Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:11 pm
Looks like Chicago, along with New Jersey and the Clippers, will be the big losers from this monstrous free agency period.
With Chris Bosh headed to Miami to join Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James apparently having narrowed his choices down between Cleveland and the Heat, the Bulls no longer look to be in contention to sign a free-agent. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter that the Bulls have moved on from the Big 3 and will "turn their attention" towards other lesser free agents like Carlos Boozer and David Lee among others, as well as pursue trades.
It's going to be a disappointing year for Bulls fans who will wonder what could have been. Dwyane Wade said in an interview on ESPN's SportCenter that he thought heavily about Chicago and that it was a "very difficult " decision. But now the Bulls are moving on with the prospect of only adding a second-tier player to their roster. Granted, the Bulls are a team on the rise having made the playoffs the past two years with a new coach in Tom Thibodeau. But they could have been a favorite to win the title. They moved salary, cleared space specifically to land both James and another max free agent and they will miss on all of them. That's a pretty crushing blow to a franchise that legitimately seemed in the front of the pack going into last weekend.
There were signs, of course. Rumors that the Bulls had moved up their Saturday meeting with James to try and get him to commit to a deal before the end of the day. A risky proposition, and if the rumors were true, one that may have cost them. Bulls management has long thought to be too brusque, too bullish, and may not have put their best foot forward, even with a great market, the lure of playing in Jordan's town, and the best assembled roster of any of the suitors for the Big 3's services.
Losing Wade doubly hurts as his divorce settlement gave even more reason for him to sign with the hometown Bulls. But this is where they are, and they have to go forward.
Boozer and Lee are both good options, though Lee is likely a better value and does more of what they need without Boozer's considerable baggage. They're not elite, but they could help the Bulls to be a better team. At this point, the future of the Bulls will rest squarely on Derrick Rose's shoulders. The team can add other free agents to help out (a significant offer for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow would be a great start), but at the end of the day, Rose will have to ascend to superstardom in order for the Bulls to contend. This is especially taxing considering how the East is now shaping up, with the Celtics making at least one more run, Orlando with a strong core, the Cavaliers possibly returning most of their 60+ win team, and Miami coming on as a contender for the title.
The Bulls may have been the frontrunners at one point, and had a legit shot at returning to the top of the NBA empire. Now they're just another franchise trying to add pieces, fighting for their stake of the middle ground behind the elite, populated by the players they just missed out on.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:58 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:17 pm
They finished one and two in the MVP voting last season. They finished one and two in scoring. They’re two of the game’s biggest stars, captains of their teams and the faces of their franchises. Yet, I don’t know if Kevin Durant and LeBron James could really be much more different.
No lights. No cameras. No fanfare. Just a simple, humble announcement and a thank you. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the way LeBron is going about this, but there’s certainly something refreshing in the way KD did.
I even love the fact that Durant had a typo in his tweet. It was genuine and we know it came from him. Some PR specialist didn’t type that for him. He wrote it himself, and wrote it from the heart. Later, Durant followed up with this tweet :
First time i cried n a while..Seat Pleasant we #outchea , RIp Chucky, we doin wat we dreamed about..i swear i love all my bros!! yessir!!!
Seat Pleasant, Md. is his hometown. Chucky is for his AAU coach Charles Craig who was killed at the age of 35, which is the reason KD wears No. 35. Talk about keeping it all in perspective.
And not only that, but KD pledged his commitment to the Thunder by not insisting on a fourth-year opt-out clause. Most players take the opt-out. Heck, that’s what LeBron is using right now to play this free agency game. But Durant felt compelled to show loyalty to the Thunder because they showed it to him when they arrived on his door a minute after the negotiation period began.
Read that again. Durant chose not to put a clause in his contract that would likely have made him more money down the road, because he wanted to show appreciation to his franchise. Are we still talking about professional sports here? I mean, this is almost unprecedented. But that’s the thing, KD is different .
