Archive for July, 2011

Globalization a Good Thing for NBA Players

Ervin "Magic" Johnson

Magic scans the court

The NBA has expunged anything everything NBA 2011. NBA TV is giving me games of my youth (and even earlier than that!)—Jordan, Magic, Bird, the Bad Boys, Russell, and even my hometown Nuggets when they wore the hideous uniforms and short shorts. It was a blend of basketball and pornography. The games aren’t even in HD! The NBA’s Facebook page has clips of these players and even older ones. They ask questions about names like Dr. J and Oscar Robertson. They replayed a game from the 1977 NBA Finals. I was 2! The other night while I was out with friends, they aired an All-Star game from 1984 at McNichols Sports Arena here in Denver. Outside some league news, NBA.com is completely retro in content. It’s like walking into the Hall of Fame with the names and the clips that can be seen on it. It’s rather surreal not seeing one speck anything NBA 2011 anywhere; no players, no plays, nothing. It’s like this past season didn’t exist and it was one of the more exciting, fun seasons in recent memory. It’s like David Stern did the NCAA one better—the NCAA just asks us to forget games didn’t happen or championships weren’t won. Stern actually did it. How childish of him.

David Stern may have thought that acting as though the players didn’t exist would be exactly what it would take for them to come back to the table and beg for forgiveness, give back all the money they were given since 2006 (the last time a CBA was negotiated and agreed to), and agree that they are overpaid prima-donnas. Stern forgot something—he was pretty successful in that goal of his to globalize the game. Oops. So far oneplayer

Deron Williams
Nets Guard Deron Williams

of note, Deron Williams, has signed to play overseas during the lockout. More stars like Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant are seriously considering it. Leagues exist all across Europe, South America, and Asia. The players of today have options. Yes, the money and prestige aren’t the same, but these guys are professional basketball players; they want to play.

LA, New York, and Miami are all far more glamorous locales than places like Turkey, Greece, and China, but they’re also places that wouldn’t have pro leagues if not for the influence of the NBA. To now have the opportunity to get those players is like Christmas in July. It gives these leagues credibility they’ve never had before. Many of these leagues have been able to get the occasional player now and then, but with the exception of Allen Iverson (and to an extent even him), they’ve been players that couldn’t get a job in the NBA. Now both player and league look to cash in. This jump overseas would allow the players that do it an opportunity to market themselves to new places and potential new fans. There are jerseys to be sold, shoes to market and advertise, and whatever other products and services their agents can line up for them. Now names that were only known here in the United States have the possibility to be known and marketed the world over. Don’t think Nike, Under Armour, and all the other companies that dress, highlight, and market these athletes haven’t begun whispering in the right ears.

There is one thing more important to the players than a paycheck or a new or expanded endorsement deal at stake here and that is negotiating leverage. When they locked out the players, the owners did this as a way to show them who was boss. A portion of ownership believes that the players have taken them to the cleaners over the length of the last CBA. The players, along with other members of ownership, believe things are good to great. The players have agreed to give back some, but, obviously will not give away the farm, which is what the majority of owners are expecting. I wonder how those owners are now feeling knowing that the corner they thought they’d put the players in doesn’t even exist. How sad is it for the smart owners to know that their colleagues can’t even put together an effective lockout?

So far, there have been exactly zero negotiations between the two sides since the lockout was announced a little over three weeks ago. The sides can’t even agree to who lost what and who made what. Players have the blessing of their Union to go overseas. Heck, I’d be booking the tickets to Europe and China if I were the Union. It’s their best assault at the group of owners who are dissatisfied with what ultimately is their own stupidity. They’ve blown it again. If the lockout was their ultimatum, the union’s reply is sending their best and brightest stars overseas to play. If it was to take away the game the players love, Europe and Asia are still very much open for business. The owners can thank their fearless leader, Stern, for that.

