in his response without any solicitation from me.
"I don’t know, it doesn't matter," LeBron said. "Whatever happens, we’ll go against each other. And you know, maybe we’ll go against each other in practice, I don’t know. That’d be fun, wouldn’t it?"
So LeBron continues to lead the league in not-quite-tampering. As for where LeBron and Wade might become teammates, LeBron wasn't saying. He was just having his usual fun with the media here, IMHO.
After the interview was over, one reporter asked him if his answer about Wade meant that South Beach has now made his list of top five cities.The Miami Heat, after all, will have plenty of cap room in 2010.
"I didn't say I was going to Miami," LeBron said as he walked to the trainer's room. "I didn't say he was coming here. Could be the Olympics."
It's always fun when LeBron comes to town, even before he touches the ball or does his chalk thing in the air. Just for the record, my question and his answer were coming from two different places.