This is the guy that chose Nike over Adidas even though Adidas offered more money because he’d always worn Nike’s growing up and he said they just fit better. We’re talking about a guy that used to work the scorer’s table at UT during intramural games . We’re talking about a guy that attends his team’s draft in New York City just to show support. We talking about a guy that watches from the bench at summer league. Summer. League. Yesterday, OKC capped a 10-2 run to take the lead against Charlotte. The first off the bench giving high fives? Kevin Durant. We're talking about that kind of guy.
I just can’t help but find it slightly ironic that on a day LeBron tries to grab everyone’s attention with a one-hour television special , Kevin Durant completely upstages him by humbly announcing his extension with a typo on Twitter. Similar ability, different in personality I suppose.
You can try your darndest to win folks over with brilliant marketing and PR, but most times, genuine just wins out. KD didn’t expect this kind of reaction. It’s just who he is. And here’s to hoping, for the sake of sports fans everywhere that are tired of egos and greed, that KD never changes.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 12:55 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:57 pm
Yes, that's what LeBron's one-hour free agency special is called. The Decision. It sounds like a bad John Grisham novel or something.
The special airs at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN Radio. Stuart Scott will host and Michael Wilbon and Jon Barry will serve as analysts. Freelance reporter Jim Gray will conduct the first interview with LeBron after he announces his intentions.
As noted in the release , proceeds from “The Decision” will be donated to Boys & Girls Club of America in support of James’ vision to construct basketball courts for youth across the country. The program will be co-presented by University of Phoenix and Bing. Vitamin Water and McDonald’s will also sponsor the program with Nike and Sprite also making contributions. LeBron and his marketing company, LRMR Marketing, were responsible for securing the sponsors for the event.
Maverick Carter, CEO of LRMR, said in the release: "LeBron has a longstanding commitment to giving back to the community and has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs in cities across the country. With the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we decided to make this announcement on national television and donate the proceeds to Boys & Girls Clubs. We very much appreciate the cooperation and generosity of our sponsors.”
Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:51 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 11:54 am
About an hour ago, Ken Berger reported that the Miami Heat, having locked up Chris Bosh as their power forward of the future next to Dwyane Wade, have turned their attentions to LeBron James in an attempt to create what can only be termed a "superteam." The prospect of the three playing together in Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, Timbuktu or the moon is the kind of concept that leaves every other general manager in the league waking up nights in a cold sweat. And according to the sources in KB's story, the push is hard.
Now, Chad Ford of ESPN.com reports via Twitter that a conference call was held this morning between Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and James. The call had been previously reported by several outlets. But the key is that Ford reports the three discussed the exact scenario Berger laid out. If Wade and Bosh were able to make a successful pitch, when combined with Pat Riley showing James his ring during their meeting to drive the point home, then it's actually possible.
LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. Together. (Along with Mario Chalmers or Michael Beasley, depending on who winds up in a sign-and-trade, but let's try and ignore them for now.)
The idea is terrifying. It would realign the NBA for the next five years. The Heat could literally drag 10 guys off the D-League and contend very seriously for a championship. (I can even give you names.) The Lakers and possibly the Celtics would be the only teams with a core built to overpower them, provided the three trying to play together wasn't an outright disaster. They would create matchup problems every single time down the floor and the marketing possibilities are endless. With Bosh as a low-post passer and scorer, Wade running the system and James doing everything he does, it would be the most terrifying combination of talent we've seen since the heydays of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers dynasties of the 80's.
There's a lot that would need to happen and the possibility is still remote of it occurring. Financially, logistically, practically, the chances of this occurring are not high. But there's been significant movement in the past 24 hours to suggest the conversation is on the table and being heavily considered by all parties involved.
