The Fallout and Summer League

I’m really torn. On one hand I can respect the choices that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all made. To make personal sacrifice, not only monetarily but egotistical, is commendable and something that most people in their position would be hard-pressed to do themselves. On the other hand, part of me wishes he would’ve stuck it out and seen it through in Cleveland, even on a three-year contract. I say that as a fan. As a fan, I’ve never experienced what Cleveland just did. I’ve had favorite players leave my favorite teams before but never a favorite player who also happened to be one of the best players to ever grace the game. I’ve never lost a player who was so integral to everything so positive my team did on the court or field. It must be gut-wrenching. For that reason, I wish he’d stayed in Cleveland.
His biggest mistake was announcing it in such a fashion that was the most heart breaking for Cavalier fans. He’ll be a pariah now. A hated man. Within minutes of the announcement, James’s jerseys were burning in the street. They lit his jersey on fire because their hearts were on fire. It’s extreme and I don’t condone it at all, but I can understand.
The biggest question of the rest of the offseason is going to be who do they surround The New Three with and much of that will depend on how much of a pay cut they each take. It’s useless to speculate until the numbers are finalized but can they really win with three great players and five or six players who wouldn’t break the Lakers or Celtics or rotation? Can they raise the game of average to below-average players over the course of a season and into the playoffs? Can they make this ‘superteam’ work? I’m excited to see these guys (hopefully) play great team basketball. I’m excited about seeing the best players play at the best time of the year.
One of the biggest crimes of this signing is that no one is going to play as the Cavaliers on the new NBA Jam now that LeBron left. Antawn Jamison and Delonte West is going to be the worst pairing on the game, the next worse being Arron Brooks and Yao Ming, and will do battle for the worst Jam team of all-time with the old Dallas Mavericks duo Jim Jackson and Derek Harper. That’s a far cry from playing with Kobe and Pau, or Payton and Kemp for those lucky enough to pump quarters into the old-style arcade machines.
Interestingly enough, LeBron James did not come off as the worst person alive tonight. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert opened a whole can of crazy with his open letter to fans of his team, classifying the move as ‘cowardly betrayal’ and ‘heartless and callous.’ He went as far as to guarantee that ‘THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED KING WINS ONE.’ That’s right, he went caps. There’s one guy in Cleveland I don’t feel bad for.
There’s plenty of good that will come out of this as well. While one team got significantly worse tonight, one mediocre team turned into a legit title threat and if it works well and the right pieces are added over the next few seasons we could be looking at an all-time team along the lines of the ’86 Celtics, ’96 Bulls, or ’01 Lakers. The MVP race will be more wide open as well, not dominated by James as it would’ve been if he’d stayed in Cleveland. In fact:
2010-11 NBA MVP favorites
1. Kevin Durant
2. Dwight Howard
3. Chris Paul
360. Jermaine O’Neal
The NBA world did not stop last night though. The Knicks finally outsmarted another team but it wasn’t that surprising when you learn the team they duped was the Warriors. The Warriors gave up Anthony Randolph (physical freak with the skill set to do anything he wants), Kelenna Azubuike (a guard who shoots the three well but can post up and defend too), and Ronny Turiaf (only their best defender) for David Lee, a guaranteed 20-10 on a bad team where he is the first or second scoring option. In addition to that, the Warriors signed him to a six year-$80 million dollar deal that will have Warriors fans groaning in two years when they realize he only puts up All-Star numbers when given starters minutes in a SSOL-type system. He doesn’t play much defense but at least he plays hard, so that’s something. Of course you could’ve said that about any of the three guys the Warriors gave up and they don’t make combined what Lee will make this upcoming season. Enjoy your Warriors Bar Mitzvah, Mr. Randolph, I’m sure you’ll be added to the list of “Really good players the Warriors traded away too soon.”
In the fallout of LeBron choosing Miami, the Heat dealt Michael Beasley to clear cap space for a second round pick in the 2011 draft. The lucky team that stole the number two pick from 2008 for nothing? The Minnesota Timberwolves! They have Al Jefferson and Kevin Love at power forward already and they just drafted about eight small forwards a couple of weeks ago so logically they traded for a player who can only play those positions. Makes sense to me.
