7.01.2008

Memos of the Heavenly Kind



If Nike steals this shit, I want you all to testify on my behalf in court. . .

Some people cling to the draft as the last gasp of the NBA season, the thread by which they hang onto the business of clapping and booing. Me, I see it as a bridge into the perilous desert of the off-season, where mirages are all you've got, Satan tempts you to overpay, and those recently landed Draft-lets threaten to make a Roswell out of the whole thing.

It's only natural that, in this climate of starvation, pent-up emotion, and no shelter but drowning alive in dust, fans would get religion. In asking for a sign, any sign, and expecting to make nothing less than a week's worth of courage from it, you also open every cell of your body up to the possibility of absolute doom.

If that sounds stupid and excitable, don't blame me. Blame the hosts of journalists, bloggers, GMs, dog walkers, and CSI extras who now bear the mark of 2010. In that great summer, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh can all become free agents, due to their diabolical (and totally D.I.Y.) maneuvering that did an end-around on the usual max contract ball and chain.

Just as much as teams can screw themselve with an extended, guaranteed commitment to a superstar, so a player can mortgage some of his best years by an incompetent organization, bad luck, or a combination of the two. It's true, trade demands have become more and more acceptable. However, these still limit options, and only in T-Mac's case did a team let go of a franchise talent just entering his prime. And he was hurt all the time.



However, me and my crack team of basketball experts, whose expertise is like the pillars of Olympus, decided to look a little closer at this 2010 phenomenon. Because you can't deny it, every consideration of free agent outlook, or long-term front office strategy, makes at least one reference to 2010.

What exactly is at stake? Dwyane Wade badly needs to not only prove he's healthy, but remind us how he ended up elite in the first place. That mean win, win, win, not just be a dominant combo guard. Those aren't exactly in vogue these days. Chris Bosh could make some team very happy, but does anyone really get an epochal sensation when they think about him becoming available?

But where there's supernatural, vaguely religious, sentiment in the NBA, there is only one good explanation: King Chosen One James, Who Lets His People Go and Maketh Witnesses of Them (word to metaphors too mixed even for spiritual adventure). Everything the Nets, and to some degree, the Knicks, do now is interpreted as a play for James's services.

Let's first get the obvious out there: While LeBron and Jay-Z together would be the Rosetta Stone of 21st century marketing, if James exits Cleveland it'll have a lot to do with basketball. So of course, in his quest for a ring, of course he'd rush to join forces with Lawrence Frank, a 33 year-old Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, and Chris Douglas-Roberts, whom the Cavs should've taken this year. D'Antoni offers a more enticing proposition, but Walsh has some magic to work before there's anything functional there.



Still, it's not about the Nets or Knicks becoming a realistic destination for LeBron. It's about the fact that James, who this past season averaged 30/7/7 on a bare-bones team at age 23, could hit the open market. Fine, Kobe won't be the greatest player ever until he wins another three rings. James could never even make the Finals again, and if he keeps up like this, any rational person would stick him in that conversation.

Talk about a cosmic event—with that summer in sight, cap space isn't just a number. It's currency that, however indirectly or improbably, links an organization to a truly Association-altering possibility. Without any definite sense of where James would go, or how he might fare there, we're left with the mere symbolism of it: A basketball player whose abilities strike fear and awe into all, and who has only just begun to define himself, will suddenly hover over us mortals and make a decision. A decision that, coming from him, has all the weight of passing judgment upon the earth.

On the court, LeBron is already the worker of miracles, the angry god of the Old Testament, the mortal with divinity in him. Symbolically, he's the Messiah for this sport, the Chosen who has made a special pact with the basketball gods. The increasingly vague and fiery allusions to 2010 paint him in another role: The Apocalyse itself. Take it from someone who has watched all of Left Behind at least three times, and read a few scholarly studies of the End of Days.



The way in which all teams seem trained on this future, where the liberation of LeBron looms like a Bibical prophecy that predicts great upheaval and uncertainty, merely reinforces his larger-than-everything standing in the league. Kobe, for all his mastery of the game, remains just the league's best player; when he appeared to be on the move, all you heard about was how fucking good he was. LeBron is something bigger, possibly unknowable, and truly awesome in the minds of all but the dumbest, deafest, and blindest basketball observers.

