Flash forward – is it 5 years ago?

LeBron James is in an interesting and enjoyable phase of his career: the “I will do whatever it takes to win even when I literally have to drag my team to wins” era.  Five years ago the Heat asked him to do the same thing at the start of his astounding prime, and now, despite all the extra mileage on his legs, the Cavs are asking him to do the same.  Basketball wise it makes sense to ride the greatest player of his generation (and probably #3 or 4 all time) but he is no longer a young 26 year old.  However, due to the massive amount of injuries and the loss of Kevin Love, LeBron is going into the Jordan ’96 portion of his game.  Even when he shoots badly or is a subpar defender he has to do just enough to get the Cavs the win and not surprisingly, he is managing to gut it out game after game.  Sometimes the things he does are spectacular and we as fans suddenly remember, and are stunned, that Bron is in fact only 30.  His block on Derrick Rose with the Cavs leading by two was a huge play by a big time player and completely swung the momentum of the series.  LeBron and his staggering iq of the game have turned him into what we have always envisioned he would become: a force of nature in the low post, a physical freak on defence and a player who is literally unstoppable in transition.  He is a devastating player and crunch time killer who thrives on pressure and as he put it recently, “just put the ball in my hands and I will win it”.

What must it be like to be fans of an opposing team and have to see LeBron on the court.  Psychologically it must be shattering, knowing he can take over and will his team to victory.  He no longer cares about home court or who he has to play because he truly knows what it takes to win.  It drives him now, it consumes him.  Like Jordan or Bird or Magic or Duncan it is what matters most to him.  We should enjoy this LeBron because like all those who came before him, he won’t be around forever.

Catching Up on the Sports World

Due to work commitments, it has been pretty hard to sit down and write a post (if only I could do this for a living…), but a lot has happened in sports over the past little while that needs to be caught up on.

The Pats deserved it – When the ball went ridiculously and improbably into Doug Baldwin’s hands, it seemed like Tom Brady simply could not catch a break.  He is in the conversation for best players of all time, and his second half performance is among the most impressive in Super Bowl history.  For the first time in some time, Brady ended up on the right side of the score.  Consider his legacy cemented.

The Cavs have turned it on…and they look strong – After an insane (completely and totally insane!) trade deadline in which the Heat appeared to vault back into contention through the pickup of Goran Dragic, the Cavs are the team who look like the top of the town.  They are moving the ball, getting the most of their role players and finally seeing their stars begin to mesh.  Does any team really want to have to play 7 games against LeBron James?  The answer is probably a strong “no”, as now that he has turned it on, it may be tough to stop him.  Take the recent contest with the Warriors – the league’s top defense – in which LeBron scored 42.  It did not matter which elite defender challenged him, he was not able to be stopped.   The unstoppable Cavs seems to be more of a reality, especially in the wake of some key injuries which will be discussed shortly.

The NBA Title is completely up for grabs – Could the Warriors or Hawks or Grizz steal one?  This seemed so far outside the realm of possibility that now that it is probable, it still seems shocking.  Even the Thunder could be serious contenders now that Russell Westbrook is playing out of his mind.  A fun year for the NBA all around in which a lot of surprises could be in store during the playoffs.

Injuries mar an otherwise great NBA season – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and, sadly, Derrick Rose have all missed significant time this season due to injuries.  For Kobe this may be the end; Bosh, is fighting now for his health; Rose may need to accept that he will never be the player we once thought he could be.  Bosh, meanwhile, has blood clots in his lungs, discovered right after the Heat retooled with Goran Dragic.  The injury is a tough break for one of the most eloquent and hilarious guys in the NBA.  Rose ends his season early again for the 4th straight year.  His knees it seems simply cannot take the pounding of his brutal style of play.  Could he reinvent himself as a 6th man on a contender?  Would that not be the most terrifying sight ever?  His next round of contract negotiations will be very intriguing with all the injuries on the board.

