Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Decision

Before the ultimate special about the hero/villain of our age, I thought I’d have a summit with my drunk girlfriend to talk about the issues of free agency and blog The Decision together. I would now like to open the floor to Elizabeth’s opening statement:

E: Am I really qualified to speak if I’m not drunk yet? I’ll save my more complicated and sophisticated theories and comments for a time when I’m even better able to articulate them, but I’d like to open by expressing my excitement, and also my deep disappointment.
K: Does the booze really give you the magic of analysis? No! The magic has always been inside you. Or some shit. That said, why are you disappointed?
E: Location. As far as I can tell, this was the perfect (and some might say only appropriate) chance to bring the NBA to International Waters by holding this conference in a truly neutral site. Plus, who doesn’t like a party on a boat? This shit could’ve been nautical themed. Just imagine all that would entail. Don’t tell me the boys and girls would have been opposed to this.
K: They are doing this in a Connecticut suburb. Isn’t everything in Connecticut suburbs sort of jauntily nautically themed?
E: A nautical theme without actual water is like LeBron without a towel draped handsomely about his manly neck.
K: Speaking of, let’s talk about the man of the hour and then speculate about all the other free agent action you’ve been so closely following.

K: I’m kind of not sure what the point of the special is. Everyone thinks he’s going to Miami.
E: When did everyone decide that? Also, not to push this too far, but if he goes to Miami, that makes the Decision-on-a-Boat thing even more of a wasted opportunity. He could have just cruised there!
K: Apparently, people close to him kind of leaked the story. Also he rented out somewhere around six cabanas for this weekend in Miami. That’s why people are assuming, though nothing official from anyone. In any case, let’s assume he goes to Miami. How do you think that will work with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
E: I assume they’ll have a good time? You know I got that cute picture of Misters Wade and James. I drew hearts all over it, but they were kind of already there. So I predict more love and joy. However, I am concerned about the sexy fun and summer heat he might find in Miami. We all know neither of these things have been there to distract him in Cleveland. It might have a negative effect on his work ethic. I cite Smith 1998:
Miami the place and the sun set low
Everyday like a Mardi Gras, everybody party all day
No work, all play, okay
K: Fair points all. That said, I understand Cleveland is pretty much just like that too.

Other Possible Destinations for LeBron
K: Speaking of which, this might not be a done deal. There are lots of other places still potentially in the running for the LeBron sweepstakes: Cleveland, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and the L.A. Clippers all had meetings with the man this past weekend. Where do you think LeBron should go?
E: I say Chicago. He would look good in red, and I think Patches needs someone to look up to.
K: Well, I guess you haven’t heard the news. Guess who is coming to Chi-town? I’ll give you a hint: he has a terrifying gaping maw of razor sharp teeth, but is not a tyrannosaurus or a shark.

Carlos Boozer
E: MAULER. You know, I am worried about him taking a chunk out of someone’s arm, just cause, but I think LeBron probably can stand up to him. Also, it’s a well known fact of mystical pseudo-truths that there needs to be balance and harmony blah blah blah so it’s probably good to add a princely figure like LeBron to the team if a thousand-toothed beast is going to be running around, swallowing all that is good and pure. Oh, and also looking dumb.
K: Speaking of which, how do you think Boozer will play with his new frontcourt mate Joakim Noah?
E: You know, I worry about Patches sometimes. I think he’ll be OK if he avoids getting possessed by whatever depraved and hungry demon took control of Boozer years ago. I’m pretty sure demons are transmitted similarly to athlete’s foot, so if Patches keeps his shoes on, he should be fine.
K: Devil. Boozer went to Duke. And yes, although it bears mentioning that infernal interference is usually sexually transmitted if years of watching b-movies are to be believed. Not to cast aspersions on to Coach K.
E: You are casting aspersions with joy. I’m a little relieved to know this, though; Patches seems like the type of dude who never wears shoes except on the court.
K: You know who Patches has his shoe deal with?
E: Crocs? Sketchers? I think he’s a shoe wild card. I can see him wearing some weird canvas slip-ons. So probably those.
K: Le Coq Sportif. Seriously.
E: Don’t be unpleasant. Everyone loves le coq.
K: ...

Amar'e Stoudemire
K: Let’s check in on some of your other buddies from your days of hard-hitting play-off coverage. First things-first: Booze check.
E: Going slow! My hands are busy commentating, not freighting alcohol toward my mouth.
K: Le coq jokes don’t write themselves.
E: Are you sure about that?
K: Fair enough. Take a break to take a hearty sip of your drink, and then tell me your thoughts on this: Goggles has left the Phoenix Suns, the only team he has known, for the bustling metropolis of New York. Amar’e Stoudemire is a Knickerbocker. Tell me what your heart says and then tell me what your mind says.
E: I think those goggles will play well in Brooklyn. I think he will be bewildered if they catch on. Which they will. Which is terrible. Also, I don’t think that was really my mind commenting, so my heart has something to add: he’s going to leave Baby Dragon all alone with Steve Nash? Really, Goggles? I thought you had his back.
K: Steve Nash has Baby Dragon’s back. Although I guess that’s the problem?

