Monday, July 12, 2010
LeBron James: Officially a Bum
Sources: No probe from Cavs, Raptors
The Cleveland Cavaliers have no plans to push for an NBA probe into the circumstances that led to LeBron James joining Team USA colleagues Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.
NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday that the league would investigate the Heat's signings of James and Bosh for any illegal negotiating or planning before free agency officially started if the Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors make that request.
While awaiting a good nickname for the new LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh collaborative, let's establish that there are three things they can't be called: conspirators, colluders or tamperers, writes J.A. Adande. Story
Reached Sunday by ESPN.com, Stern said: "Whenever a team lodges a tampering charge, it is investigated."
The Cavaliers declined official comment Sunday, but one source briefed on Cleveland's intentions told ESPN.com that -- in the wake of owner Dan Gilbert's vitriolic open letter to Cavs fans that slammed James for leaving his home-state team -- the organization wants to try to keep the focus from here on its post-James future as much as possible.
Toronto likewise declined comment, but one source with knowledge of the Raptors' thinking indicated that they will not press for an inquiry, either, preferring to let league officials decide if any sanctions are warranted with regard to recent acknowledgements from the three players that they have been talking about teaming up for some time.
Stern also declined further comment but is expected to expound on the subject Monday night when he is scheduled to meet with reporters in Las Vegas following an owners meeting devoted to the league's ongoing labor negotiations with the NBA Players Association.
Although labor matters were initially expected to dominate the agenda, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Friday that he intends to push for renewed discussion about the league's tampering rules and how they are enforced.
Concerns about this issue have been mounting since an ESPN.com report in late June that James, Wade and Bosh met face-to-face before free agency to discuss their plans. Yet the league's general position has been that players are not subject to the same tampering restrictions as teams except for "the most egregious cases," when it can be proven that a player was operating as a direct extension of team management.
Miami's counter to any tampering claims figures to center on the premise that James, Wade and Bosh have openly dreamt of playing together at some level since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and that the Heat turned out to be the only team in the league in the long-anticipated summer of LeBron that had the requisite salary-cap space to sign all three players.
The Heat will also undoubtedly point to the fact the Cavaliers and Raptors -- to ensure that neither team lost its franchise player without compensation -- just willingly completed sign-and-trade deals with Miami for James and Bosh.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in Sunday's editions that James, Wade and Bosh actually hatched the idea of playing together during a stint with Team USA in the summer of 2006 at the World Championships in Japan, which contributed to each of them signing new contracts in 2007 containing an opt-out clause after three seasons to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2010.
Tensions nonetheless remain high in various cities around the league, starting obviously with Cleveland, some 72 hours after James announced in a one-hour special on ESPN that he would be leaving the Cavaliers after seven seasons to play alongside Wade and Bosh.
A comment made by Bosh at a welcoming rally Friday night in Miami has only fueled accusations that the three stars began plotting their joint move to South Florida well before they were technically allowed to. Bosh initially told the assembled crowd that the trio had been talking about landing with the same team for "months" before catching himself and amending that statement to "days."
Cuban told a group of reporters Friday at the NBA's annual summer league in Las Vegas that he would urge Stern to look into the matter whether or not Cleveland or Toronto asks, saying: "I'm going to bring it up to the league that we really do have to re-evaluate the issue of player tampering. Who knows what will happen? But I have to suggest it to them because there has to be more definitive rules.
"It's not just the Cavs," Cuban continued. "It could be any team. It could be the Heat in a couple years. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. But there has to be a way to keep these guys away from each other for the last week anyway."
Wade and Bosh are represented by the same agent -- Chicago-based Henry Thomas -- and were together throughout the league's moratorium period between July 1-7 when teams and free agents could meet and negotiate deals to the point of reaching agreements in principle. Thursday was the first day that teams and players could actually execute new contracts.
James and two of his closest advisors -- business manager Maverick Carter and agent Leon Rose -- took a different approach, inviting six teams to the Cleveland area to make their pitches over a three-day span before committing to the Heat.
