Five (Top Free Agent) Guys
A posse cut on the free agency madness.
July 1 has finally arrived. Big names are finally free from their onerous max contracts, teams are flying coaches and GMs and Jay-Z around the country in expensive jets in order to woo wealthy twentysomethings in to saving their respective franchises from decades of utter misery. Fanbases are mobilized, newspapers are in full peacock-in-heat mode, and the Worldwide Leader is running the rumor mill around the clock. There are reports that Ric Bucher’s hair even moved. Once. In the meantime, before decisions are made and contracts are signed, five of us thought we’d each take one free agent and speculate. (Joe Johnson not included.)
by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni
The worst thing that could possibly happen to Chris Bosh in the coming days, is having to choose which team to play for next season.
For that would signify the end of the only time in his life where he’ll be featured in virtually every NBA headline for weeks at a time, every argument between basketball fans, on the minds of anyone who cares about this game, and even getting superstars to risk punishment from the League by openly (and publicly) tampering with him.
It all started out so innocently for Chris, with silly YouTube videos that featured harmless pleas to gain All-Star votes. Once Bosh’s game caught up with his guerrilla marketing skills, and turned him in to a legitimate NBA star, his ego swelled, to the point where he got this strange idea that he was now somehow a true franchise player.
The guy loves the attention brought on by free agency so much, it’s almost sad.
Check out Bosh’s last few tweets:
After all these years… Just 24 hrs left….. Wow. I’m getting anxious.
It funny how years come down to hours and minutes
Trying to ease my nerves. Tried to take a nap, but I can’t sleep…
The day has been moving extremely slowly. It’s always like that when something important is coming up!
Only 120 mins till this thing kicks off. I wonder if anything is going happen after 12:01…
My cousin wants me to go to a certain team. I won’t name the team he said, but it’s funny how I can’t get away. Lol
I’ve been watching this clock and it won’t speed up!
The time is finally here. Thank you for all the support. I’m nervous, but I’m excited and READY! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!!!!
It’s been an exciting first couple of hrs. Got some interesting visits and presentations from Houston, Toronto, Chicago and Miami. We’ll see who else will come out tomorrow.
Chris Bosh sounds like a guy who just got out of a long, terrible marriage. He’s very excited. He’s ready to hit the town again, re-connect with old buddies, and above all else, sleep with as many women as humanly possible (or in this case, NBA GMs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Ahem…)
Here’s my unsolicited advice to Chris Bosh: don’t choose a team until the very last day of training camp. You could use the shine, and seem to be enjoying it more than just about anyone else in the free agency pool. Why not let the good times keep rolling? Enjoy your time in the sun, Chris. Soak in the attention, love and pure adulation. Sow your basketball oats this summer.
Because once November rolls around, things will be very different, and Bosh will be forced to deal with his new commitment, and somehow make it work.
by Myles Brown / @mdotbrown
Back in March, LeBron James decided to change his number. What was once 23, will soon be 6. Unfortunately, what began as an homage to Michael Jordan devolved in to a clumsy dismissal of Bill Russell and Julius Erving. But perhaps we were the ones who failed to see the big picture.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have combined for an astounding 34 NBA championships. Long ago, they became synonymous with greatness. They’ve filled entire wings in the Hall of Fame with all-time greats. But not the greatest. And whether they admit it or not, it eats at them. To win every barroom and barbershop battle but one. To lay legitimate claim to practically everything except what they really want. Sure, they’ll seek out comfort in the old adage of it being a team game, but whether they admit it or not, they’re lying. Teams are comprised of men, men of remarkable skill and desire. But, in this sport more than any other, it’s all about the one man who sets your team apart. No matter how great the team may be, only one guy gets the statue out front. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have dominated the League since its inception. The Chicago Bulls dominated a decade, thanks to one player. LeBron James could be the next.
Yes, one player. The only thing weaker than Scottie Pippen’s arms was his mind. Jordan molded him. Phil Jackson’s mind games meant nothing without understanding, approval and most importantly, execution. Jordan delivered that message. Dennis Rodman may have walked on the wild side, but there was one line he’d never cross. Jordan kept him under control. So yes, Jerry, organizations do win championships. But the entire organization was the living embodiment of one man’s insatiable, insufferable, indomitable will. The result? A legacy that could fill 1,000 tomes, but is small enough to fit on a jersey.
Six. Six championships. Six Finals MVP trophies. (Only five regular season MVPs because another could’ve meant that he truly wasn’t of this planet. BREAKING NEWS: “Michael Jordan is the Anti-Christ! Spotted at Caesar’s Palace night before Game 7 with Bride of Satan!” )
With Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, a weak East and a fading West, LeBron James knows it could be his. Six, that is. He could be next.