Chelsea still in the driver’s seat – Chelsea gave away two much needed points on the weekend, but remain firmly in the top spot.  Matic took a foolish penalty that may have cost them the game, but they still managed to emerge alright.  Now that City has slipped (thanks Liverpool!) it is going to be important for Chelsea to continue to fight through all the way to the end.  Can the team push through to the end of the season as City, United and Arsenal mount a late charge?  Another down to the wire finish could be in the offering.

Whiplash and the Price of Greatness

While watching Whiplash last weekend, I was struck by the connections between the character Andrew and the greats we all know and love.  The movie – which everyone should run out to see as soon as possible – examines what it means to be great.  The cost, apparently, of being great is staggeringly high.  It is, in fact, everything.

The movie first: earlier this year I tried to figure out what the best movie I saw this year was.  Whiplash blew them all away, handily and then some.  The final twenty minutes are so intense there were long sections where I completely forgot to breathe.  Whiplash is a pretty straightforward movie plot wise: Andrew is a student at a prestigious music school in NYC, he gets noticed by the leader of the Jazz band, named Fletcher (played by JK Simmons, best known to Oz fans as the psychotic Vern Schillinger, a character basically reprised in full minus the Nazi stuff).  It turns out that while Fletcher is a great conductor, he does not necessarily believe in just having a good band, but rather wants to foster greatness through whatever means possible.  This “teaching” includes berating and beating students, forcing them to practice at all hours and challenging them constantly.  The idea circles around to what he feels are the worst words in the English language “good job”, which celebrate mediocrity instead of pushing for more greatness which only comes through loss and brutality.  You can guess where this goes with poor Andrew who wants to be great at any cost and regardless of suffering.  After a particularly grueling round of practice this is evident when Andrew drops his bloody, torn hand into a bucket of ice.  Even then he still cannot get the tempo of the piece right and you see he has to give more, even when there is seemingly nothing more he can do.  To be great, the movie argues, you must be torn down and rebuilt completely.   Watch it and prepare to be blown away: for me this was one of the best movies I have ever seen.

How does this connect to the sports world?  How did Michael Jordan become great; and what did he have to sacrifice?  Many would argue that he too, sacrificed everything in order to become the greatest of all time.  LeBron too may have to do much of the same – and just how is he pushing Tristan Thompson to be more?  The Cavs have turned it on and many of their players are having among their best individual seasons and LeBron’s influence is a major part of that.  Are the Cavs players willing to sacrifice everything to win a championship for the city of Cleveland?

Very few athletes reach the peak of their sport, but all have had to sacrifice in order to even make it to the pros.  No one can accurately judge the cost of greatness except those who achieve it, and only those who are truly great, like Andrew, can judge whether or not it was worth it.

The 2014 Sporties Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Sporties our annual celebration of the best of Sport and the Sports world.  Let’s dive right in shall we:

Game of the Year – Last year of course featured the absolutely bonkers Auburn / Alabama game in addition to the Brady vs. Manning Bowl in which Brady staged an incredible comeback.  This year the contenders are much fewer and farther in between.  There were a couple of crazy baseball games and a couple of crazy football games.  However, the most exciting game I watched?  No question it was the bonkers World Cup match between the US vs. Portugal game which came down to the absolute wire and featured some of the top players in the world playing out of their minds.

Shocking World Cup Moment of the Year – Brazil gets tuned up by eventual champs Germany.  It was relentless, wave after wave of unstoppable strikers and you began to feel worse and worse for Brazil fans.  Simply awful.

Championship Dominations – One theme of the year was definitely beat downs in the finals: the LA Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle Seahawks all cruised to victory over, in some cases, more ballyhooed opponents.  I will also not neglect to mention the Canadian hockey team and their punishing win over the US in the Olympic Finale.

Series of the Year – The best series of the year took place in hockey, and featured the LA Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks in a war that served as the real Stanley Cup final.