In the midst of all the off the court hoopla, actual games are being played on actual courts inside by players who will actually contribute for your team. Basketball is truly a year round sport. The Finals ended less than a month ago and the draft followed immediately. Now Summer League is here and the results don’t matter so much as learning experiences do. Example: Stephen Curry was legitimately awful last year in Summer League. Poor shot selection, poor passing, and lots of turnovers. Flash forward to the regular season and you could see that Curry’s lessons learned in Vegas galvanized him to terrific rookie season as
he averaged 17-6-4 and 2 steals a game, finished second in ROY voting, and was a lone bright spot for a dismal Warriors team. Anyone who watched him from Summer League to the near triple-double he ended the season with against Portland saw him grow and learn and adjust. He would never have made so much progress so soon if he had skipped straight to preseason exhibitions. Now he’s on the Team USA Basketball roster with Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson followed similar suit. They cut out their roles on their teams in Summer League. Jennings showed he could actually run an offense and make shots for his teammates and Ty Lawson proved any doubters wrong by being a blue blur and getting to the rim just as well as he did in the college game. Don’t dismiss these as pre-preseason games. They’re more than that. Players are fighting for spots and playing with a chip on their shoulder. It may not always be pretty but it will be competitive, which is all any Pacers fan could ask for.
Here are five players who are going to make a name for themselves this year in Sin City:
Eric Bledsoe: Speedster who can be a change of pace off the bench for the Clippers. Always aggressive and if he had been drafted by any other team I wouldn’t be scared for his knees at all.
DeMarcus Cousins: He’ll be destructive offensively and he’ll grab plenty of ballboards too. With fouling out an impossibility, I think he averages a triple-nickel.
Luke Babbit: It’s scary what Kevin Pritchard did for this team. It’s scarier that he got fired after putting together a team, that when healthy, is a title contender. Luke Babbit was an excellent addition at practically no cost when they traded with the hapless Timberwolves. He can pull up and stroke it and will also find shots off the dribble when needed.
Brandan Wright: A rookie in ’07, Wright has been hellainjured, as Bay Area natives would say, during his first three seasons (playing a combined 77 games) but he has the ability to tear up the less experienced, less polished forwards of Summer League. After missing all of last season with a shoulder injury, expect him to come out strong and fast.
John Wall: Cutting his teeth and probably the best player at the games here already. His first game is July 11 against an uptempo Warriors team that’s right in his wheelhouse. He’s going to have his own personal lay-up line. I can’t wait.
There also, no doubt, will be a couple players we’ve never heard of who catch the eyes and make teams, even if they aren’t the teams they played for this summer. A new beginning to a new season even though the last one just ended.
Hate mail? Feedback? Contact me at and follow me on twitter @stefanhynes.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jesse on July 10, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Good points all around. I don’t think the Warriors trade is as bad as you are making it to be though. Lee is a hard worker and will make us immediately better


  2. Posted by Tom on July 10, 2010 at 2:25 am

    I’m a Cavalier fan. This sucks


  3. Posted by Matthew on July 10, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Yeah. The part where you said they lit his jersey on fire bc their hearts were on fire was prettyaccurate of how me and my brother felt. Good work.


  4. Posted by Karen on July 10, 2010 at 2:36 am

    What about the Lakers?


  5. Posted by Karen on July 10, 2010 at 2:38 am

    I see you picked the World Cup final right btw. Still think Spain will win?


  6. Posted by Karen on July 10, 2010 at 2:40 am

    One more: Kobe will be the MVP next year! Bank it!


  7. Posted by Tim on July 10, 2010 at 3:52 am

    y’all just hatin onda heat cuz y’all can’t handle da heat. lol. 2011 champs comin ur way from miami


  8. Posted by Daequan on July 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Warriors fan here…


  9. Posted by Cavs4Life on July 11, 2010 at 2:40 am

    NBA Jam!!!!!! The Cavs are gona mash on that game


  10. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!


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