If you think I'm overreacting, or mischaracterizing, tell me: Why does everyone want to get under the cap for 2010, even if they don't have a prayer of landing LeBron? It's because, even if they're not Cleveland getting its sports life set back 2,000 years, or a major market team with a real hope of luring him away, all teams can feel it in the air. It's their duty, their fate, to get their affairs in order and stand in line, so great are his powers on and off the court, so potentiall transformative of all they survey.

Most likely, nothing will come of it. But the shiver that "LeBron: Free Agent" sends through the league works on a far deeper, more primordial level than the reality in which they typically operate. 2010 is The Reckoning, when for a month or so one man will be bigger than any team, franchise, or even the entire league. That's something only MJ can claim to have done, and he never had this kind of leverage or limitless at his disposal.

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40 Comments:

At 6/30/2008 1:36 AM, Blogger Folkhero said...

'Melo opted for the longer-term contract with more guaranteed money, so he is locked up until 2011. James is an angry pagan god for whom many goats, cattle and humans will be sacrificed. Bosh will end up as someone's consolation prize. My guess is that Wade will pick up his player option because the combination of Beasley, Marion and Miami beach will be too much to leave.

 
At 6/30/2008 1:40 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Fuck, you're right. I'll change that.

I remember thinking at the time "funny that Melo's not getting more props here for being the one not just going for self and putting pressure on the team." Unless he didn't think he'd be as big a chip as the others.

 
At 6/30/2008 2:09 AM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

If I remember correctly, Melo had signed an "industry standard" before LeBron and his team came up with the contract end around which Wade and then Bosh copied. So, I'm not so sure that Melo gets credit for taking pressure off his team or for realizing he's not quite the player LeBron, Bosh or Wade are. Bad timing is all.

 
At 6/30/2008 2:12 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

no, melo was afterward

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2517602

 
At 6/30/2008 9:47 AM, Blogger Jack said...

Not to get nitpicky, but it helps your point: Lebron was 23 this year, not 24. All the better.

 
At 6/30/2008 10:19 AM, Blogger Freddie said...

and if he keeps up like this

And if he solves cold fusion, he'll get the Nobel prize; but neither is assured. Never forget the lesson of Penny Hardaway and assume that someone's career arc is going to continue in the same direction forever.

 
At 6/30/2008 10:19 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

What's weird is that I thought he was 23, but then tried to do the math and got 24. Is this better or worse than simple ignorace?

 
At 6/30/2008 11:57 AM, Blogger T. said...

maybe melo is just biding time in the NBA between FIBA tournaments. The opposite for C. Ronaldo? Only plays well for the national side?

 
At 6/30/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger Taliesin said...

Don't forget, Amare is also up in 2010, as is Yao, though you wonder how much of a "free" agent Yao will ever be.

 
At 6/30/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

My first impulse, after feeling stupid, is to wonder if Amare's actually going to leave $17 million on the table, because of injury concerns and all. But wouldn't that be even more true for Wade?

It's totally under the radar that Amare could be on the market that summer. Like none of the 2010 cult members mention it. And given the direction Phoenix is headed, and the fact that Steve Nash will be dead by then, you have to ask—is his lack of defense so pronounced that everyone wary of him?

 
At 6/30/2008 12:51 PM, Blogger Taliesin said...

Amare wouldn't have to opt out until summer after the 2009-2010, so it would make sense that so long as he was healthy going in that he would lock in the long term contract that summer as opposed to playing out his deal to the end. I figure the Suns or somebody else will max him: behind Lebron I think he's right there with Wade, and people with space would offer it up.

The D question might get some answers with the Robin Lopez experiment. If you put Amare next to a pure defensive big, is this enough to get you by? They did this with Kurt already, but Robin's bigger with more hair.

Is the idea of a Lebron/Stat alliance too holy for words, or cheapened by attainment through free-agency?

 
At 6/30/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

If LeBron judges that summer, then Amir is one of the apocalyptic beasts.

 
At 6/30/2008 3:23 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

The Sun's flame was extinguished, and the Moon did turn red as fresh blood, and in the ensuing darkness the masses did gnash their teeth and wail...