Channing Frye
K: Some good news from the Valley of the Sun: Channing Frye signed a 5 year $30 contract to keep playing with the Suns! Let us sing the praises of the best 6’11” three point shooting center in all of basketball!
E: Praises sung.
K: That’s all? Elizabeth, Channing Frye is a beloved basketball icon.
E: I belove him a little too much, I think. You may think I’ve forgotten about my dream team, but it’s still coming. And he is well honored there.
K: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Other Free Agency Stories
K: So let’s talk about the other exciting stories of free agency in a HIGH OCTANE RAPID FIRE FASHION. You ready for this?
E: No?
K: LET’S GO! Joe Johnson is getting paid over $120 million to play for the Hawks for the next six years. Thoughts?
E: I don’t think that’s a real person.
K: Rudy Gay is also being overpaid in the $100 million dollar range by the Memphis Grizzlies. Insights?
E: And I don’t think that’s a real team.
K: Famous bust Darko Milicic is being paid $20 million to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves for the next four years. HARD HITTING ANALYSIS?
E: Have fun trying to spend $20 million in Minnesota. I predict long winter nights watching QVC.
K: Be-bearded center Drew Gooden signed a $32 million dollar contract for the Milwaukee Bucks. Your exposé?
E: Lots more money, only slightly more to spend it on. Do these guys gamble? Do they set up college funds for their great-grandchildren?
K: Channing Frye does I bet.
E: Channing Frye also spends his money on movies, dinner, foozball tables, and buying cookies from every single girl scout in Arizona. FACTS I JUST MADE UP. He doesn’t buy Boy Scout popcorn, though. No one does.
K: Right. Anyway, can we get back to the important things in life: What do you think of former Knick Chris Duhon’s $16 million four year contract for the Orlando Magic?
E: I don’t. Also, are you watching the pre-Decision commentary? The commentator was really disparaging of this, but I, for one, appreciate the vuvuzelas with players’ faces on them.
K: On a related note: Booze check.
E: Like Chris Bosh in Miami, I am drinking a margarita. How do I know what he’s drinking? The short ESPN dude next to the weird LeBron triptych said it, so it must be true.

Final Predictions
K: Okay, before the Decision gets started, let’s get some final Predictions. Where is LeBron going and how are they going to fill one hour?
E: The second question is way more pressing for me. However, I’m going to go ahead and say Miami. I read it in the tar balls that are washing up on our Florida shores. Tea leaves for the 21st century. Also, THE KING HAS ARRIVED. Where is his scepter?
K: Maybe he will construct it during the hour long program. For what it’s worth, I trust the tar balls, though I think virtually any other destination besides Miami is more intriguing. But to the more pressing issue, how do you kill an hour of television? Old highlights? Interviews? How can you have an interview if he hasn’t yet announced his decision?
E: Maybe he has some thoughts he needs to get out there. This might finally be the night we learn LeBron’s take on financial regulatory reform.
K: I want to hear how LeBron’s reading of The Phenomenology of Spirit has been going and what he thinks about the more contestable of Hegel’s ideas.
E: You missed that post-game interview? God.
K: Was that in the first round against Chicago? I knew those games were dull...
E: I’m predicting the boys and girls to fill a lot of this hour. Do kids still do jump rope teams?
K: Will they make collages? God’s eyes?
E: Dance-off. Or maybe carnival games. Franchise owner dunking booth?
K: Should we do a bored kid drinking game? I suspect these kids will be bored.
E: I thought I was already playing a drinking game?

E: God, that’s a wise picture of Lebron on the official logo. Wise, but also contemplative. Are you there, God? It’s me, LeBron.
K: This is truly the Sophie’s Choice of sports.
E: I am really confused by that comment. Also. LeBron is looking fine.
K: Tom Ziller says, “I'm not going to say LeBron looks presidential, but ...”
E: If we all agree he’s looking good, why are we looking at these chumps? Surely he is smiling and shaking hands or walking or rubbing his nose or something equally telegenic? Give him his hour, y’all.

K: So far: ESPN talking heads and LeBron highlights are how you fill an hour.
E: I know LeBron set this up, so how much control does he have over the content? I like to imagine that he actually wrote the introduction being read over his highlights. “He’s led the Cavaliers to back-to-back 60-win seasons... and he is a fine dresser with a sparkling sense of humor and a really awesome car.”
K: I was having a hard time imagining this being more fawning than it already has, but I think you persuaded me. It could in fact be more fawning. Resolved.
E: Joakim Noah is the ultimate role-player? I bet he’s a little embarrassed that that got out.
K: I bet Brook Lopez is hurt by them saying that. He put a lot of time into his paladin’s back-story.