With so many players seriously considering the idea of playing overseas, now is the time for the Union to force the league to the table. Union President Billy Hunter can say “My guys are ready to go play elsewhere. If you want to avoid a public relations disaster with the fans, let’s sit down and figure this out.” The owners will be the ones forced into a corner; forced to concede that their move had failed. They will not want to have to explain to their respective fan bases why some league in Europe is paying their favorite player instead of them. The fan does not care about the fight over the money. All they will see is that the player they go to games to see play is playing somewhere they can’t go and watch unless they want to fork over a lot of money for a passport, airfare, and hotel accommodations.

Fans are savvier than most owners give them credit for. Players know that the fans know the game and the game behind the game. Owners can’t see this. Most owners hide in their world, in luxury suites that most people can’t afford and don’t want to sit in anyway. It’s like a sterile bubble away from the commoner. Most fans want to be close to the action. Fans know when their team has signed the wrong guy at the wrong price. Fans know that too many of these contracts exist around the league and know exactly which teams produced them. Guess why some arenas are half empty most nights? Fans know that the owners are as much, if not more, to blame for the league’s current “troubles”. The Union should use this to their advantage as much as they can as often as they can. Maybe the season even starts on time!

The owners came into this summer believing they had the upper hand. They believed that if they locked out the players, they could force their hand to save them from themselves and their own mismanagement. They never expected to find that the roles could be switched so quickly. If the next few weeks go as they should, it will lead to the two sides sitting at the negotiating table. For the players, it will mean they may go back to work sooner than later. For the owners, it saves them the nightmare of their stars making money for themselves and others. When they do finally reach a deal, it still won’t mean sweet dreams for many owners. Like the last five seasons, it’s a position they put themselves in.

 

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James Harrison Misses the Mark

James Harrison delivered both barrels, reloaded, and delivered them again at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a slew of other people in the August issue of Men’s Journal.  Goodell, the main target of his ranting, hasn’t done himself any favors with his treatment of players on the field playing the game the way they’ve played it since they were in Kindergarten. Harrison’s words weren’t even all that inflammatory. I mean who hasn’t thought their boss is the devil and a crook at least once in their working life? Even saying he wouldn’t piss on Goodell if the Commish were on fire wasn’t that bad. Was it in bad taste? Maybe. Does it make Goodell any weaker or less respected in the eyes of the other players? Probably not. His handling of the lockout is doing a better job of that. What his delivery did do is totally crush any potential good that could have come from his argument regarding Goodell’s handling of player punishment.

If he had concentrated his thoughts on the fact that football is a violent sport with a history of injury as well as how the Commish seemed to hand out punishments arbitrarily with what he and other black players perceived to be a racist slant, it would have hit a lot harder than either of the two handguns he was pictured with. “I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was twenty. You don’t think black players don’t see this shit and lose all respect for Goodell?” That statement on its own is a cannon blast across the bow of the league’s player conduct policy. On its own, it would have made everyone; player, coach, owner, and NFL exec stand up and take notice. There would have been no way Goodell could have or would have remained silent on the issue. Changes in the conduct policy and its application may have even gained traction within the NFLPA in the collective bargaining negotiations. Too bad the way the diatribe was delivered ruined the good that could have come from it.

Harrison was the best candidate to deliver something so scathing in regards to how Goodell treats and punishes players who are flagged for “illegal hits”. Remember, he was fined $100,000 last season for illegal hits. Some of these hits aren’t even flagrant. These plays happen in less than the blink of an eye. It’s football. There is an inherent danger in playing the game. People are going to get hurt. The players have chosen to play the game. No one put a gun to their heads, no pun intended. They’re there on the field voluntarily. The risks have been explained. These men make millions of dollars. The players are more than compensated enough to take care of themselves.

Had the Steerlers won the Super Bowl in February against the Packers, Harrison was ready to tell Goodell “Why don’t you quit and do something else, like start your own league in flag football?” Yet another great way to deliver the message that football is a league of hard hits and physical play performed by highly trained, highly skilled athletes who are in the absolute best shape of any athlete in any sport. Goodell’s crackdown on defensive players hitting receivers and especially the rules towards quarterbacks has made the game akin to flag football. Again, this was a place where Harrison would have been the best person in the league to make such a bold statement.