The Antichrist, who once sought to portray himself as Pure and Holy, his true name Sammael, the Angel of Poison, not yet known, rode upon a white horse: the people followed J-SMOOVE with love in their hearts, only to later learn the nature of Betrayal.

Pestilence sat astride his mount, a rotting horse of Bone and Sinew, and wherever he did pass nothing could survive, flesh bursting into Sores and Boils, and crops falling to ash at the breath of AMIR.

Blood ran freely down the Blade of War, whose red beast stomped and whirled fiercely, crushing the skulls and flaying the bodies of the People: millions fled screaming from the implacable might and clenched gauntlet of AMARE.

And as those beasts did pass through the endless night, a pale horse did follow, carrying the specter of Death, sought by thousands even as the world descended to Madness and Horror: he who called himself LEBRON...

 
At 6/30/2008 5:09 PM, Blogger Jason Gill said...

I'm down with the idea of Lebron as king and the second coming and all, but I have to believe you all are buying way too far into the hype to understand a single, if also transcendant, player as one who can wreak such an end. I like to think of this whole thing more along the polytheistic lines of hindi or greek vintage: an epic battle with good and evil being little more than vague and transient descriptions applied opportunistically rather than as the underlying narrative. Some can claim the earth, others the skies, while still others wander betwixt in a search for identity. Bursting out of the forehead of your father is more inspiring, and accurate, than virgin birth.

*Warning* Solicitation: I'd be interested to hear your, everyone's, take on this post on race and sports...

 
At 6/30/2008 8:18 PM, Blogger Zac said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6/30/2008 8:18 PM, Blogger Zac said...

I'm a little surprised at how quick you are to brush off the Bosh free agency, and I disagree with (though am not surprised by) your doing the same with Wade.

Bosh plays such a strange, diversely ranged game that I thought he would have been welcomed here, but I can only assume that being stuck in the bland "one-world" mentality of Toronto has removed any edge that would have made him exciting for you. Still, he plays the game in a way that, under a different system that would allow him to move away from being "the post guy" (though the O'Neal trade helps), would probably make us reconsider what a dynamic big can do in a way that is different from what Dirk did in that regard.

As for Wade, I understand that my Heat-fandom is thoroughly unliberated, but even so is there nothing to be admired about the way the man finds angles of attack to the basket? I get that people hate that he plays in a way designed to draw contact, but isn't there a kind of "I am forcing my enemy to act in a way that hurts him" logic there that is its own unique form of dominance?

Also, and this is more Miami-fandom, but Wade was the MAN for a period in time. Injuries may derail that, but I have the feeling they wouldn't do the same here for a Lebron or Melo.

 
At 6/30/2008 8:31 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

I'm totally titillated by the idea of free agent Amare as a booby prize.

Also, I thought the setting of the Suns would eventually stop bothering me. It hasn't. I can't believe it, but it may have something to do with Shaq losing his toy sherriff's badges. Quickly that group of human beings is having their essences drained from them. (and Arizona college chix are telling Steve they're Laker fans! oh the humanity)

I'll go ahead and say that if for some crazy-ass reason the Suns actually succeed with the new coach and style and make it to the playoffs only to win it like the Celtics, I will completely understand the general negative Klondike reaction to the Finals.

Just a hunch, but I don't see DWade making as big a splash as he did when they won their title. That was a perfect storm of an ungodly amount of free throws and an obviously fundamentally flawed Dallas team (since they got lit the fuck up the next year by the Warriors w. most of the same personnel)

 
At 6/30/2008 9:47 PM, Blogger Notorious D.I.G. said...

I tend to look at Amare quite literally as an agent of pestilence. Basically since the day Amare announced himself in the West Finals against Duncan he's caused an ugly internal rotting of the team.

That summer, not wanting be a 3rd/4th fiddle bolts for ATL.

Amare immediately gets hurt leading to truly dominant seasons for Marion and Diaw. Soon as Amare gets back Diaw goes to Hell, and Marion goes to the next best place.

Then D'Antoni gets chased for allowing Amare too much of a leash and ends up in true basketball hell.

That's Joe, Matrix, and D'Antoni running off to shittiest franchises available just because of Amare.

Yea truly did millions flee screaming...

