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WEDNESDAY WIRE

The Aftershocks of LeBron's Decision Hit Home


“We are all witnesses”, it read. The mural portraying the immaculate King James with outspread arms towered pompously over the people of Cleveland, a defiant reminder that the road to salvation is 6 foot 8 and 250 pounds. Raised among them and groomed by the best Ohio had to offer, LeBron James, the “savior”, and the crowned king of Cleveland, was led into the city on an ass named David Stern (he too understood the importance this second coming would have on the entire NBA). We are all witnesses indeed. King James addressed his people from on high as the entire world watched in silent disbelief. “It’s not you, it’s me.” He told Ohio. The words came awkwardly, but the King’s message to his former city and to his new teammates rang loud and clear, “No really, it’s all about me!” Like a teenage girl being dumped in front of the entire school at prom, the once proud city went “Carrie” on LeBron. Chaos ensued as Clevelanders began destroying every shred of evidence linking them to their crushed dreams. Number 23 jerseys burned in the street, posters and memorabilia maimed and dismembered, frantic crying, and then the inevitable, “he wasn’t that good anyway!” from owner Dan Gilbert. The sacred wall that once held the image of their savior now stands bare. A grim reminder to the rest of the NBA, the path to salvation is not so easy. The Spurs’ faithful would be wise to take note; we too may be headed down a one-way-road to disaster.

Just like every other team in the NBA, the Spurs waited for “The Decision” before making any roster adjustments this summer. Unlike other teams, they were not holding their breath in the hope LeBron would grace our humble city with his magnificence. Instead, in typical Spurs’ fashion, they waited patiently for the stampede to end and the dust to settle before surveying the league landscape. LeBron’s decision would ultimately affect the Spurs in two ways. First, Richard Jefferson opted out of the final year of his contract in an effort to jump into an already crowded pool in the race for cap space. Second, the ensuing balance of power might give San Antonio leverage to work a trade landing them some younger talent, laying the foundation to a quick rebuild after Tim and Manu’s looming retirements. The future of our beloved Spurs could very well rest on decisions made this summer.

Following a mediocre first year with the Spurs, the NBA collective mind predicted RJ would take his poor 2010 season and his $15 mil and rest comfortably in Pop’s doghouse (recently vacated by Roger Mason) for the final year of his contract. Instead, Jefferson shocked the experts when he chose to opt out and join the already loaded free-agent pool this summer. This decision may prove costly for Jefferson, but ultimately it gives the Spurs complete flexibility when determining RJ’s future with the team. We were all a little let down after he didn’t perform up to expectations last year, but there is an excellent opportunity to exploit the two-year learning curve in Pop’s system at a much more budget friendly price. When you consider other stars in the league, including Amare and Joe Johnson, were probably overpaid, and losers in the LeBron sweepstakes have already started spending their dough on younger long-term players, Jefferson may not get big money from other teams giving the Spurs a chance to sign him on the cheap. RJ has long been known around the league as a smart and talented player, with one year under his belt and a slight roster tune-up, Jefferson could turn into a real bargain should the Spurs decide to bring him back next season.

Pat Riley is the ultimate mastermind. Planning 3, 4, 5 steps ahead, predictably arrogant, and arguably the best coach/GM the league has ever seen. He managed to pull off the clean sweep, landing the three biggest fish in the pond in one foul swoop. Adding insult to injury he throws a massive South Beach party just to rub our noses in it. With Boston likely possessing one more run, and teams like Atlanta and Orlando improving every year, this was Riley’s only chance to level the playing field, keep Dwayne Wade, and compete for multiple titles over the next 6 years. Riley’s move has left some younger Eastern teams in need of talent, and a whole lot of cash burning a big hole in their pockets. Chicago and New York are two teams in the East that are one or two players short of being competitive. Upon his signing with New York, Amare Stoudemire began the “Join Me” campaign for 2011 free agents Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker. While Chicago moved to add front court depth and toughness with Boozer, complimenting an extremely talented back court. All the Bulls need is a talented scorer on the wing, a three-ball threat, and some veteran leadership.

