[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="208" caption="Looks good doesn't it?"][/caption] Non-stop talk about the Miami Heat's chances of signing LeBron James have predictably hit the net these days. Here's a sample to get you through the weekend. A very smart man, who must have learned a thing or two playing for Pat Riley, by the name of Charles Oakley thinks LeBron James should forget about New York and sign with Miami or Chicago as noted for the record by the NY Daily News.
"Chicago or Miami," says Charles Oakley, the former Knicks power forward. "Not New York. He's leaving." Oakley has become a friend/mentor to the NBA's two-time MVP over the last few years. They have an Ohio connection - Oakley owns a home in the Cleveland suburbs - as well as a world-famous connection. Oakley is best friends with James' idol, Michael Jordan. (LeBron is changing his number to honor Jordan.) And if James signs a free agent contract with the Bulls or Heat in July, the Knicks may regret the day they never followed through with their plan to offer Oakley a job as a big-man coach. Oakley's relationship with his former club ranges from cordial to estranged, and having him so close to the most prized free agent in nearly 20 years could be a detriment to the Knicks instead of an advantage. "He wants to go someplace where he can win," Oakley said following Cleveland's Game 5 loss on Tuesday. "He's been in the league, what, seven or eight years? It's time for him to get over the hump." James has said repeatedly that winning is all that matters to him and that he will choose the team that gives him the best chance to win multiple championships. That may or may not be in Cleveland. Late Thursday in Boston, James removed his best-selling Cavaliers jersey for the last time in the tunnel leading to the visiting team's locker room. In an instant, James was free at last.The same article referenced a very astute and widely reported comment by Kevin Garnett after the Boston Celtics dispatched the Cleveland Cavs in six games that may make James lean towards leaving his team.
Honestly, he's gonna have to make a decision on not just him, but his family and his future. Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can't get youth back. I can honestly say that if I can go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I'd have done it a little sooner.ESPN's Bill Simmons recounts a tale he heard about Pat Riley when he coached the Miami Heat to the championship in '06 while writing about LeBron's future.
I once heard a great story about Game 6 of the 2006 Finals, when Miami was trying to clinch the title in Dallas, from someone who has seen the unedited footage of Miami's huddles in the second-half timeouts. Pat Riley basically stopped coaching. Threw out his X's and O's. Quit giving advice. Stopped drawing up plays. So what did he do? He screamed at his guys like a boxing trainer. You're tougher than them! YOU'RE TOUGHER THAN THEM! Don't let up! They are ready to quit! They are ready to fold! Keep attacking them! Keep getting to the rim! Keep knocking their asses down! No layups! No dunks! Stay together! YOU ARE TOUGHER THAN THEM! YOU ARE TOUGHER THAN THEM! That's what he did for the entire second half. Eventually, his players believed him. Remember that story when you're picking apart James this summer. From the moment he entered the NBA, he's been asked to do everything himself. He's never had a good coach. He's never had a great teammate, or even a very good one. These past two years, he's been asked to vacillate between Magic Mode and MJ Mode depending on the situation. Because his front office screwed up so many times, his supporting cast ended up being a peculiar blend of hand-me-downs, discount guys and bargain pickups from teams that wanted to cut salary. It ended up being too much. One-man teams don't win titles.Oddly, Simmons discusses Riley but neglects to point that out as a reason why James could come to Miami. Regardless, reading this sort of thing reinforces my belief that only a coach like Riley, who commands respect from his players, could truly coach a team that may have up to three All-Stars or two max players. Lost among the controversy of the '06 Finals is the fact that Riley thoroughly outcoached Avery Johnson. And not just in term of X's and O's. As a leader. It may not have the focal reason why the Heat lost to the Celtics this year but without a doubt the same thing happened to Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers proceeded to the same thing to Mike Brown. I got a beating a few months ago in the ESPN Daily Dime from some fans for suggesting that one of the Cavs' weaknesses in the playoffs is whether Brown was respected in the locker room. This would be a touchy subject to ask a current NBA player but it definitely has to be a factor in such a high-pressure situation. Back to the Simmons article...
If he cares about winning titles (multiple) and reaching his full potential as a player, he has only one move: the Chicago Bulls. That's always been the play. If you've been listening to my podcast or reading this column, you know that I've been touting this possibility since the winter, and here's why: Deep down, I think LeBron (and, just as important, the people around him) realizes that he needs one more kick-ass player to make his life easier. That means Miami or Chicago. And really, I can't imagine him signing with Miami because Dwyane Wade is almost too good. LeBron wants help, but he doesn't want to be perceived as riding someone else's coattails, either. Wade might be the best player alive for all we know -- he certainly was in 2006, and he's been banged-up and trapped on bad teams ever since.I don't understand how having a "too good" teammate in Wade is a problem (and no he hasn't been banged-up for a while now). After all, haven't the Bulls been a bunch of underachievers just like the Cavs despite both teams having plenty of talent lately? No doubt that the Bulls need a go-to scorer but I can't shake the feeling that there is a bit of bias towards the Heat in the media, as if most people just don't want it to happen for fear a partnership of Wade and James "wouldn't work". That's like saying the Dream Team doesn't work. Here's an oldie-but-goodie from November 14, 2009 entitled "If Bron bolts, Miami makes most sense" by Chris Broussard of ESPN that foreshadowed the Cavs demise and what it may entail for Lebron:
If the new-look Cavaliers are more pretender than contender, if they are what they were last season -- regular-season titans, postseason playthings -- then for the sake of his legacy, James may have to go elsewhere. And elsewhere is Miami. His other realistic options in the summer of 2010 are a joke. New York and New Jersey look like Big East squads right now, and Chicago doesn't yet have the cap room to offer a max contract. (Update: Now the Bulls do, of course) I'm not saying James and his buddy Dwyane Wade's teaming up in Miami is probable. But if Cleveland fizzles again in the postseason, if Boston or Orlando again proves to be too talented for the Cavs, then LeBron could, and maybe should, bolt for South Beach. I say "should'' because for years LeBron has been trying to do the near-impossible: win a title without another star teammate. Check the annals: Only one time in the last 30 years has a team with just one star finished as champion. And that crew, Hakeem Olajuwon's 1994 Houston Rockets, beat another team in the Finals, Patrick Ewing's New York Knicks, that featured just one star. Nowadays, every club in the title hunt, except Cleveland, is stacked with stars.
Obviously, Dwyane Wade is nobody's sidekick. That's why I've always written off the possibility of a LeBron-Wade tandem in the past. They're both No. 1 guys who should have their own teams. I actually used to think such a pairing would be somewhat unfair to the rest of the league. You know, having two of the three best swingmen on earth playing together. But when I look at the aforementioned list of contenders, when I look at the fact that Kobe has a straight-up bulldog in Artest next to him, I wonder whether LeBron and Wade need to team up.Let's see just how prophetic this article is in July, shall we? Oh, this might be for you if you're into this sort of thing.