James Harrison, August 2011 Men’s Journal

Harrison had absolutely valid points to make but he screwed the presentation. His first mistake was the photo. The league, and sports in general, are still recovering from such issues as Pac-Man Jones, Tank Johnson, Plaxico Burress, and Gilbert Arenas just to name a few. The league’s trying to get rid of the gun culture and here is Harrison looking like a video game character. Stupid. Dumb. Asinine. Those are the first thoughts to cross my mind when I saw the photo. Whether Harrison wants to admit it or not, he is a guy on the field that others look up to and measure their game by. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is a role model for younger players. He can say what he wants; that is his right. What he cannot do because of his celebrity and notoriety is pose in a photo that all but says it is ok to brandish multiple handguns. Does he really think kids won’t see that pic? Wake up!

The picture, however, was only his first mistake. He needed to leave his comments to Goodell. Had he done so, I think the picture could have eventually been overlooked and the larger issue of his words would have been the bigger story. The language is just too strong to ignore. The message is too important to ignore. Maybe something good could have come from this interview. Instead, Harrison made it a joke. Not just around the league and to fans everywhere, but in his locker room as well. You can’t put the cross-hairs on your own teammates and not expect repercussions. He took a shot at his running back, Rashard Mendenhall, who Harrison called “a fumble machine” since he had a fumble that lead to a Green Bay touchdown in the Super Bowl. Mendenhall also scored a touchdown and was the game’s leading rusher. He also had all of two fumbles in the entire regular season.

Worse yet, he pointed the larger barrel at his two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. “Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off (writer’s note: To whom should he hand it off to? Remember you just called your running back a ‘fumble machine’) and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.” Note to Harrison: Your QB has one more ring than Peyton does. He also has lead your team to one more Super Bowl appearance than Peyton has. Go ahead and try and defend that. I’d pay money to be in the room when you do.

Harrison’s line from the Super Bowl: One sack of QB Aaron Rodgers for a loss of 6 yards. Outside of that hit, Rodgers tore your defense, a defense Harrison supposedly leads, to shreds. Rogers was 24 of 39  for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. He had all the time in the world to take a look around and admire Jerryworld before deciding where to throw the ball. It was up to Harrison to make life miserable for Rodgers and he couldn’t do it. Harrison’s teammates on offense did more to win that game than he did.

James Harrison is a very intelligent individual. He has a lot of good things to say about the game he loves and is so passionate about. He has commented on the Commissioner’s seemingly arbitrary decisions when it comes to levying punishments against players for various infractions. This interview could have been a fantastic chance to push that message again. There was no filter here, no editing, and no one from the league or the Steelers there to fine him or suspend him. If he had stuck to his guns and attacked Goodell for what he and others saw as a blatantly racist policy on punishing players and how these fines and suspensions in general have made it far more difficult for he and other defensive players to do their jobs, he’d have hit a home run. Instead, he shot himself in the foot.

 

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NBA Owners: Clean Your Own Mess First

NBA Commissioner David Stern

NBA Commissioner David Stern

Like all other basketball fans, I am left here to wonder when we’ll see another game played and praying it isn’t the start of the 2012-13 season as some are suggesting. Even before the lockout every talking head on TV has said the players need to give back. I keep hearing how the players are overpaid and should be grateful for the money they receive. I keep hearing that they need to make concessions and come towards the owners. I keep hearing that they need to accept a salary cap. No one seems to be looking at the other side of the equation. Isn’t anyone going to wonder about the owners? Isn’t anyone going to ask about the GMs? Aren’t they the ones writing these contracts and signing the checks? I seriously doubt they’re handing their players contracts and blank checks just telling them to write in whatever they feel like they’re worth.