Breakout of the Year – The biggest winners of the World Cup was the Men in Blazers who are single handedly bringing soccer to the masses of America through their insanely brilliant show.  During the biggest sports event in the world, the two men locked themselves in a small room nicknamed “Bob Ley’s panic room” where they proceeded to break down football and culture simultaneously.  When they got home it was a quick shift to NBC Sports where they continued to have the highest rated podcast and a shockingly well rated TV series.  They are stone brilliant and they are now both a must watch, and must listen.

Pod of the Year – After the praise I just gave the Men in Blazers, you would rightfully assume they have won the Pod Award…but this is actually a battle that stretched beyond the sports world!  Three of my must listen pods: the aforementioned Blazers, Hollywood Prospectus and SerialHollywood Prospectus is highly entertaining and funny, and includes the occasional deep dive into the movies of David Fincher or the music of Taylor Swift.  It is fun and light and takes pop culture analysis to a whole new level.  Serial tells the story of a 15 year old murder allegedly committed by a young man named Adnan Syed.  The podcast is hypnotic and brilliantly conceived as we wander through the murky depths of a story where we may not want to hear the outcome.  A truly powerful experience; and a very addictive one as I powered through four pods believing I was only on the first one.  Wait?  Isn’t that only three pods when I actually mentioned four?  Yes, because it is high time someone gave praise to the true return of the Starters.   Last year I was almost out on them, as their 44 minute shows were simply not enough time to properly appreciate them.  Given that their time as “The Basketball Jones” was astounding and creative, it felt a little bit as if they were being contained in a small box that stripped away all their talent.  This year I was on the edge of being out completely when I heard they were cutting down to 22 minute shows.  I was done: I tried, but all their zany antics had been stripped away simply because there was not time.  In some ways it was good because it focused their great and insightful basketball minds.  However…it was putting them in a box.  I was done.

And then I heard the news.  On Fridays, the Starters would be unleashing “the Drop” a return to their old, off the walls ways.  Welcome back boys.  Before the first pod I waited with trepidation and had not looked forward to a pod like that for some time.  When I listened, all my fears vanished.  The boys were back.  In the following weeks, they have truly returned to their off the walls roots where their crazy energy and unstoppable hilarity continues.  What a glorious return.  Another year and you might be the pod of the year: right now it is the Blazers for their consistency.

Sports Books of the Year – I read some great sports books this year, many about football (American and otherwise).  The best: League of Denial by Mark Fairinua and Steve Farinua  / Showtime by Jeff Pearlman / Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby / The Football Business by David Conn and Against Football by Steve Almond.  Another must read is the William Hill Sports Book winner: Night Games by Anna Krien which takes the microcosm of the misdeeds of the Australian Rules Football league and expands it through the sporting world.  An interesting take on the lengths teams will go to in order to protect their players and the depths players will sink to in order to fit in.  An important achievement and must read book.

Team of the Year – The Kansas City Royals because no other team did what they did, with the expectations that team had coming into the season.  Even in defeat they are worthy.  Runners up: San Antonio Spurs, Team Canada and Seattle Seahawks.

Off Field Moment of the Year – LeBron James returns to Cleveland…as read by Frank Caliendo playing Morgan Freeman.  Runner Up: Wait, is that Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter?  What could they possibly be discussing?  Is it possible for all the evil in the modern world ensconced in one luxury box?  Another runner up: remember when Bob Costas got pink eye in Russia?

Sportie Man of the Year – No one and I mean no one, gives Sidney Crosby enough credit.  He deserves to be the Sportie Man of the Year because he guided one of the most dominating hockey teams through a grueling slate to the finals.  It did not look good and certain points but the best players truly shine when it matters most and the way Crosby dominated at both ends of the ice in the final was astounding to watch.  He deserves more recognition for the way he dominates his sport in an especially competitive time: remember when Ovechkin or Crosby was a serious question?  Now it is likely Crosby or Toews.  Crosby though is our Sportie Man of the Year.

Mega Sports Blast

A lot has happened in sports in the last little while, which can only mean it is past time for a mega blast with quick takes on everything that has gone on.