For James, it would require a massive step down from the lofty porch of being the one-and-only top dog. He would be coming to a situation where one or all of the Big 3 are going to take a pay cut, and it may end up being him based on Wade and Bosh getting their deals done first. It would also mean going into a town where Wade is King, heavily involved in the community at both a service and business level, embedded in all marketing extensions of the Heat. But it wouldn't take long for revisions to take place to start pushing the three as an independent entity, capable of individual deals and combination partnerships and sponsorships that might dwarf anything James could get on his own, no matter the zip code. People love winners, and by all accounts, that team would win a lot .
It's a shattering concept that could shape the fact of the league for years to come. It's still a remote possibility, with Cleveland firmly the front-runner to bring the King back home. However, if I'm a rival GM in this league, I'm praying to whatever deity I subscribe to that this doesn't happen.
A Triple-Superstar Heat team?
That would be the biggest bang of all in a free agency period full of them.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:08 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:00 pm
Wouldn't you know it, right after Matt Moore writes about athletes controlling their own messages and announcements , Kevin Durant goes and alerts the world via Twitter of his extension. KD tweeted at about 9:40 a.m. CT :
"Exstension for 5 more years wit the #Thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal ."
And it didn't even take a one-hour special to do it.
Obviously Durant can't officially sign with Oklahoma City until July 8, and terms are not available right now, but I'm sure this was for nothing less than the maximum amount. (UPDATE : Reports are five years, $85 million.) Durant is the youngest scoring champ in NBA history, finished second in last season's MVP voting, led the youngest team in the league to 50 wins, scored 25 points or more in 29 consecutive games (only second to Michael Jordan in the modern era), nearly went 50-40-90 in percentages and is an all around swell person. Yeah, this was kind of a no-brainer.
Durant has been adamant about wanting to stay with the Thunder since last summer. Many questioned it, but as most should know by now, KD is an honest guy that's not out blowing smoke. He's not into playing games or using the media. He wanted to stay with the Thunder and he signed a long-term extension to prove it.
Also, as Marc Stein reports, KD's agent Aaron Goodwin said Durant didn't insist on an opt-out clause after the fourth year because he wanted to "respond to OKC's proactive offer with the fullest possible commitment." How's that for outstanding? Not only does Durant announce this in the most humble way possible, but he commits as much as he can to his franchise out of respect of their offer. KD is just a different breed of superstar man.
The big question has been answered for the Thunder. The centerpiece is there for the next five years. Sam Presti is a great general manager, but this one didn't take a lot of genius to pull off. But now the focus turns to Jeff Green and his contract situation. Durant is in place, now where will the other long-term pieces fall around him?
Posted on: July 7, 2010 10:35 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 11:02 am
If the numerous reports out there are accurat e, and they've been confirmed by just about every major outlet on the planet, then Chris Bosh is joining Dwyane Wade on South Beach for one heck of a party. But as the tango starts up in Miami (it takes two, you see), we're going to have to turn our attention almost immediately back to where our eyes have been glued all along.
What does LeBron James do now?
With both of the significant power forward options off the market assuming Bosh is a done deal, James' decision becomes somehow simpler and more complicated. Our own Ken Berger reports that he's a near-lock to announce he's returning to Cleveland tomorrow during his one-hour ego boost. But James has to be taking a good long look at his options before committing to anything.
LeBron was expected to be the catalyst, but instead Joe Johnson recommitted to the Hawks first, then Amar'e Stoudemire didn't wait for James to decide where he was headed before jumping into the center of MSG. Now Bosh is teamed with Wade. James may want to return to Cleveland, to stay home, to be the hero, but he's got to look at a roster that won 120 games plus over the past two years and still didn't make the Finals and get a little nauseous thinking of having to compete with Orlando, Boston, and now Miami and whatever the Knicks pull off (if anything). Which means James' camp has to be exploring his options, which right now are thus:
Take less money to join Wade and Bosh in Miami. Wade and Bosh are almost definitely assured the max deals (Wade from Miami, Bosh in a sign-and-trade). So it's natural for them to take those deals which means James capitalizes on his enormous celebrity and forms a super-team the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades in the NBA thanks to the salary cap. He guarantees himself multiple rings but also sacrifices home court advantage in terms of market and under the circumstances, looks like the third wheel. James is no third wheel. As important as winning is to James, not giving up his leverage in his attempt to become a global icon is more important, and going to Miami would mean sacrificing stock in that. Still, the allure of a super team has to weigh heavily, especially when combined with the beach and tax situation in Miami.