But James and Wade acknowledged at a press conference Friday night that the three players were in frequent contact as they finalized their decisions where to sign, with the information flow also facilitated by the fact that Thomas joined Rose at CAA in July 2009.
Wade acknowledged Friday night that what he termed as "the possibility" that all three stars could someday wind up on the same team was established "a long time ago."
Stern, however, has made it clear that he would not punish player-to-player interaction with the same vigor that the league threatens to punish team contact with players that they don't employ, suggesting that it is unrealistic to try to put limits on or police player fraternization.
At the NBA Finals, when asked about the prospect of various top free agents holding a so-called "summit" -- as Wade playfully suggested to the Chicago Tribune in late May -- Stern said he would not try to stop it or punish participants for getting together.
"They can have it," Stern said on June 3.
Sources in the initial report told ESPN.com that the sitdown took place in Miami during the weekend before July 1, which was subsequently denied strenuously by Thomas. But sources close to the process reconfirmed to ESPN.com on Wednesday that the players convened at least one face-to-face meeting before July 1, except that sources now acknowledge that the meeting was on James' Northeast Ohio turf on the Saturday before the NBA draft.
The Plain Dealer reported in Sunday's editions that Wade flew with Bosh to Akron to meet at James home, where Wade-- still under contract to the Heat -- pointed out that only Miami had the cap space to afford all three players.
The newspaper also reported that the Cavaliers were aware of a November meeting Heat president Pat Riley had with James and Michael Jordan in Miami, with Jordan in town to do some Nike work with Wade. But Cleveland, according to the Plain-Dealer, did not register a tampering complaint with the league about the meeting, believing that Riley's primary purpose was convincing James that more modern players need to pay homage to Jordan, who at the time had not yet become majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
After James' Cavaliers beat Wade's Heat on Nov. 12, with Riley and Jordan watching together courtside, James made the announcement that he no longer wants to wear No. 23 and that all players, in a bow to Jordan, should forsake that number.
Jackson rips Gilbert's LeBron comments
First of all Jessie Jackson needs to crawl back in a hole and shut the #$%@ up! This has nothing to do about race, so don't make it out to be you racist punk. You are just looking for someone else's coat tails to ride and it would only be fitting to match you and Prince James together. Jackson is a washed up racist who no one listens to any more. Cleveland does not need your mouth on top of an already bleeding city!
CHICAGO -- Jesse Jackson criticized Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert on Sunday, saying Gilbert sees LeBron James as a "runaway slave" and that the owner's comments after the free-agent forward decided to join the Miami Heat put the player in danger.
“His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship -- between business partners -- and LeBron honored his contract.
”-- Rev. Jesse Jackson on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's comments about LeBron James
Shortly after James announced his decision last week, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cleveland's fans, ripping the 25-year-old and promising to deliver a title before James wins one. He called James' decision "cowardly" and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.
"He has gotten a free pass," Gilbert told the AP in a phone interview late Thursday night. "People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is."
Jackson said Gilbert's comments were "mean, arrogant and presumptuous."
"He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship -- between business partners -- and LeBron honored his contract."
Messages were left Sunday night seeking comment from Gilbert, the Cavaliers and James.
Jackson also called Gilbert's comments an attack on all NBA players and said the owner should face a "challenge" from the league and the players' association.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined comment.
Gilbert's admirable fire might be too hot to handle
This isn't about me, but if it was, here's what I would tell you: That I love Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert more than I have ever loved the owner of a professional sports franchise. At this moment I love him more than I have ever loved an athlete, and as a kid in Oklahoma I loved me some Billy Sims. It's possible I love Dan Gilbert more than I love my parents, my wife and my kids. But not my dog. Love my dog.
But Gilbert's a close second, even if his reaction to LeBron James' defection makes me wonder if Gilbert is housetrained. He seems a little unhinged. Unrefined. Hell, he's raw like road rash.