The Cavs cannot win simply playing hero ball – Watching Cleveland play against Denver was an interesting exercise in seeing a stagnant offense both inhibited and freed by the wealth of players on the court.  LeBron could not be stopped when he drove on three consecutive plays to the basket after a series of dribbles and high picks by Kevin Love.  There are too many shooters on the floor for any kind of double teams to take place.  Still the ball movement was completely stagnant and LeBron seemed oddly detached for a guy who was completely dominant.  Love seems to be a bit lost right now finding his place and Kyrie Irving needs to understand what it means to win instead of simply ensuring he gets to score his twenty-two points per game.  Against the Pelicans they were way better, LeBron recording an astounding triple double (including 32 points) and both Love and Irving playing well.  To succeed this team may need the ball in LeBron’s hands – something he was hoping to avoid in coming to Cleveland – in order to facilitate movement.  These things take time and patience, but with the prime and legacy of the best player in the world at stake, time and patience may be something Cleveland finds in very short supply.

Chelsea are unbeaten, at the right time – As their main rivals for the Premier League title continue to play like shells of their former selves (Man City) and other teams are falling off bit by bit (Arsenal, Liverpool), Chelsea continues to rise.  They are a frighteningly consistent team, who are not afraid to play from behind and are not afraid to go into the last few minutes with their backs against the wall.  Their mid-field depth is astounding: Matic, Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Cesc and Schurrle are all fighting for playing time when any of them would be the top choice for any other squad in the premiership.  The depth has been astounding but what has been more impressive is how Chelsea have used their signings to make the team more complete; not simply to make a splash.  Obviously both Fabregas and Diego Costa have played wonderfully, but they have also served to make other Blues players more dangerous (Eden Hazard has been playing some of the best football of his career).  Additionally, it is more than past time that right back Ivanovic properly takes his place as the best right back in football; seriously, who else would take over him?  Even more impressively, Chelsea’s back line of Ivanovic, Cahill, Azpeliqueta and Terry have been consistent and strong.  There has been no major injuries and they have had time to develop a deep bond.  Could they run the table?   No, but a runaway league title is not out of the question at this point.

The Canucks are bad…and should admit they should be worse – Band aiding your team for several years is not the way to get better.  The Canucks have had some strong signings (Vrbata) but otherwise look like the same 8 or 9th best team in the West which continues to be the worst place to be in the league.  You have no chance of winning the Stanley Cup and you have no chance of getting better through the draft.  Had the Canucks hung on to one of their starting goalies perhaps they could have moved up…especially in this draft with the next Sidney Crosby potentially coming down the pipe (Connor McDavid).  Look at how the Avalanche or Chicago got better: by building through the draft and giving players an opportunity to develop the right way, not by scrapping with Minnesota to sneak into the playoffs and then getting run over by a California team.  The time to be bad is now and the Canucks are probably years from realizing it.

JJ Watt is the best player in the NFL…by far – JJ Watt is an incredible talent and his impact on the football field is far beyond that of any other defensive player and is on the same level that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have.  Seeing what he has done on the field this year is amazing and it is unfortunate he will not be up, rightly, for MVP consideration.  Please appreciate him, and what he does.

Will the NFL’s best team please stand up? – Is Arizona the best team in the NFL or is it New England?  Or is it Indy?  Or is it…(insert 3 loss team here).  We do not know, because it seems as if parity is more and more prevalent.  Anyone could win the title this year and that is an awesome thing.