So perhaps it’s not that he’s ignorant of NBA history, but entirely too aware of it. For quite some time now, the question has been what does LeBron want for himself? Perhaps he answered it months ago. What was once 23, will soon be 6. There it will sit, right at center mass, the very core of his being. A willing target for some, a standard to bear for more, but a challenge from all nonetheless. Perhaps he’s realized that ringless as he may be, he’s no longer competing with his peers as much as his predecessors. That in this business, a legacy isn’t what you’ve left behind, but what’s left in front of you. That there is only one way-and one place-that he can truly leave his mark.
Or it could all be a coincidence, like when Kobe changed his number to 24. But it would be nice.
by Jake Appleman / @JakeAppleman
If I’m David Lee—and I’m a tall white guy with brownish hair who loves basketball and spends a lot of time in New York City, so I’m at least a cousin*—I’m wondering two things: 1) Why am I being treated like such a big deal? And 2) how can I—or better yet, my agent—capitalize on the perception that I’m a big deal who deserves a big deal? (I may not have been invited to the Miami set of Burn [Journalists Without] Notice, but I am wanted…I think. )
The first part is pretty easy. Start with one part market inflation. If the D’Antoni Knicks are an amusement park, I’ve spent the better part of the last two years scoping out the upper reaches every stathead’s favorite roller coaster: Pace Mountain. And when, for parts of last season, we slowed things down a touch, my numbers were buoyed by being the one constant in a roster constantly in flux. John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Well, I averaged 20 and 12 while the World’s Most Famous Arena waited for a storm that may never come. Can I get some love? We’ll see…
Back to the recipe of me. Add one part “looks better by comparison” (anybody who has watched the Knicks over the past four years doesn’t need this explained) and throw in the almost universally agreed-upon theory that I’d be a good piece on any type of team (winning, losing, mediocre)—provided the frontcourt isn’t stacked like Paraguayan Pimpstress Larissa Riquleme. Now, drizzle that mixture of wait, it’s not exactly easy to discern how much I’m worth with the hype surrounding my lunch-pail game, the racial elephant in the room**, my borderline All-Star season on a losing team, and my positive rapport with fans and media alike, and, well…it’s still not totally clear.
The second part is trickier-trickier than “not totally clear”?…you betcha!—because if I read reports about myself, I’m aware of the fact that I want to stay in New York City. Because New York City loves me and I love New York City. I can drink Mai Tais with another long-suffering but admirably successful David (Wright), and enjoy the social fruit of the most cosmopolitan city in the country. All I have to do is keep working hard, something nobody disputes, and the people will continue to see themselves in me. This enhances my marketability. The problem is that if both the Knicks and the Nets (a solid potential second option if you believe the venerable author of SLAM‘s most recent cover, Dave D.) each land a pair of maxed-out whales, I’m like most folks: priced out of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
So, that leaves the options looking kind of like this…
1) Assuming the Knicks fail to get LeBrosh or STAT or Carlos Boozer or Wade, etc.: Join Joe Johnson and forgive Donnie Walsh for understandably not re-signing me for more than a year last summer.
2) Assuming the Nets fail to do anything similar: Excite childish writers as the Big Russian commits to an immediate future of Gay-Lee-Favors.
3) THE RANDOM DARK HORSE***: Assuming Amar’e bolts and GMs lowball me throughout the summer: Sign a backloaded contract with the Suns, and ride Steve Nash’s remaining years and the future of Puff The Magic Dragic all the way to the top of the real Pace Mountain, stopping only to admire my stats and the view from the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
New York is best in the summertime, anyway.
*Not really. I’m actually half-Jewish. I know. Shocker. And try as Russ and I might to imagine David changing his last name to Leebowitz, it ain’t happening.
**Just think about this for a second. The most functional member of a mostly black, dysfunctional family in a mostly black sport was the white guy. Nobody talks about this publicly because nobody wants to believe that this enhances DLee’s “good but not great White Hope” aura, but it does. New York is a fantastic melting pot, and I’m not saying that this definitively-or even necessarily-manifests itself in any concrete reverse affirmative action, but the situation was so plainly black-and-white, and so plainly “there,” that it shouldn’t fully be ignored when assessing Lee, even if it’s blurry as to what kind of contextual consequence this has on the overarching perception of him. So in conclusion, I’m not a sociologist. Run some focus groups or something.