Dan Gilbert's grasp of diplomacy went missing after LeBron James' decision. (AP)
Gilbert freaked out when James announced last week on ESPN that he was leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Gilbert posted an "open letter to fans" on the Cavaliers' website that called James "heartless" and "callous" and "our former hero." And then Gilbert ceased with the niceties. He called James "narcissistic" and said James' decision was a "shocking act of disloyalty" and a "cowardly betrayal."
So of course Gilbert is being ripped for it. Classy Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon wrote that Gilbert "came off like a creep" and "leaving this idiot was the right move" for James. Wilbon decided that Gilbert's image "ought to be taking a lot worse beating than LeBron's."
Which just goes to show that even a smart man, which Wilbon is, can have a stupid opinion. Which that was.
But if this story isn't about me, it's damn sure not about Michael Wilbon. It's about Dan Gilbert, and what his furious letter about James might have done to his franchise.
It sure didn't help it.
And I say that with a heavy heart, because as I've written, I'm all about Dan Gilbert. Do I root for his team? No. But I don't wish negativity on the Cavs, although I fear that's what Gilbert's tirade might accomplish. There are tons of people who understand what Gilbert did, who like what he did, maybe even love what he did.
None of those people play in the NBA.
Here is how NBA players will view Gilbert: That dude's crazy, and not in the Mark Cuban, defend-my-team-to-the-death kind of way. They'll view Gilbert as crazy in the don't-you-EVER-cross-me kind of way.
There are unique circumstances here, but it doesn't matter. It won't register with players that James was a local Cleveland hero, that he personally approved (or didn't disapprove) radical, franchise-shaking moves designed to keep him happy. The Cavs fired their coach. They essentially fired their general manager. The two most important people in the organization, not counting the owner and the superstar, are gone. Why? Because the owner thought the superstar wanted it that way. And still the superstar left. By announcing it on national TV. Without giving his hometown team a blow-softening phone call ahead of time.
When that prime-time special began, the Cavaliers were worth roughly $476 million. Less than 30 minutes later, according to Forbes Magazine, the franchise was worth nearly $100 million less. All because LeBron James is gone.
Given all of that, what James did to Cleveland -- how he did it to Cleveland -- was mind-bogglingly cold.
What Gilbert did in response was mind-bogglingly vindictive, and while I love what he did, this isn't about me. This is about Gilbert, and he was vindictive, and for that he will pay a price. Mark my words: His team will pay a price, because Gilbert crossed a line you simply do not cross.
Call it the Nolan Richardson Rule.
Richardson was the coach at Arkansas in February 2002, his team 13-13 and everyone in town angry about it, when he dared his bosses to fire him. "If they go ahead and pay me my money," he said, "they can take this job tomorrow."
Days later Arkansas paid Richardson his money and took his job. Richardson responded by suing the university, and eight years later he remains out of college coaching. He'll never coach in college again, and why? Because he crossed a line you simply do not cross. He told his school to fire him -- and then sued when it took him up on that offer. No school will hire Richardson now, not with this in mind: If we fire him some day, that crazy coach could sue US. Richardson is un-hireable because he's un-fireable.
The same will hold for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers. His post-decision rant against James will scare away potential free agents. If I leave Cleveland some day, that crazy owner could do that to ME. That's a risk some free agents will take, players on the level of Jason Kapono or Eldridge Recasner. But great players? All-Stars? They'll have options, including teams whose owners haven't publically eviscerated a player for exercising his rights as a free agent.
That's my theory, and I ran it by some agents. I wanted agents who would talk to me on the record, without fear of backlash from either side, so I called agents of other sports to ask about Gilbert's reaction to James.
Baseball agent John Boggs, whose clients have included Tony Gwynn and Adrian Gonzalez, said Gilbert's reaction "definitely isn't a selling point ... you can be disappointed, but to go to that extreme, I don't understand it. It wouldn't help him land any player I know."
I talked to four other agents, two from the NFL. I got versions of that same quote, over and over again: After publicly smearing James, Gilbert will have a tough time signing marquee free agents.
I hope they're wrong, but I bet they're not. LeBron James ripped a gash in Gilbert's franchise -- and Gilbert, in his fury, spilled acid into the wound.