More LeBron Guessing Game Frenzies


Seems ESPN has launched ESPN today and decided to promote it by rehashing the ol’ Will LeBron James Go To New York story.  There’s a surprisingly large amount of Nothing New, mixed in with Shameless Sensationalizing, Idiotic Conclusions Based On Personal Feelings, and just Awful Math.  That said, there were maybe a couple of Intriguing Bits to me, but it might all feel redundant to y’all.  Without further ado:

Idiotic Conclusions:

The worst part was where the sportswriters speculated the percent chance of LeBron going to one team or another.  Let’s start with Mark Stein saying there’s a 10% chance that LeBron will go to Dallas.  10%???  10% means 1 in 10!  You’re going out tonight and your choosing between your ten favorite restaurants — that gives each one a really good shot at being chosen.  Thankfully, of the four other Dallas writers, they all only gave it a 1-3% chance.  I like Stein’s writing a bunch, but his thesis his based on this you-can-substitute-LeBron’s-name-with-anyone statement:

"I firmly believe LeBron likes the thought of playing with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, trusts Mark Cuban to be an owner who will always spend whatever it takes to contend and loves the city of Dallas and Cowboys football"

I bet LeBron also likes the thought of playing with Steve Nash, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and tons of other players too.  Kobe Bryant just re-upped for three more years in LA and has a great thing going with the Lakers, but if you asked him the vague general question, “do you like the thought of playing with Dirk & Kidd?” of course he’d say yes.  Would he leave LA for that?  No.  Why do I think it’s so unlikely LeBron would head to Dallas?  Stein says it himself:

"The fact Cuban needs a sign-and-trade to make this happen because the Mavs don’t have sufficient salary-cap space to just sign LeBron outright is a Texas-sized obstacle."

Maybe Stein doesn’t realize quite how big Texas is & thus the size of that obstacle.  Also, with the aging Kidd only having a year or two left in the tank, is this really something so appealing that LeBron would force the Cavs into forming a complex sign-and-trade to make it happen?  Versus say Chicago has young pieces in Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah, plus they’ve got the cap space for LeBron to join without any complications.  Yet Stein gives them a 0% chance of snagging the King?  Sounds like a homer to me.

Awful Math:

Based on writers’ guesstimates  on the chances LeBron will go various places, some of ’em don’t understand how percentages work.  If I’m the IRS and wanna make some quick cash, I’m auditing all these guys’ back taxes.  J.A. Adande says there’s a 50% shot LeBron stays in Cleveland (if they win the championship but 60% if they don’t), 30% he goes to the Bulls, 10% to the Clips, 5% Lakers, and 2% Mavs.  If we go with the 60%, then we’re already at 107%.  Granted we like to ask our players to give 110%, but I think it’s too much to realistically expect even from LeBron.  However, even if we go with the 50% number, we’re already up at 97%, and he didn’t even get to voice his opinion on the Knicks and Nets page.  Maybe he thinks they only have a combined 3% shot, but I’m guessing more likely he doesn’t understand how percentages work.

Good Math (aka Intriguing Bit #1):

As usual the brilliant Larry Coon, salary cap expert, delved into numbers that matter.  He’s gone over this before on the New York Times’ blog and elsewhere, but he nicely debunks the knee jerk You-Make-More-Money-If-You-Stay-With-Your-Current-Team assumption.  Under the current bargaining agreement, the home team had the advantage of being able to offer contracts with one extra year and larger raises.

"Six years with Cleveland, or five from anywhere else? Should he settle for 8 percent raises with another team when he can get 10.5 percent raises from the Cavs? The dollars add up quickly.[..] But is it a lock? Not necessarily — there’s a flip side to this coin.The advantage […] can be overstated. You’ll commonly see comparisons like “$125 million with Cleveland, or $96 million anywhere else.” That’s a no-brainer. But it’s also misleading; it doesn’t compare apples to apples.For instance, if James signs a five-year deal to leave the Cavs, in all likelihood he’ll eventually sign for that sixth season (and beyond) somewhere down the line. So let’s compare deals of equal length — over five years, it’s $100 million with Cleveland versus $96 million anywhere else.Now we’re in the same ballpark, just 4 percent less. Close enough that other factors start to make a big difference, such as the tax situation. If he signs in Florida, for instance, he’ll be playing more games in a state with no income tax. Is that enough to overcome the smaller raises? Time to call H&R Block.James is among a new breed of superstar that has taken a savvier approach to negotiating contracts. He doesn’t look at it in terms of “How much can I lock in right now?” […] And by signing shorter deals, he maintains the ability to re-enter the free-agent market sooner. So even though the Cavs can offer a longer deal, is that what LeBron wants?"

That last part is particularly intriguing.  Along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron chose to only sign a three-year contract the last go-around.  With many of Cleveland’s top players on the downside of their career (Shaq, Antawn Jamison, Zydrunas Ilgauskas), the savvy LeBron likely wouldn’t wanna do a six-year deal if he stayed.

