Links: Everyone Hates Cleveland

by September 29, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

So I wasn’t on vacation last week, but was away with Wifey dealing with some family business. I didn’t have a lot of time to read up on what was happening with the NBA, but even I couldn’t miss this headline: Cavs Owner Unhappy With Talk Of James Leaving.

The story made noise nationally, and not because Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was involved; it got attention because he was talking about LeBron James. Specifically, he was talking about LeBron leaving Cleveland for greener pastures.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who even casually follows the NBA. For the last few years, there’s been plenty of talk by everyone from chubby writers to LeBron himself that LeBron might be ready to leave Cleveland in 2010 when his contract is up. (Remember, LeBron could have signed a contract to keep him in Cleveland past 2010. He was the one who chose to sign a shorter deal.

For Dan Gilbert, LeBron is the crown jewel of his Cavs franchise, so obviously he doesn’t like hearing speculation that LeBron might be willing to move. After all, this is a local kid who has stayed close to home his entire life. And now he’s playing for his local team! They seem willing to pay him whatever he asks for, so why would he ever want to leave the Cavs?

Well, as someone who has heard LeBron talk dozens of times about the importance of winning an NBA Championship, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see LeBron leave the Cavs in 2010.

Hey, now why would I even say something like that?

Guess I better fess up: I wrote that because I hate the city of Cleveland.

Right Dan Gilbert? Because here’s what Dan Gilbert thinks about people who say LeBron might/could/should leave the Cavs in 2010:

“It is kind of an insult to the city of Cleveland in my opinion, an insult to the Midwest.”

Well, sure. Now this is all making sense. If I hate Cleveland, I will write that LeBron should leave. But wait! Dan Gilbert isn’t finished! That’s right, there’s more!

“People in your profession [sportswriters] are very bored on both sides of the country. There’s no basketball going on so they write this stuff.”

OK, you caught me, Dan. The truth is, I actually don’t think LeBron should leave the Cavs for a team with an experienced general manager and an experienced coach. I was just bored. Boredom explains why I think LeBron should go to a team that can won’t spend all their free agent cash on guys like Larry Hughes and Damon Jones. Boredom’s the reason I think it would make total and complete sense for LeBron to go to a team with a GM who won’t trade for the worst free throw shooter in NBA history just in time for the Playoffs, when free throw shooting is paramount. Boredom’s the reason I think LeBron should go a team where they’ll make smart Draft choices and where the talent gap between LeBron and the rest of the team won’t be wide enough to drive a sub-prime home loan through.

I’ll drop the sarcasm, but is Dan Gilbert serious? Does he really think sportswriters are saying LeBron might/could/should leave Cleveland because we’re all bored? Believe me, when I’m bored, the last thing I want to do is make up an article and publish it.

I write things I think I think, to paraphrase Peter King, and with the way the Cavs have gone the last few years, if LeBron wants to win an NBA championship, which is something he seems keen on, I think it makes sense for LeBron to cast his lot with someone other than the Ferry/Brown combo currently empowered in Cleveland. Take less money and go play with Kobe, or with KG, or with Bron’s good friend Chris Paul. Or go play for RC Buford or Darryl Morey or Joe Dumars or Kevin Pritchard some other GM who consistently makes sensible moves.

I’m not saying this because I don’t like Cleveland. (I’ve spent plenty of time there the last five years and it’s a perfectly nice city. Also, Braylon Edwards carried my fantasy football team last year and I still have a lot of goodwill toward the city of Cleveland just because of that.) I’m not saying this because I don’t like the Midwest. After all, I don’t remember a lot of sportswriters saying Michael Jordan should leave the Bulls just because they were in the Midwest.

I say all this because I want to see LeBron given the best chance to be successful and to win a championship, and that circumstance doesn’t seem to exist in Cleveland.

Oh, and Dan Gilbert also said this:

“I think we were literally closer last year than the year before.”

Why the “literally”? Does Gilbert mean the Cavs were geographically closer to the Finals last season than the year before? Because it seems to me that Cleveland is closer to Cleveland than it is to Boston. And if he means figuratively, well, seems to me that making the Finals is closer to the Finals not making the Finals.

But what do I know? I’m just a sportswriter. A bored one, at that.