Are the days of talent ending? – Cam Newton, RGIII, Mike Vick…all are players who get by on their natural abilities.  Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady…all are players who seek to get better each and every day at what they do.  The best quarterbacks in the league seem to be those who strive to better themselves each day and work, intelligently, at learning their craft.  Tom Brady throws the ball to where it needs to be, avoids contact and makes plays when it matters most.  Cam Newton relies on his skills and does not seem to be interested in learning the intricasies of the game because he can run fast and throw the ball far.  Mike Vick played the same way each but has become better over time, learning to make two or three reads (one of the reasons he played so well against Philly) and becoming a stronger player.  Colin Kaepernick (one of the smartest players in the league) will be similar to Brady I think with how he uses his brain to get better.  Or at least I hope he will…

NBA Season Preview – Halloween Edition

Once again the bizarre convergence of Halloween and the beginning of the NBA Season are upon us and once again, both are set to be absolutely bonkers. Halloween is of course on Friday this year which guarantees ridiculous shenanigans; the NBA season has no clear favorite for the first time in four seasons because LeBron James improbably reversed “the decision” and even more improbably became one of the first athletes in history to return to Cleveland voluntarily! Do not discount this as being important, it has never happened before.

If only the Halloween similarities ended there…but they do not. Many athletes will appear as if they are in costumes as they play their first games with their new teams.  These “costumed” athletes include (but are not limited to):  Kevin Love – Cleveland;  Lance Stephenson – Charlotte; and, in the most ridiculous looking uniform swap ever, Paul Pierce on the Washington Wizards (maybe the most bizarre guy in a new spot ever).

A few teams are also looking rather terrifying going in to the new season, and a few are terrified for other reasons entirely…

Looking Terrified: OKC (have to play without Durant for at least ¼ of the season which means we get to see Russell Westbrook go off); LA Lakers (Kobe is going to jack between forty and forty-five shots per game, if there is a joke here I am not seeing it); Indiana (no PG-13 = horrific offense and an almost certain trip to the lottery! Yah!); Philly / Orlando / Milwaukee / Utah (none of these teams is good, none of these teams is good at all); Miami (no LeBron to save the day, probably okay, but the safety net is forever gone); Houston (A lot of pressure, and Dwight Howard probably could care less); New Jersey / Brooklynn (older and not as good and they no longer have Jason Kidd as their coach, which may be a blessing in disguise)

Looking Terrifying: San Antonio (they bring everyone back, albeit, a slightly older everyone); LA Clippers (They have a top five Coach in Doc Rivers, a PG with everything to prove in Chris Paul and an emerging MVP candidate in Blake Griffen – what else does a contender need?); Golden State (They have two star guards and will be running and gunning, expect epic offensive outputs); Chicago (Rose. Is. Healthy. Maybe.); New Orleans (New Orleans?!?  Ever heard of the third best player in the league…Anthony Davis?); Sacremento (Amazingly, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay may lead a team to the playoffs); Toronto (A playoff lock, and with one of the best backcourts in the league as well as an emerging center); Cleveland (Let’s count the reasons, shall we? – 1) Kevin Love will be shooting wide open shots. 2) Kyrie Irving is a pretty decent third best player on a Championship team.  3) David Blatt may be the right coach for this team.  4) LeBron James, the world’s best player has returned home and is determined to win a Title for his team.  In preparing he has lost weight, added more post moves and now no longer has to handle the ball if he does not want to.  He will be literally unstoppable in the paint, where he will be getting the ball, and is surrounded by the best collection of shooters he has ever had around him.  At this point he is an unkillable bad guy headed for the cinema hall of fame and numerous title worthy sequels.  He is Freddy Krueger or Jason and he is ready to feast on completely unprepared teenagers.  It does not seem like the league has fully comprehended this yet, as they are still hiding in their cabins hoping they get passed by without losing their heads.  The only thing that can slow LeBron down at this point is a chainsaw…not unlike those movie villains of yore.)

The MVP will probably be: LeBron James

The Champion will be: Cleveland, Chicago, San Antonio, OKC or LA Clippers

Without picking five teams, who will be the Champion: (deep breath) the Cleveland Cavaliers for the simple reason that LeBron is going to lift that team to crazy heights…and the fact that he will now have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on his team shooting open shots.  No one can double team anyone on the Cavs and LeBron will feast upon soft defenses.  Never bet against the greatest player in the world, especially when he is a man on a mission…and not just to lose weight.

The Cavs?!? (yes, I just wrote that) will win the 2015 NBA Title.