In the 1984-85 season (get in the hot tub, we’re going for a ride!), the first season the league re-established a salary cap, that cap was $3.6 million in total salary (average player salary: $330,000). That’s for the entire team. Not one person, but everybody. All twelve guys on the bench couldn’t make more than that. In 2005-06, the last time the CBA came up for renewal, the average player in the NBA was making $5 million. Players were, on average, making $1.4 million more than every full roster in the league just twenty years earlier. The cap in 05-06: $49.5 million. For this past season, the cap was $58 million with an average salary of $5.75 million. If the owners and GMs are writing the contracts and the checks, could it really be the players that have caused a 15-fold increase in average salary in a mere two decades?  Any answer other than “no” makes you an idiot.

Paying for talent is one thing. I get that. Talented players are what put butts in seats. Those filled seats buy concessions, souvenirs, and possibly more tickets. It’s one of the primary ways teams make money. The best players are going to demand the most money. There’s a really limited supply of those players, unfortunately and they should get what they rightfully deserve. You won’t hear me, or them for that matter, complaining about their salaries. On the flip side, you know how on Ebay, sometimes auctions just keep going up and up and no one has a clue as to why; how it looks like one person is bidding against themselves. I really get the impression that is what is happening here. Instead of saving that money to pay one of the stars, a guy making $3 million has his contract expire. Let’s say a GM has $10 million in cap space to play with. One of their bench players made $3 million last season, the last in their contract. This GM could offer another $3M/year deal, even $4M. Instead, afraid to lose this player that plays a role on his team, but not a leading one, this GM offers the full $10M available. The successful franchises in the league are too busy using their money like adults and hanging championship banners. Instead, this GM has now left his team no room to maneuver when their chance for a star or other impact player comes along. It isn’t even a tradeable contract. Who wants a role player at $10 million? Smart, fiscally responsible GMs are focused on the right talent, the right roles players, and most importantly, they’re interested in finding it at the right price (see: Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Boston). What do these teams have in common? Regular success on the court and a combined eleven championships since 1999.

These teams have managed their money carefully. They’ve made good deals for themselves for local and regional TV rights. They’ve also worked hard to make the best decisions both competitively and financially ensuring on-the-court success for their franchises. They should not be forced to limit what they can and can’t do because some of their fellow executives can’t manage a checkbook. A hard cap doesn’t save management from players making too much money; it saves them from themselves spending too much money on moronic contracts to players who shouldn’t even be in the league. These are grown, educated men. They didn’t become multi-millionaires and billionaires hitting the lotto. The smart teams should not be forced to subsidize the dumb ones. Subsidization isn’t the way to achieve competitive balance. Smart management is.

There should be an NBA version of an IQ test given to anyone who shows interest in buying a franchise. It could even be multiple choice and include questions like “What’s the most important thing when owning a franchise? A) Spending money competently to be competitive; B) Twisting local government’s arm to build you a new arena;  or C) Using the fact you own a team a as a pickup line.” Also “How much would you pay Darko Milicic for a season? A) About $5 million; B) About $1 million; or C) A couple burgers from the concession stand.” The successful teams know the answers are A and C.

At some point in the future, the league will sit at a table with the players. Before that can even be thought about, the owners need to clean their own house. They need to realize that it wasn’t the players that put them in this position. They did this to themselves. These will, in the end, be the uglier, far more contentious negotiations. These promise to make the debt negotiations in Washington look like a love fest. You will have the
struggling franchises asking for a salary cap and revenue sharing in an attempt to level the playing field. The large markets and successful markets will want the status quo. They have no issue with the current economics. They could sit down with the players and hammer out a new agreement so fast DeMaurice Smith will get dizzy. Everyone else is pushing for the nuclear option—no basketball till the players fold. That’s their public stance, anyway. This is their shot across the bows of the successful franchises. If there’s no season, maybe the successful teams will give in. That’s the dumbest game of financial chicken, the debt crisis notwithstanding, I’ve ever heard.

