The (Second) Summer of Lebron and Friends, PART TWO

So where are we?.
First, let’s tune into TMZ, NBA Style…
Lebron James, his leg cramps and Kevin Love are headed to Cleveland, Number One Draft pick Andrew Wiggins’ career path took a dramatic turn for the worse before he played a single game, Chris Bosh cashed in, Dwayne Wade didn’t, Carmello Anthony found 50 million reasons to stay a Knick, Linsanity’s coming to Staples Center, Larry Bird’s Pacers lost 70% of an already dysfunctional offense in a week, Lance Stephenson became Michael Jordan’s headache, Derek Rose is back with Pau Gasol in tow, and Paul George replaces Rose in sick bay, gone but not forgotten. MVP Kevin Durant, nearing an Uber-deal with Under Armour abruptly ditches USA Men’s Basketball, citing “physical and mental fatigue” (hey, counting to 300 million by ones is exhausting, folks!).

Houston crapped out in free agency, losing Lebron, Carmello and Bosh while Dallas slipped Chandler Parsons out the Rockets’ back door. Houston did overpay Trevor Ariza, who the Wizards replaced with Paul Pierce, the latest casualty of the latest failed Superteam. Speaking of slipping out the back door, Jason Kidd cashed in his rubles and bid adios (or dah svee-DAH-nee-yah in Russian) to Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets, giving up on their aging, injured, overpaid roster for beer, bratwurst, Jabari Parker and the Diaper Dandies of Milwaukee. After at least 37 “second interviews”, Byron Scott is a Laker again; David Stern, Alonzo Mourning and Mitch Richmond have been immortalized, and Donald Sterling has finally been kicked off the Island (warning, NBA owners…that leggy vixen in the oversized shades is V. Stephano!!!).

In another related development, the Spurs won their 5th NBA Championship in a brilliant display of dribbling, passing, shooting, coaching and team defense. San Antonio re-signed all their principals for next season, and hired Becky Hammon as the first Female NBA Assistant Coach. And If you missed those press releases, it’s because there weren’t any coming out of San Antonio. Do the Spurs even have a Press Agent?.

All caught up now?.

That’s the 411, now the Basketball…
Lebron, now the de-facto GM and Coach of the Cavaliers, manipulated the off-season like a master puppeteer; he wasted no time re-booting his Title pursuit, dumping Miami’s aging, beat up roster for Kyrie Irving and the Cavs like a Baby Boomer takes on a new Trophy Wife. Kevin Love will finally have a chance to prove if he’s just a numbers-chewing fraud on bad teams who couldn’t taste a single playoff game in 6 seasons or a major upgrade over Chris Bosh as the third option in a Cavalier offense built around Lebron James and Irving. If he has the mindset of Bosh, who was reduced from first and second option in Toronto to a space-clearing, shot clock expiring three point chucker for the Miami Lebrons (good for two parades), Love could decide his role is to lead the league in offensive rebounds. LBJ and Kyrie Irving will dominate the Ball for 48 minutes, and team defense will determine how deep Lebron can take the Cavs into the playoffs.

Chicago lost Melo but gained Gasol, who will once again find the love he lost in LA, where none of his good deeds went unpunished; Pau was the picture of unhappiness as he was seemingly blamed for Nash and Kobe’s brittle bones, Dwight Howard’s immaturity, Phil’s defection, Mike D’Antoni’s irrational coaching philosophy and that goofy Dysfunctional Family otherwise known as the Laker front office. Gasol, who has plenty left in the tank will thrive under the high-octane coaching of Tom Thibodeau, the manic energy of Joaquin Noah and Taj Gibson, and he’ll love the easy buckets he’ll get playing with the Human Video Game, Derek Rose. Rose’s return may actually trump the homecoming of the prodigal Lebron, as the Bulls are bloodthirsty for a trip to the Finals after playing the underdog role the past two seasons.
The injury to Paul George and departure of Lance Stephenson effectively slammed Indiana’s Championship window shut, and made it a two-horse race to the Eastern Conference Title. I think a healthy Rose, the Bulls front line and a possessed Thibodeau is enough to edge the Cleveland Lebrons in late May. The only storyline in the East this upcoming season is the race for slots 3-8.

Poor Andrew Wiggins; he could have been filling the lane on the other side of Lebron every night, turning slick feeds from Kyrie into thunderous Dunks that would even make the King envious; now he’s playing to half-empty crowds in the god-forsaken Siberia of the NBA, where his chances of making the playoffs during his 5- year rookie contract are less than the Cavs ever winning another Lottery (read into that what you will). I rarely care about fates like that, but I was hoping Lebron would take the challenge of grooming this Kid to become his Scottie Pippen; the timing was just wrong for Wiggins in this lifetime. Lebron, for all of this feel-good return to Akron, his vision for helping the community, and his love for the fans, is about Lebron winning, Lebron winning now, and Lebron keeping the Lebron Brand at the top of the Mountain. The Heat, and his formerly best buddies Wade and Bosh had outlived their usefulness in just one week in June gone horribly wrong, so the King bailed, again for greener pastures. Love was there for the taking, Irving was a young Star on the rise, and Dan Gilbert is officially in the King’s pocket. The two year contract gives him time to survey the NBA landscape until he makes the next move that’s best for Lebron. If that means finding a new city with new best buddies, so be it. Savvy business moves by one of the sharp young business minds of his generation. I believe his first unsuccessful tour in Cleveland gave him the acute understanding of how brief a moment in time an NBA career is, how incredibly difficult it is to get to and stay on top, and he’s finishing his career by draining every drop of opportunity available to him. Good for him, it’s the NBA’s New World Order, the lasting legacy of David Stern’s vision, and we’re living in it.