The ESPN writers were asked what’re the chances LeBron stays if the Cavs win the championship this year, and what’re the chances if they lose?  As I stated in a previous column, I think it gets even more complicated than that: if they do win, how tough was it to win?  If they had to struggle and only barely scraped by, that ain’t good considering ya gotta assume the old guys’ll take a step back.  The only Cav who has real potential to improve is JJ Hickson (read John Krolik’s post here about the Cavs’ supporting cast being the key to whether or not LBJ leaves).

Along the lines of the Cavs’ playoff journey being equally important as the final outcome, if LeBron’s truly smart he’ll take into account the playoff journey of another team: the Lakers.  No, not to join them, but to learn from them.  The Lakers have looked vulnerable as of late, to the point where if they lost now in the first round, it wouldn’t be the shocker it would’ve been at the beginning of the season.  The Celtics and Lakers won the last two championships, both looking pretty dominant doing it, yet both now appearing extremely vulnerable.

If winning dominantly didn’t ensure a repeat for those teams, then if the Cavs barely sneak by, what’re their chances to double on the hardware?  How about LeBron take a look at what happened when his pal Wade needed an extraordinary effort to compel the Heat to victory in 2006, only to get swept in the first round in 2007?  Particularly since a big component of that downhill slide was due to the aging of none other than ‘Bron’s current teammate and then Heat-ster, Shaq?

Okay, okay, I went off on a tangent there and this is getting long, so we’re gonna speed through…

Shameless Sensationalizing:

The ridiculous What’s New York’s Backup Plan interview with Donnie Walsh, was supposedly gonna reveal New York’s Plan B, C, D, E and F.   However, Walsh doesn’t say if he’s gonna go for Bosh next or specify plan D lower-cost alternatives like Rudy Gay because as the article states:

"NBA tampering rules prohibit Walsh (and officials from other franchises) from publicly discussing players currently under contract to other teams"

In other words, it’s just general info that we all know: if we don’t get LeBron there are a mix of other players we can go for, some not max, some through trades, and we won’t necessarily use up all our cap space just to use it.

Intriguing Bit #2:

This might fall under “Duhhh” to you, but having grown up in New York, I sometimes take it for granted and forget the mesmerizing effect it can have on other people.  Forget other, even as a native, when I went to a game in January I wrote about how I could feel the amazing energy in Madison Square Garden growing as you climb the escalators to get into the arena.  Ian O’Connor asked several big names in sports their thoughts on winning in NY.   My dad (a huge Ranger fan) will like this snippet coming from the hockey world:

"In 1991, Mark Messier didn’t need New York half as much as New York needed him. Messier had won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers in his native Edmonton, Alberta, or five more than the Rangers had won since 1940.Little did Messier know that No. 6 would define him in ways that one through five never could.Messier guaranteed a Game 6 victory over the Devils in the ’94 conference finals, delivered a hat trick and finally grabbed the Stanley Cup on Garden ice before letting loose his MGM lion’s roar.“Because it was New York and we hadn’t won in so long,” Messier said, “even if you weren’t a hockey fan you were tuning in. It became bigger than hockey and bigger than the Stanley Cup.”"

Not a hockey fan?  Here’s the point of view from former Yankee great Reggie Jackson:

"in 1977, Jackson hit three World Series homers on three consecutive Game 6 pitches thrown by three different Dodgers arms. What would’ve been the impact on Jackson’s legacy had he delivered that epic performance in the colors of, say, the Cleveland Indians?“It would be significantly smaller,” Mr. October said.So would two or three LeBron titles in New York be bigger than four or five LeBron titles in Cleveland?“I’d definitely agree with that,” said Jackson. “If Jordan won four in New York rather than six in Chicago, he’d be even bigger than he is now.“There’s only one city like New York […]  The New York Knicks’ brand is just waiting for someone to plant a seed there. If it’s LeBron, that brand will grow like wildfire.”"

What really got me is the thought that WHERE you play could impact your legacy.  In terms of logic, it makes no sense ‘cuz a championship is a championship and ya gotta beat the same teams no matter what your address is.  But on that truly elite level, that best of the best pantheon, perhaps there is some truth to it.  Tim Duncan is quietly considered perhaps the top power forward of all time, but if he played in New York would it just be end-of-discussion of course he is?

I mean when we’re talking One Name Wonders it isn’t just about what the average basketball fan feels, but about what the average person feels.  Hakeem Olajuwon won two championships which should give him a shinier resume than Patrick Ewing, but I bet my mom never heard of him.  Go to an art gallery, ask for a show of hands if they know who Kobe is.  Then ask about Duncan and watch the hands disappear.  And it’s not just ‘cuz Duncan’s a quiet guy because take a look at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  He was known as being quiet and slightly unfriendly, and chances are if he’d stayed in Milwaukee he’d have remained anonymous in the non-sports world.  But he came (back) to Los Angeles which expanded awareness of him.

Yes, LeBron’s already broken on through to the other side, so the man on the street already knows him.  But this is about more than mere name recognition, after all everyone’s heard of Paris Hilton too.  LeBron has a legit shot at being considered the BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER OF ALL TIME.  If he wins five rings in New York, does that help his cause more than five rings in Cleveland (or say Miami)?  If you’d asked me yesterday, I would’ve said of course not, that’s ridiculous.  Now I’m not so sure.

(source: Reggie Jackson still gets to ride in the parade when the Yankees win the World Series