Heat Check – Wiggins or Love?

Wiggins or Love?
The future or the present?
As trade rumors heat up and the Cavs go about putting together a younger Big Three around LeBron, every question and debate seems centered around the simple idea of Wiggins or Love. Do you go for the future and unknown potential with Wiggins (who could be a star but is pretty raw) or Love (a proven star who has struggled as a primary guy but who rebounds, shoots and scores with reckless abandon).

For me it comes down to a relatively simple idea: if you knew Love would become the player he is today and he was in the 2014 draft would he be taken first? Unquestionably he would be. Teams do not pass on a double double machine who averages 25-13 and can shoot 50-40-90 without blinking. Love has always played on teams plagued by bad luck, injuries and completely incompetent management (Khaaaaaaaaan!). Should he have taken a team to the playoffs? Yes, but in the East he would have, and Kevin Love is definitely good enough to win his team a playoff series. He was playing crunch time minutes for the 2012 Olympic Team and hit nearly every open shot he took. Love is an elite player and it is rare that one passes on an elite player, especially one who is only 25.

The argument for Wiggins hinges completely on his unknown potential. Trades for the number one overall pick are exceptionally rare (Penny for Webber) and are usually made on draft day. Wiggins gives the Cavs more defensively than Love does, and will give LeBron an opportunity to take the first three quarters off on the other team’s best player. Offensively though he will give much less – probably just the occasional thunderous alley-oop. Irving and LeBron both thrive with the ball though, and having someone like Wiggins may be better overall for the team and team chemistry. Additionally, in this increasingly tight salary cap era, Wiggins will make significantly less for three years (probably the next four as well) than Love would. Signing and keeping Wiggins would help keep the Cavs under the cap and eligible to sign other pieces as needed to contend (how much longer is Sideshow Andy going to be great?).

Love though, is a star – not to say that Wiggins may not be. If you have a chance to get Kevin Love, you have to take it. Period. He takes a very good team and makes it a title contender, which is why the Bulls are desperately trying to steal him away at the 11th hour. The Cavs will probably make the move and they will probably get Love which will make them the Eastern Conference favorite. LeBron deserves nothing less than a great team, he is not on the Cavs to waste his prime years.

He is there to win a championship for the city of Cleveland.

The Miami Thrice Title Quest Ends

For the past four years I have passionately followed the Miami Heat, committing to the team when LeBron and Bosh went there to sacrifice in order to win titles.  Now, obviously, that has concluded.  Where does a former Heat fan go now? 

Not to the Cavs – while I will actively root for LeBron to get at least one or two more titles in Cleveland – but I cannot really cheer for a team from Cleveland.  So where does one go from here? 

There are a few possibilities: Portland (closest NBA team) / LA Clippers (who I have seen live twice) / Suns (same thing) / Golden State (geographically close) / other?

There are probably three or so teams that are definitely not in contention: Toronto (legally cannot cheer for any team from Toronto) / LA Lakers (no chance) / Celtics (same) / Indiana (detest them). 

So what criteria should be used to pick a new team?  Back during my choosing an EPL team days I broke it down based on good jerseys, geographic location and a solid place to go.  Over the next little while I think that is where I will go.  Times, they are a-changing, evolve or die. 

Time to pick a new team.

 

Heat Check – The End

As it began – on a national platform (albeit a smaller one this time…) – it ends as LeBron James went on SI.com and announced he was going to be returning to Cleveland. 

He says, in the article, that there was nowhere other than Cleveland or Miami where he would play and after a lot of time to think about his family and what is best for them.  The decision this time is obviously about coming home – and winning a championship that means so much more than almost any other. 

However…and it is a big however, he is leaving a team that made the finals 4 straight years to go to one that certainly is not ready at all.  He is sacrificing his chance to win now for a chance to win in the future (if Wiggins / Bennett etc can come along) and playing with a team where the players can actually get better and not simply decline.  Not many players (exception alert: Kobe!) give up sure things.  LeBron wants to win but he is missing an opportunity now.  Who else is going to move with Bron?  Does Bosh go and join him?  Or possibly Kevin Love?  If LeBron wants to win now would Cleveland be willing to sacrifice Wiggins?  Simply incredible. 