***I could have done 10-15 other versions of the Random Dark Horse, but that one appealed off the bat, so I stuck with it. Read it as an herbal tea leaf if you must, but know that my only Sources have Dr. Dre and Biggie Smalls on the covers, and I still prefer XXL. “Chi-ca-go-Bulls Chi-ca-go-Bulls, he’s going to Chicago with bells / Now your free agency stories shouldn’t have so much trouble to sell.” OK, that’s a lie, I don’t have any Sources.
by Russ Bengtson / @russbengtson
In theory at least, Amar’e Stoudemire has the easiest decision to make of any of this heralded unrestricted Class of 2010: Stay, and continue to play with Steve Nash while making deep Playoff runs. Eventually be inducted in to the Ring of Honor and open a downtown sports bar. Leave, and… what, exactly? Become LeBron’s number two in Chileveland Yorklyn? Become Dwyane Wade’s number two (or possibly three) in Miami? Become the number-one guy in New York under a coach he didn’t particularly like while playing alongside…Toney Douglas? Become Jay-Z’s new best friend?
Phoenix isn’t the perfect situation, either. Grant Hill and Nash are graying — literally, in Hill’s case — and ownership has a history of penny-pinching, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the day Nash skateboards off in to the sunset. On the other hand, the Suns were the ones who took a flyer on him out of high school(s), helped develop him in to the All-Star force of nature he is today, nursed him back from several potential career-ending (or at least career-changing) injuries. On the other hand, Amar’e's naturally inquisitive nature, which has led him down such disparate paths as “The Art of War” and veganism, may inspire him to forge his own path elsewhere. On the other hand, we see what good that did for Joe Johnson and especially Shawn Marion, who we believe might still be in the NBA somewhere. Dammit, hold on a minute — what hand were we on again?
What we’re trying to say is this: Stay, Amar’e. Sign a shorter-term deal if you must, one with an opt-out that coincides with the end of Nash’s deal. Reconsider your options then. Yes, the six-year supermax would possibly grandfather you in through what promises to be a contentious labor clusterfuck next summer, provide that ever-elusive “security.” But it would also limit your freedom down the road. Why leave now, when you were so close to breaking through? Leave later, or maybe don’t ever leave at all. Stay where you’re number one.
by Ryan Jones / @thefarmerjones
Dwyane Wade should be The Priority. I have yet to figure out why he’s not.
As the guy who brought you a LeBron biography subtitled “Believe the Hype” (not my idea, but whatever), I understand the buzz around Mr. James. I understand how good he is and why every team in the League wants him. But I am honestly and truly unconvinced that he should be the top target this offseason.
Two facts: Dwyane Wade has a ring; LeBron does not. Certainly Dwyane didn’t win his ring all by himself, and certainly LeBron hasn’t had enough help in trying (and, so far, failing) to win his. But the facts remain.
Other facts: LeBron has a posse. It’s a posse I am personally acquainted with, and I don’t think its members (most of them, anyway) generally do him a disservice. But it does present potential complications.
Dwyane’s off-court issues seem less concerned with posse then, well… tell ‘em, Treach.
Whatever. All attendant drama aside, Dwyane Wade has arguably done as much for his teams over the past seven years as LeBron James has done for his. The only real differences: At his best, Dwyane has had more help and less hype. And there will undoubtedly be less pressure on Dwyane wherever he lands than there will be on LeBron, for reasons having to do with the aforementioned hype. This is not to say I think LeBron can’t handle “pressure”; he’s done so throughout his career. But that doesn’t mean anyone WANTS to have to deal with the kinds of pressure LeBron will be dealing with if he leaves Cleveland. Not him, not his (new) teammates, not the organization. Whatever expectations are placed on Wade if he leaves, it won’t be the same. Not nearly.
But maybe neither of them will leave. I hope LeBron doesn’t, but given the Cavs’ relative salary inflexibility and the seeming impossibility of someone like LeBron taking substantially less money than he’s able to earn in the prime of his career, I won’t blame him if he does.
Dwyane? I’m not a fan, so I don’t care what he does. But he should stay. And he should mostly ignore LeBron and make sure one of these other guys comes down to Miami with him.
Get Joe. Get Carlos. Get Chris. Get one of them — or maybe two of them — and add a shooter or two and shore up your bench. But stay in Miami. Let LeBron keep the hype. Let him go to Chicago or Manhattan or New Jerslyn, places where the circus will never, ever let up. Let him be. You guys can still have your fun with the national team in the summer, still do each other’s charity gigs, still get out to Vegas for a long weekend with Chris Paul and whoever else you let tag along. But basketball? You’re in a good place. Let everyone else have the drama. Choose the right sidekick and see if you can’t win yourself another title or two. On your team. On your turf. On your terms.