Head to New York to join Amar'e. James comes into the world's biggest market as the difference maker alongside Amar'e Stoudemire. All of a sudden New York is the free-agent destination and the team can fill out the roster with quality players while working towards the future. Still, the core roster behind Stoudemire is as shaky as it is in Miami, only without the All-Star duo and only Amar'e instead. The money would be amazing, but the basketball might suffer. It would be an incredible risk, but one with a huge payout.
Head to Chicago with Rose and Noah. The Bulls have the most ready team to compete over the next decade and with James they would elevate to a whole other level. Noah provides strength low and Rose is one of the most up and coming point guards in the league. He would have his name next to Michael Jordan, for better or worse, and operate in a major market. The team would be ready to contend and could likely snag Carlos Boozer or David Lee to help with low-position scoring. For whatever reason, the Bulls have slipped out of most talks.
Stay home. The option most are predicting, and have from the start. Our own Ken Berger reports that's the most likely scenario . But James is looking at Antawn Jamison, who did not deliver last season in any way, shape, or form, and Mo Williams as his running partners while the rest of the league gets younger, the Heat become a powerhouse, Boston maintains, Orlando maintains, and the Lakers still rule the roost. But Cleveland is home, and James may feel that his presence will always generate the ability for teams to improve. Maybe the Cavs can pull a rabbit out of a hat. What's strange is the most likely scenario also seems like the most risky. The Cavs are a lock to not be terrible in the future. But they're also a heavy favorite to be not be considered a true contender unless significant changes happen.
Wade and Bosh may force James to reconsider his decision, either way. The options are largely the same as they've ever been, but the pieces have now moved into place. In a little over 24 hours, James will have to publicly declare what's most important to him , with the whole world watching.
(Graphic: Roland Liwag)
Posted on: July 7, 2010 9:34 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 9:44 am
The next significant piece may be falling into place, and it's good news for Miami.
Our own Ken Berger reported last night that an executive close to the talks between the Big 3 free agents (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) has indicated that Chris Bosh will be joining Dwyane Wade in Miami in a sign-and-trade. That's followed by a report from ESPN's Chris Broussard this morning indicating sources have confirmed Wade and Bosh announcing their decision to join the Heat Wednesday afternoon.
This will send tremors throughout the NBA as without Bosh, LeBron James will likely be rejoining a Cavaliers team that has won 60 games the past two seasons but has failed to win a championship and now returns with no significant changes to their roster outside of a new head coach in Byron Scott.
But more importantly, it signals Miami as a rising contender to the Eastern title. Miami will have enough room to sign auxiliary free agents to put support around the superstar duo. But the question will be how much. Miami will need to arrange for a sign-and-trade agreement that sends either Mario Chalmers or Michael Beasley out if they want to be able to have the flexibility to really improve the roster around this new monster combo to the point of contention. And as Ken Berger tells us this morning, that's not necessarily a done deal.
While the Raptors are prepared to move forward with sign-and-trade scenarios sending Bosh to Miami, the duo's agent Henry Thomas had yet to sign off on any finalized trade agreement as of Wednesday morning, two sources involved in the process told CBSSports.com's Ken Berger .