Amare already beat me to the punch, but Tony Parker is the obvious solution for the Knicks. A quick guard, possessing a great drive and dish game, one who knows how to run the pick and roll, and has a decent mid-range jumper to boot. The Spurs should force Tony’s hand, this summer and offer him a contract extension. Give him some time to mull it over, but if he refuses to commit, it is time for the Spurs to break their mold and trade him while he still has value. Cleveland went from top Eastern contender to bottom dweller in a matter of minutes, San Antonio runs the same risk if Tony leaves via free agency. In two years Tim’s contract is up, Manu comes off the books shortly after, but both players are shells of their former selves, and it is just a matter of time before they retire. Under these circumstances the Spurs could effectively loose their big three in just two or three years, and I have a feeling George Hill, Dejuan Blair, and Richard Jefferson are not going to be the next “Big Three”.

Jefferson provides the Spurs a similar opportunity. With his wide-open contract situation, the Spurs sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to working a deal with RJ. Rose, Jefferson, and Boozer in Chicago would be reminiscent of the Jersey trio (Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin) that pushed the Spurs in the finals just a few years ago. Jefferson was a youngster then, but he has polished his game, adding a solid perimeter shot, a tough slasher with the strength to finish strong at the rim, and an experienced playoff veteran to get a young team over the hump.

The Spurs organization is widely regarded as one of the best clubs in all of professional sports. Their ability to sniff out talent at the deepest levels of the draft; creating real relationships between players, staff, and fans, facilitating the unique balance between great talent and great people; and an uncanny ability to keep their cards close to hand, out of sight of the media and the competition, have kept this team perched precariously at the top of the NBA for 12 years. The Spurs managed to alter what is for most teams “just business”, into something that is completely “personal”. This keystone of “Spurs Basketball” has led us between a rock and a hard place. A personal relationship will only take you so far when intrigue comes knocking. In just a few years we fans could find ourselves in the exact same quagmire Cavs fans are in today, hopeless and regretful. An early Christmas present from Richard Jefferson, paired with key young talent waiting in the wings could keep the Spurs marching cleverly down the straight and narrow that so many other teams ignorantly plunged themselves from every year. Be diligent Spurs’ fans, because the greatest affect King James had on the Spurs when he went to Miami, is to show us loyalty only goes so far.

2 comments:

  1. You are forgetting how the game is played. If it is all about winning and not how you play the game, where does loyalty from the players or the fans come into play? If Tony Parker decides to leave for New York or any other team next year, I wish him all the best and hope he will play his best even when playing against the Spurs because if the Spurs can't beat a team with great players then they, just like any other team, do not deserve to be champions. To be the best, you have to beat the best. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are getting older just like the rest of us and who knows how much they will be able to contribute in the coming years but I choose to believe that they, like the rest of the Spurs players, are professionals and will give it their best. Unlike the Cleveland fans, I hope the Spurs fans will be more gracious and forgiving if any or all of the big 3 leave for greener pastures and remember what they have contributed to the legacy of the Spurs. Like Lebron, any player has the right to go wherever they are wanted during their free-agency. Lebron should have handled his transition better but if anything, it was just him acting out like a child because Cleveland did give their spoiled child what he wanted and did not do what it could do to build a team around him that could win championships. The teams with the best players money can buy don't always win or none of us would root for the underdog. As far as loyalty is concerned, teams won't think twice about trading you to ensure future revenues by getting players who can provide that no matter how loyal you were/are to the team you are on now so everybody just needs to stay out of their business, because it is a business, and just let them play the game and may the best team win.

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  2. so many people forget this is a business...it was not lebron that thought..youknow what we should do a televised special..it was his agent saying we can make x amount of dollars if we make this an even everyone will remember, and you better believe he got paid a large chunk of change for doing what he did!

    as for tony parker, i am born and raised in san antonio and I really hope he does not leave. I do not think he will leave as the spurs have drafted many of his french national teammates to keep him happier. Eva was born and raised 3 hours from San Antonio and her entire family now lives in SA...its not easy moving a bunch of mexicans across the country to NEw York...im mexican so I can say that...

    yet this is a business tony may be intrigued to go to NY once Carmelo agrees. The thing is, can tony win again here in SA? i think it really dependss on the progress of Tiago and Hill. Hill can score from anywhere and push the ball. Duncan can play into his 40's if he wanted to, he is not athetic...hes fundamental...which I do not understand why so many people say Duncan has lost it...he could never jump to begin with...hes a vet with 4 championships, 2 mvps 3 finals mvps...he will be able to do what he wants becaus ehe is smart. If tony stays and tiago progresses, wait to see tim sign for way less for an extra year or so...he can have 6 rings before he retires..

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