What I pray for most is that this game results in what the game needs most–contraction. Let me ask you this: Do we really need teams in Sacramento, Charlotte, Minneapolis, and New Orleans? These teams have little talent and even fewer fans between them. They could rent out high school gyms for their home games to save money. These mostly talentless teams play in areas where the population just doesn’t care. Would anyone notice if the Bobcats went away? They didn’t even seem to notice when the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002. Even the Hornets in their current home stink. They are in a city with stiff economic issues and ownership so bad and eventually so broke the league had to take over the franchise. My solution: If a suitable owner doesn’t wake up and plunk down the cash by the time the lockout ends, whack’em. What reason exists to keep the Timberwolves around other than the extra night off the opposing team’s starters can get? No talent, no fans, and no one really cares. The Kings were all packed for a move down the way to Anaheim. This was the Maloof Brothers final attempt to force a new arena from the city. If the league had approved that move, it should have stipulated the sale of the team to Henry Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks and the Honda Center, the Kings’ potential new home. All I keep hearing is that the lockout is more profitable for these franchises than actually playing their games. Explain to me agian why they even own a franchise. If any or all of these teams go poof in the next few months as this drags on, the league will be better off for it.

The successful teams will always remain successful as long as they stick to the blueprints they’ve developed over the years. Success breeds success. It becomes a a way of life; players, coaches, front office people, trainers, everyone lives and breathes winning. There is a system that works. Some teams have figured it out. These guys have put together successful teams; teams that have competed for and won championships. Some franchises have begun to model themselves after these teams by hiring key assistants away from them or studying how they go about evaluating and signing players. Others continue to act ignorant and childish. They’re like the 16-year-old girl at the mall with daddy’s credit card. As long as the fight remains the successful vs. the foolish, we are no closer to getting a deal done. Blame that on the losers.

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NCAA Must Join 21st Century

Former Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel

Jim Tressel on the sideline

Former Tennessee Men's Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl
Bruce at the Mic

Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor, Aurburn University, USC Football, USC Men’s BasketballJim Calhoun, Bruce Pearl, Lane Kiffin, University of Tennessee Football program, University of Tennessee Men’s Basketball program, Boise State. What do all these have in common? The NCAA’s Keystone Cops are either currently investigating them or has recently concluded an investigation. In all these cases, some punishment was handed out. And that’s just what I could come up with off the top of my head in about 20 seconds.

In order, Jim Tressel was forced to resign after lying to the NCAA. Terrelle Pryor who first was suspended for the first five games of next season for receiving extra benefits, chose instead to leave school and is looking at the NFL, if there is an NFL season. Auburn University, the reigning BCS Champion, is under investigation for recruiting violations. No idea where that will go, but in the mean time, head coach Gene Chizik got a pay raise most people can only dream about. Southern California had head football coach Pete Carroll abandon ship for the NFL. Head basketball coach Tim Floyd left amid the OJ Mayo scandal and is in, what can only be referred to as head coaching purgatory, at UTEP. Long time Athletic Director Mike Garrett was forced out as a result of all the violations in a house cleaning by the school’s new leadership. Did I mention that Reggie Bush had to return his Heisman Trophy and the school had to return its crystal BCS Championship football? Mr. Bush is also personae non grata at USC. Reigning Men’s Basketball Championship Coach Jim Calhoun of Connecticut will miss the first three games of next season thanks to his own recruiting violations. The program is also losing scholarships and is on three years probation. Bruce Pearl was first suspended then fired for lying to the NCAA. Lane Kiffin is in trouble for his single season at Tennessee accused of failing to monitor his program and the actions of his assistants. Boise State is being investigated for almost two dozen violations across multiple sports from football to tennis, including the grand daddy of them all “lack of institutional control” meaning that there are so many things going on, the administration should have known something was wrong and done something about it.

The NCAA compliance manual, last time I saw it, was thicker than the New York City phone book back when they actually printed phone books. The NCAA regulates every minute detail of an athlete’s life; regulates every aspect of a coach’s life; regulates every possible detail of how an athletic department is to operate. It takes a lot of honesty and a lot of trust from a lot of people to make that happen. If I said that is all easier said than done, I could win understatement of the year.