So now we wait to see how the rest of the pieces unfold. Will this deal get done, with Miami having one of the most formidable combinations in the league... and not much else? How will they put a contending support core around the two? What will James do, faced now with no significant superstar additions if he doesn't leave Cleveland? What else does Pat Riley have up his sleeve? Where does Chicago turn if they miss out on all three of the top free agents in this class, after working so hard to clear space, despite having the best collection of talent? The big questions are starting to be answered, which means the rest could be coming in a flood over the next few weeks.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:58 am
Mr. Young brought you the news that LeBron James is hosting a little dog and pony show to announce his decision on Thursday. James, Bosh, and Wade will share a conference call Wednesday to discuss their plans and possibly coordinate the checkmate moves. The storm clouds are gathering, as one might say.
But let's take a moment and recognize the apex of a movement in cultural interactions between celebrities and their fans. As is often the case, trends in sports and sports personalities reflect the ongoing evolution of our cultural landscape, and King James, he is reflectin'.
Over the weekend, Joe Johnson's agent, Arn Tellem announced without announcing on the Huffington Post that Joe Johnson would be accepting the max offer from the Hawks to return to Atlanta. Tellem was able to give what the Johnson camp wants to expound as his motivations and intentions regarding the decision to re-sign with the Hawks. He painted the picture that Johnson wants painted, and that's the lead story. By controlling the story, shaping it and putting it in a public forum, Tellem took the power away from the small army of reporters that broke news of the extension offer throughout the week prior.
This follows a year where we saw the best and worst of social media interactions with athletes. Some NBA players stuck their foot in their mouth, Michael Beasley famously posted images of himself with marijuana on a nearby table (later confirmed to not be his house). But on the flip side, the Oklahoma City Thunder embraced Twitter and saw their public image soar, particularly Kevin Durant. Dwyane Wade reached out and communicated, as did Chris Paul. By reaching out and communicating up front with their fans, these players made themselves even bigger and did so on their own terms without the risks involved in third party conversations and interviews.
Which brings us to LeBron James' actions throughout the week. First his website appeared revamped, with talk of "finding out first." Rumors of James intending to announce his free agency decision via the website were later debunked . Then the Twitter account opened. Don't think there's been a radical shift in policy with James? Consider that the reporter who's followed him his entire career is completely baffled by the opening of James' Twitter account. That, along with the announcement of the live announcement represent a drastic change in the perception of James by those that have been with him the longest. The stakes have changed. And the playing field has changed alongside with it.
The key to this is the ability to control the message. Instead of having every angle, feeling, and angle about his business decisions laid out by reporters around the media sphere and the world wide web (it's an information superhighway, you know), James has the opportunity to lay out his decision in the most dramatic way possible, while raising money for charity. He raises his profile, puts himself on the map in a way never before seen. He'll never be Jordan, but he can market himself bigger. What's striking is that by doing so, he's somehow moved the importance of this operation from what his decision is to the announcement itself.
It doesn't matter where James goes. It's how he announces it. The man is having an hour on the most powerful sports television entity in the world, selling his own advertising, and donating it to charity, only furthering his image. There will be backlash, because that's what happens when you market yourself. It's self-aggrandizement, but you should also recognize that it's proof of the power of controlling your own message, of honing and delivering it on your own terms. More so than going to New York or Chicago or staying home and being the hero, it's the process of his declaration that gives this moment its weight. It's false dramatics, but then, this is sport. We turn athletes into Warriors and games into legends. We're not above this behavior, James is simply harnessing its full power.
LeBron James is on the verge of a decision which will impact the next half-decade in the NBA. He could win multiple titles or walk away empty handed. He could destroy Cleveland or save it. He could resurrect New York, rise in Jordan's shadow, claim Brooklyn as his kingdom, or bring the party to South Beach. But in reality, regardless of his decision, he's making history. He's bringing the power of individual control to a new level, and capitalizing on the full weight of his business potential. For years, he's discussed wanting to be a global icon. It turns out that where he plays may not be the key to accomplishing that. Instead, his method for revealing his decision could be the launching pad towards finally reaching that particular atmosphere.