So what happens now? 

Bosh likely goes to Cleveland or Houston, Kevin Love may be on the table now, Melo probably goes to Chicago for a chance to win a title next year and Cleveland becomes the place to go for free agents.  Simply astounding. 

Miami and DWade now have the worst possible scenario: this is the end for them.  They are shackled to Wade – who literally did everything he could to try and get LeBron to sign there (even going to Vegas and then his flight to Miami) – and have to give him a deal because he knows where the bodies are buried.  This is probably the end for Wade and there is no way he can possibly carry a team any more at this stage of his career.  Get ready for iso Wade Miami fans as well as a horrific max deal that will give them no flexibility (and keeping Haslem around).  Yikes the future is not bright.

Suddenly Bron opting out was not a sign that the Heat were committed to keeping it all together, but rather the beginning of the end.  Amazing – Bosh does not sign there for any amount of money.  A new day for the NBA and a new favorite may emerge.  How many titles will Durant win or Rose in the interim?  Could the Clippers steal one? 

Once again LeBron has dramatically changed the NBA with his free agency – something Jordan and Kobe can not claim.

 

Heat Check – Free Agency Gambling

Welcome once again to free agency gambling!  So many questions have come up: where will Melo sign?; is Melo going to leave crazy money on the table?; is Bosh willing to leave money on the table when there is no way he should?; what in the world is going to happen with D Wade?; and, of course, WWLD Part II?

The insanity has begun and there are huge prizes out there to win – Melo, Bosh and of course LeBron – and there are some players who are going to hold a salary cap hostage much like Kobe has done to the Lakers (cough, Wade, cough). 

Here is what we know so far, LeBron opted out, forcing the rest of the Big Three’s hands and then, when they were all set to make some big sacrifices, LeBron seems to have decided that the other guys were going to sacrifice while he takes the max.  Here is how he sold it to them, “okay, I will take the max, you guys sign for ten mill a year and we will sign Kyle Lowry or Melo for ten mill a year.  Deal?  Sound good?” 

Except there was no chance Lowry was taking that kind of deal, there is no way Bosh deserves to take that kind of deal and there is no way Wade is leaving that much money on the table (and is not signing with Miami as he literally knows where the bodies are buried).  Meanwhile, the Bulls are quietly building a team to win titles (how much more incredible would they be with LeBron?) with Melo, while Houston is suddenly the best place for Chris Bosh to go and have a legitimate chance to win more titles.  Not to mention the fact that Chris Bosh is one of the best players in the league who rightfully deserves to get max money and be properly appreciated. 

The pieces remain in play because until LeBron signs no one else will.  The reason, obviously, because as long as there is a chance to get him, no one will sign anyone else.  Could we potentially see a LeBron / Melo partnership?  Would Cleveland be the place that happens?  Somehow it seems highly improbable that Ms. Melo would want to move there after loving New York, and given how much of a mess the Cavs are, they may not even give LeBron a chance to win titles. 

What happens to the Heat if Bron returns to Cleveland?  They sign Wade to a max deal, shackling themselves to mediocrity for some time going forward, Bosh goes to Houston and probably has a shot at winning more titles than LeBron or Wade. 

Or…

Wade, Bosh and LeBron sign in Miami and in the magically best case scenario manage to convince 2008 Pau Gasol to sign with them for no money.  In that scenario Melo goes to Chicago and suddenly we have a real rivalry in the East (to the devastation of Pacer fans) while the West continues to batter each other. 

The final thing to think about it: LeBron’s legacy depends solely on winning championships at this point, does it really matter where he does that?  What does a third title in say, Cleveland or Phoenix mean versus a third in Miami?  Who will sign where and is this the end of the big three era in Miami and the rise of it in Chicago?