 
At 6/30/2008 10:58 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Another theory shot to shit (not wanting to test the market returning from injury): Brand has opted out, could go to Philly keep Smoove in wax Hawks wings. Might it merit another Zero coin flip?

 
At 6/30/2008 11:22 PM, Blogger T. said...

Baron Davis opted out too. Who is advising these guys? Leaving 17.8 on the table - and no one has free agent money out there.

 
At 6/30/2008 11:50 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

ing musical chairs

 
At 7/01/2008 12:41 AM, Blogger 800# said...

Falk is running the show for Davis, and he has an OK idea of what's up. He'll sign a Warriors contract, but it might be a sign and trade. I think with Nelson's comments about playing the young un's he felt like he should lock things up now rather than later.

People love Baron Davis though. Believe it.

I LOVE THE OFFSEASON. BELIEVE IT.

 
At 7/01/2008 1:27 AM, Blogger Harry Carey said...

Free Matt Bonner

Http://portwinegrind.blogspot.com

 
At 7/01/2008 2:38 AM, Blogger Terry Shilton said...

Is Dwayne Wade on the Penny Hardaway rehab program?

 
At 7/01/2008 11:14 AM, Blogger guntalk said...

baron is going to join elton in LA. and golden state is offering arenas a max deal. isn't this like freedarko apocalypse?

 
At 7/01/2008 1:26 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

I don't know how solid Baron going to LA is, since a few weeks ago Shoals said he was thinking about going to the Knicks, and now ESPN is saying the same thing. As excited as I am about this, I think this is the preamble to it being revealed that Baron has a severe drug problem.


wv: dpgfpuko---dubrovnik point guard florian puko, the most urbane and debonair baller in europe

 
At 7/01/2008 1:28 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

http://www.nba.com/media/cp3crowd_627_080630.jpg

 
At 7/01/2008 3:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

The Maloofs are supposedly ready to give Gil a max deal and trade the whole team. And Artest isn't opting out. That is all.

 
At 7/01/2008 3:30 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Jesus Christ. Did they lose a bet or something?

 
At 7/01/2008 4:10 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/01/2008 5:45 PM, Blogger mdesus said...

Welk,

That's a really great photo. I love it.
Can anyone else spot all 7 white people?


C3PO gay robot, or transcendent point guard you decide

 
At 7/01/2008 6:01 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Jawaan - Can you call it a "severe" drug problem if the dude just likes to smoke Bay-area chronic every waking moment? Seems to be self-medication for Stephen Jackson.

 
At 7/01/2008 6:25 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Stephen Jackson, however, has not smoked so much weed that he wants to play for the Knicks. Weed is incapable of making someone that retarded. You need crack suppositories to reach that level.

 
At 7/01/2008 7:49 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

@anyone still wondering about the fall of CDR, in today's True Hoop article about same I found this in the comments:

http://www.need4sheed.com/2008/06/wdfns-matt-dery-chris-douglas-roberts.html

if you've already seen it < shrugs >. it was news to me.

 
At 7/01/2008 9:37 PM, Blogger Avinash said...

Style has been supplanted for that awful word: "rebuilding". http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3470016

Pain.

 
At 7/01/2008 10:41 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

all good things come to an end, BOOM DIZZLE is headed to LA LA Land.

Donald Sterling opening the pocketbook once again. Who woulda thunk?

I can't believe NellieBall lost its main cog. This has to be a good thing for Monta, right?

 
At 7/01/2008 10:42 PM, Blogger T. said...

Looks like Baron to LA is pretty solid according to Marc Stein.

Davis/Brand/Kamen/Thorton/Mobley/Gordon.

The best Clippers team since the Miles/Brand/Odom trio? Or even farther back - the MJax/RonHarper/Charles Smith/Kenny "The Snake" Norman/Gary "The General" Grant/Benoit Benjamin teams? (Yes, my dad and I used to buy mini-pack tickets from the Clippers growing up)

 
At 7/02/2008 1:57 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

RE: BD

I'm stuck at Stage 1, Denial.

 
At 7/02/2008 4:07 AM, Blogger Walton's Wisdom said...

Over/under on 20 T's for Stephen Jackson this season with B-Diddy in LA?

 
At 7/02/2008 8:10 AM, Blogger Clare said...

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