K: Okay they are really showing photoshopped pictures of LeBron wearing different jerseys.
E: FASHION SHOW. Yeah, this isn’t hard to imagine without the photoshop. I think we can all close our eyes and pretend the words “New York” are written on Lebron’s chest. I would appreciate this more if they instead imagined his off-court wear. Like, Miami Vice LeBron. Or LeBron wearing one of those foam Statue of Liberty hats.
K: “Just for fun, here’s what LeBron would look like if he was part-Cheetah!”

Miami LeBron

K: Are they showing LeBron’s own vitaminwater commercial? Weird.
E: The sorta-ad announcement just now hinted that LeBron will be answering our questions. WHY WAS I NOT TOLD THIS BEFORE?
K: He announced it on his Twitter. #upyourtwittergame. See what I did there? Hash-tag jokes.
E: I’m really embarrassed by what you did there. Embarrassed for both of us.
K: #deservedit.

New York LeBron

K: Here we go, some live LeBron action.
E: “What’s been going on with you this summer?” GODDAMNIT.
K: Thoughts on the shirt? Purple checked.
E: He looks super-sweet. I think he just came from a porch with rocking chairs and iced tea. The sweetness of his shirt might indicate he’s about to do something heartless. Again, the balance.
K: I enjoy the extra-bushiness of his beard.

E: He decided this morning? And his mom helped him come to it? We all know she picked out that shirt too.
K: I think that means the Heat.
E: Better roll up those shirtsleeves. How old is his mom? We all know how much old people love Florida. “I hear they have shuffleboard there, LeBron. Don’t you love your mother?”
K: She’s pretty young, but, more importantly: THE WINNING TEAM ALREADY KNOWS. This is killing me a little bit. I’m refreshing Twitter like a maniac.
E: So, did LeBron’s agent demand a certain amount of time dedicated to fluff questions?
K: It’s a standard demand.

Cheetah LeBron

E: Let the post-decision fluff start. “So. Miami Heat. That was the decision you woke up with this morning?” Yes. That is what he said.
K: LeBron just referred to himself in the third person.
E: As an excellent asset. I think this is proof he did indeed write his commentary voiceover.

K: He’s explaining his breakup with Cleveland now. Long story, short: “It’s not you it’s me.”
E: I would like it if he’d be upfront. “Guys, I saw that mural. Do you really think I look like that?”
K: “Will you still live in Akron?” “Uhh.. I’m not sure.” Yeaaaaaah.
E: Would you still live in Akron?
K: He backed down, “Akron will always be home.” Sure it will.

K: “I know how loyal I am.” Boy, they love hearing that in Cleveland I’m sure.
E: Extended allegiance to anything in Ohio moves beyond loyalty to straight sacrifice. Sorry, Ohio. The commentator who grew up in the Midwest says, “I feel sorry for Cleveland.” I think that’s kind of the point.
K: Do you think Cleveland just collapses in the next few years without the Atlas shoulders of LeBron?

K: REACTION SHOTS. Cleveland, unsurprisingly pissed.
E: God, Miami is filled with douchebags. The Cleveland people seemed to be sadly laughing just a bit. “Yeah, we know we suck.”
K: Miami is about to get one more douchebag.
E: Would a douchebag wear that shirt?
K: You want me to answer that?

E: In all seriousness, I don’t know that I can fault LeBron for this. In any other career, in the same situation, I think it would’ve been a good move to do the same thing.
K: You don’t think all the fans who loved him feel betrayed? Is LeBron a villain now?
E: I definitely do think the Cleveland fans must feel terrible, and I can’t blame them, but I think he was reasonable in wanting to move on. I hope the LeBron-as-villain thing doesn’t become a lasting narrative.
K: Me either. Kobe will always be the villain.

K: Wow. Burning LeBron jerseys on the streets of Cleveland.
E: Oh, give me a break.
K: Yikes, third person again. Is that more alarming than burning jerseys?
E: A little. LeBron isn’t alarmed by angry burnings, apparently, as long as it’s not God torching that jersey. You think he’s going to be on God’s team one day? What do those uniforms look like?
K: You know what Bird said after the famous playoff game against the Bulls? The he didn’t play against Michael Jordan, but rather God disguised as Michael Jordan. Long story short, Bulls. God’s team is the Bulls.