I’m just glad it wasn’t the NBA I fell in love with as a Kid.

Pat Riley, architect of the 4 time Eastern Conference Champion Heat, was without question devastated to lose LBJ but as we would expect remained unflinching, making Bosh rich while appeasing Wade with a 4 year contract that most certainly included a promise he will be a part of the Miami franchise for life. Bosh’s new role as the Man coupled with Wade’s wounded pride could make Miami a dangerous out come playoff time.

Melo took the money…for his legion of critics, one more nail in his career coffin; for the Hundreds of millions living check to check, and the Mega-Millions living below the poverty line, ….what took you so long?. The Knick roster next season plays barely above the Mendoza line with Melo; but you could have read the Franchise their Last Rites if he had bolted. Phil Jackson has a plan and Derek Fisher will be an outstanding Coach/future GM, they can walk the walk and their resumes on the court back it up. But to build a contender they desperately needed a Chip and Melo perfectly fits the bill. One of the few Stars of his generation that wanted to play in the Garden, he played his ass off in front of the toughest critics in America, and was a consummate pro while doing so, positioning him for the big payday. I was amused how his street cred went through the roof in July, how even his harshest critics knew how valuable he was during Melo’s “Not really a Free Agent” tour, shuddering at the thought of pairing him with Rose and Noah. No Franchise on Earth needs a culture of stability more than the Knicks, and with PJ, Fish and Melo signed on for the next 5 seasons, they can mold a roster in their image, drafting, trading for and signing players that FIT. Keeping James Dolan, the New York Press and their devoted legion of fans around the world from pulling their hair out the next 12 months until (wait for it…..”the Summer of 2015!!!) will take all the Zenergetics the Zen Master can muster. However, one of the things the Knicks have done better than any team, in any sport in the last 42 years, is sell hope.

There’s no hope of Pacer star Paul George leading Indiana to the Playoffs next season; George’s gruesome Knee injury in the Olympic Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas gave Pacer President Larry Bird visions of suiting up this fall. Indiana’s dysfunctional 2013-14 campaign was a tale of two seasons which ended with a ton of question marks, but the loss of ticking time bomb Lance Stephenson to the Hornets coupled with George’s season-ending injury left a gaping wound in the Pacer lineup that even Basketball Jesus can’t mend. Indiana may turn to full blowup mode, as there is no timetable for George’s return to All-NBA form.
Roy Hibbert’s value will never be higher, and David West could land some valuable future assets. From the front door of the Penthouse to the Outhouse in 6 weeks. Ouch.

None of these Eastern Conference follies moved the needle on the 2015 Championship meter; the West remains the Best by a landslide, and there are surely some moves to be made among those contenders in the coming months. The Rockets may have actually lost ground in the Conference with their tunnel vision pursuit of the big names this summer. In the end, Trevor Ariza is a nice piece but was losing Parsons to a Division rival worth a PhotoShopped Banner of Melo in a Rocket uniform on the side of the Toyota Center?. Was moving Omar Asik or Jeremy Lin, two productive bench players, for next to nothing?. I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come into the Rockets’ front offices with a Camera crew, they were Punked.

The shame of these dog and pony shows, first in 2010 (where Lebron also called the shots and gave Riley all the credit) and this summer is Franchises have to play the game at the cost of future assets they move like trading cards in the hope Lebron or Melo returns their phone calls. Teams are either paralyzed from making moves, make panic moves, or unnecessarily clear roster spots waiting for the cream of the crop make their “Decisions”. The real winners are the second-tier stars, who cash in on the losers in the Lebron, Dwight Howard, or Melo Races, as their GM’s must appease disappointed Owners and fan bases. In February of 2010, Charles Barkley, who is edging closer to Howard Stern than Howard Cosell as he enters his AARP years, was prophetic when he predicted Amare Stoudemire, a free agent in the upcoming summer of 2010 , would be the big winner in the Lebron sweepstakes as half of the league was clearing cap space for “the big three”. “They ain’t all getting Lebron”, said Barkley, and these teams gonna need somebody to give all that money to”. 5 months, 5 years and 100 million dollars later, Amare is limping his way back into Free Agency, after giving the Knicks 6 solid months of production.

Chris Bosh is the recipient of this summer’s Amare Award, 118 million over 5 for a guy who was 4th option on nights Mario Chalmers was feelin’ it. Luol Deng also held his ground, waited for the smoke to clear and landed 12 million per from Riley. Not a bad haul.

This second Summer of Lebron leaves us no choice but to brace ourselves for the Summer of 2015 propaganda (starting next weekend), and with a 24/7 , 365 day news cycle on hundreds of Media outlets to fill it’s never too early to discuss the Kevin Durant to (your favorite team here) in 2016 rumors on your local station.

God spare us.

A shout out to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops, Ramona Shelbourne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who consistently outshined their media competition by reporting fact vs. fiction. A rarity in the Twitterverse.

Best of Luck to USA!! USA!! At the World Cup in Spain

Get Well Soon Paul George.

Best of Luck to the US Men’s Team in Spain, stay tuned.