Truth be told, no program is clean. There is no such thing as a clean program. No one single person, no head coach, no assistant coach, no compliance director, no athletic director, no one can know with 100% certainty that there isn’t something going on with one of their athletes that shouldn’t be. Is it as bad as it used to be? Not by a long shot. Advances in technology make it far easier to catch the cheaters. It’s what brought down Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. Lying to the NCAA makes both men toxic to any other program meaning their careers are likely over, even if Pearl says publically that he will coach again. But should they be? Should the NCAA continue trying to basically drain the ocean one teaspoon at a time? Should it continue to spend money pretending they’re for truth, justice, and the American way? No it shouldn’t. Let’s be honest here. Football and basketball are such cash cows for the schools, the NCAA, and the networks that air their games that no one cares.

It is the almighty dollar controlling college sports, not the NCAA. It’s the NCAA itself that’s letting the money talk. The NCAA signed a 14-year $11 billion (with a B) deal with CBS and Turner Sports for the exclusive rights to the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. In football, individual conferences and in some cases, individual schools are making their own TV deals with networks from ESPN to Fox to, in the case of Texas, beginning its own TV network. These deals total billions. Schools are swimming in cash. The NCAA is swimming in cash. Isn’t it any surprise that the athletes, you know, the ones that do the actual work, want a cut? It’s hypocritical of the NCAA, the athletic conferences, and the schools to be milking every dollar from every possible source and then tell the athletes “thou shalt not take anything.” It ain’t gonna happen. Try telling a 20 year old who’s seeing all this cash and expect them not to want and expect a cut. You can offer them full room and board and four years of free education. That’s awesome. You’re doing the same for many others on the same campus. The only difference is they can get paid for working. Athletes are going to class, going to practice, travelling, and playing games and being the faces of the university. College athletics are the number one way a school attracts attention, and not just from the next potential recruiting class. Even the academics make a killing off the athletes.

I am not asking for a free-for-all. Not even close. There are ways to get the seedy characters out of college athletics. Those would be the slime such as those back in Pennsylvania who call themselves “mentors” to Terrelle Pryor. These are the men Jim Tressel e-mailed instead of the NCAA when it became clear that something wasn’t right. These “businessmen” have their hands all over the supposed “stars” of college athletics and get programs, coaches, and players in trouble. These characters are all over. In a lot of cases they are “win-at-all-cost” alumni who don’t  give a damn about the NCAA. In others, they’re nothing more than a seemingly good guy with very ulterior motives befriending the athlete very early in their lives (see: Terrelle Pryor). All they care is that their alma maters or guys win. Afterwards, they expect to cash in. Sadly, these goons greatly outnumber the numbers of compliance officers and NCAA investigators combined.

Pro sports agents used to be on college campuses like plagues of locust. Not any longer. The NCAA was able to, along with their member institutions, create a method for tracking agents, controlling them, and even stopping their access to athletes. A similar system would control alumni access to current athletes. Institutions would also demand from their athletes the names of anyone who has ever financially, academically, or otherwise helped them or anyone in their family. Background checks could also be done; they are offering tens of thousands of dollars in education, room, and board as it is. Anyone giving money to a member institution would not be able to interact in any manner with an athlete. In the meantime, a system would be created to give athletes a percentage of the money a member institution gets from their post season, television and endorsement deals. This money would be equal in all sports so not to violate Title IX. Since we are talking about a percentage of such large sums of money (remember these sources total millions of dollars to each institution over the course of a calendar year), the actual dollar amount would, while not large, be sufficient to curb the vast majority of illegal activity.

Let’s face it. The big boys of college sports, football and men’s basketball, are de facto minor leagues for the pros. Each allows its players to leave for the professional drafts and free agency earlier than graduation (3 years for football, one in basketball although either could change in a new collective bargaining agreement). The numbers of those jumping early is ever increasing given the size of the contracts awarded in both sports, much of it guaranteed before ever playing a game. Why stay in college, where presently they aren’t getting paid, and risk injury when the better trainers, doctors and facilities are at the pro level. The added benefit of a guaranteed paycheck doesn’t hurt either. Once the NCAA joins the reality of the 21st century instead of continuing to look like Don Quixote tilting foolishly with windmills, and begins treating college athletics as the minor league programs they are, the sooner the majority of its current headaches go away.