K: Another decision? Oh my! Bonus Decision! Alright!
E: “I don’t normally weigh in on the Emmys, but there’s some bullshit going on I’d like to address.”
K: You think he thinks it silly that Tony Shaloub always wins best comic actor?
E: Does anyone not think that?
K: The same people who keep nominating Two and A Half Men?
E: Hopefully LeBron’s decision will be some sort of unfunded mandate for the people of Miami. “I, LeBron, do command you to construct a statue of your LeBron, measuring no less that 40 cubits in height, and you shall render onto it all appropriate sacrifices.”
K: You know that this past week, Miami-Dade county was renamed Miami-Wade county? That’s real.
E: Do counties have no shame anymore? I thought that was one unit of governance that still had some dignity.
K: They got Wade, Bosh, and LeBron. Shameless works. Speaking of which, the Heat are the only team in the league that occasionally wear pink uniforms. Just thought you should know.
E: If he can look fine in purple, he can pull off pink.

K: The other decision was the thing about Boys and Girls Club getting all the profits. Which... yeah, okay. Can’t complain.
E: But... we already knew that?

Closing Thoughts
K: Well, that got Decided. You excited about the new Heat super-team?
E: Miami should be really good. They already have an awesome name, so I’m glad there are some good players now. I feel a little let down, though.
K: Was it the lack of boats?
E: That was definitely a factor. Also, where were all the boys and girls? Also, thanks for spoiling the Miami surprise, tweeting jackasses. Even though I was never against Miami, when he said that was it, I felt totally let down.
K: Yeah, I totally hate it when reporters figure out the news and inform the public.
E: OK, totally rational and reasonable HATER.
K: You’re welcome.

There you have it. A pivotal moment in the Time of LeBron. But, what does it all mean? Explain it to us in the comments.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's Up With Dirk?

I will try to keep this short and on-point because at its core, these are ill-founded, conspiratorial musings that seem to mostly spring from my hope of a Team of Destiny, where LeBron and Dirk come to Chicago to team up with Rose and Noah. This is a thing that won’t happen. That said, let’s talk about the weirdness that’s making it seem more and more possible.

The first bit of weirdness: Dirk opted out. For months and months, people were expecting Dirk and Yao to stay with their teams and not really participate in the Summer of Apocalypse Bonanza. Dirk confounded those expectations. And us.

Dirk is the best player in the history of Mavericks franchise, seems to get along great with everyone, is compensated as well as anyone can be compensated in the NBA, and is generally happy. That being said, he has yet to win a championship and that apparently eats at him. This is the reason he’d potentially want to leave.

But would he really? The Mavericks have insisted Dirk is staying and that they are confident he’ll sign a big extension and all will be right in Dallas. What does Dirk say? Well, nothing so far, but his actions have been weirdly ambivalent.

First, obviously, opting out instead of just signing the max money extension which the Mavs surely offered. The Mavs deal can’t get any sweeter. No presenting or quibbling to be done. I mean, the Mavs can reassure Dirk they will make better moves, but what else is to be done? In an effort to kiss the ring, Mav’s president Donnie Nelson was going to fly to Germany to “kiss the ring” and effectively do what no other president in the NBA is likely to do. Surely that would seal the deal right?

At the airport, Nelson received word that Dirk was actually flying back to the States. Which could mean that Dirk wants to take part in other meetings with other teams. If the Mavs were coming to him, why else would he come back to the States? Well, maybe he’s just tired of Germany, but ignore that for now, we are in conspiracy mode. DIRK IS IN PLAY.

Don’t believe me? Here’s another silly bit of conspiracy fodder: Dirk said he’ll be in Dallas Friday morning. What’s that mean? John Hollinger was a little puzzled because Europe flights come in during the evening. So where is Dirk going to be tonight? Jason Kidd said he was having dinner with Dirk in New York tonight. So, who here thanks that Dirk is in New York tonight to just enjoy the dining? NOT THE KNICKS OR THE NETS.

Listen, Wade is staying in Miami, and Bosh largely seems on-board with that while LeBron seems skeptical. Chad Ford seems skeptical too, while noting that a Dirk and LeBron pairing on the Bulls would give them the inside track. I agree, and I think that the Nets and the Knicks are on the outside looking in regardless. That said, if Dirk agreed to play with the Knicks or the Nets, that would be a significant game-changer. If Dirk signs anywhere other than Dallas, and LeBron can sign too, I think that team becomes the favorite to land LeBron.

LeBron is the key to where everyone else lands in free-agency, widely regarded as the first domino that will touch off massive movement around the league. The trick here is that no signing affects where LeBron will sign more than Dirk’s decision. Dirk’s sudden ambivalence towards Dallas could touch off sudden and wild shifts. This is the story that’s most interesting to me, but it should be noted that this is a story based on the quirks of air travel, the relative interestingness of Germany vs. Dallas, and Dirk acting slightly weird. The slightest Twitter musings, the pressure-cooker of the NBA rumor mill and a little conspiratorial salt can make for a tasty dish and a potentially juicy scenario: Lebron and Dirk to the Bulls/Knicks/Nets.

Or, Dirk might just sign with the Mavericks like we all thought he would. Whatever. Let's enjoy the conspiracies while they last.