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Shut Up LeBron

LeBron James

LeBron on the road

Note to LeBron James: Shut up already. If you put as much energy into the 4th quarter of the Finals as you did blowing hot air up our back sides, maybe Miami would have enjoyed a good parade instead of Dallas. You didn’t take your talents to South Beach, you took them on vacation instead.

You went to Dwayne Wade’s team. Not the other way around. If anyone had the right to be talking during the Finals, it was him not you. He’s the one carrying the bling. Maybe you needed to learn from Mark Cuban–actions speak louder than words. Your pre-game pep talks? Worthless. Why were you delivering them, anyway? What exactly have you won in your career that makes you the expert on pre-game psychology? How many rings did you take the Cleveland Cavaliers to in your seven seasons there That’s right. Zero. None. Nada. Ziltch. That’s why you went to Miami. You couldn’t handle the pressure of doing it yourself.

First of all, you have plenty to still learn about the intensity of the Finals. Hint: It’s even higher than the other three rounds. “There was no celebration at all” you said after Game 2 when you and Wade celebrated a 13-0 run that caused Dallas to call a time out. Whatever you want to call it, your actions on the court were a celebration. A premature one at that. All you managed to do is piss everyone off on the other bench. You know that adage about the NBA, the one that says “everyone makes a run”? Dallas ran over, around, and through you in the last 7:15 of that game to the tune of a 22-5 run in that half quarter and one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history. Congrats on your fine defensive play!

You tweeted  “Now or never” before Game 5 in a tied series? Really? Again, it sounded like your Twitter feed was writing checks your shooting motion couldn’t cash. When you make statements like that, at least do something to back it up. That was the worst excuse for a triple-double I have ever seen, Finals or otherwise. Did you join the witness protection program? If only you put the effort into your game that you did finding the cameras to mock Dirk. Perfectly healthy you couldn’t come close to putting together the kind of game that Dirk could with a torn ligament in his hand and a 101 fever. Yet you chose to make fun of that. Dirk’s play is what’s called desire, effort, grit, and determination. Look them up cuz you obviously haven’t mastered any of them.

The team across the court from showed how you’re supposed to act in the Finals. They were all business. They didn’t play for the cameras or their Twitter followers or ESPN. They played for each other and the fans in the arena. They came with a purpose and it wasn’t to increase their celebrity. They did nothing to draw attention to themselves other than play hard and with a united purpose. Magic Johnson said it best: “Ten beats three.” That’s why, more than any other reason, they’ll get to raise the banner to open next season. That’s why David Stern will be there to hand them rings. That’s what hard work and sweat will earn you. God-given talents will only carry you so far. You have to work and earn the rest.

You haven’t yet learned that since you decided to take your “talents” to South Beach, you were going to be under the microscope all season long. This series epitomized that more than any single moment of the last twelve months—“The Decision”, the Party, the 9-8 start, “Bump-gate” between yourself and Coach Spoelstra earlier this season; none of those moments mattered once the ball was thrown up in Game 1. There was a chance at redemption and you chose the easy way out. You chose to give into the pressure. Everyone, me included, would have been forced to shut our pie-holes if you had managed to play even to your season averages. That’s how close this series was.

Maybe, just maybe this long layoff with the lockout will give you time to reflect. Maybe it will allow you to realize just how humbling the game of basketball can be; just how humbling living in the spotlight is. You chose to make your decision public. You chose to take on the challenge of the role as the villain. Yet when the lights were the brightest, and the pressure had never been higher, you wilted. You wilted and now you keep talking. It’s time to man up, shut up, show some humility. Maybe you’ll come back next season as a better man.

Love it? Hate it? Got a question, statement, or just want to yell and scream at me. Feel free to leave me a message at sports-letters@comcast.net or on my Facebook page.

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