The major elements of this year's NBA free agency season - LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade - are now settled, or soon will be. A few reactions:
1: LeBron made a good decision, and it may have even been for the right reasons. He articulates his thinking in that wonderful letter that you may have read by now, and while you couldn't get me to Cleveland at gunpoint, I fully respect his desire to go home and to do what he can to boost the fortunes of the place where he grew up. And I believe that he's sincere in his justification of the ... well, I started to say "the decision," but that would have been in bad taste, huh?
Thing is, this was also a really smart hoops move. He went to Miami because he wanted to win, and he's smart enough now to realize that he had to leave Miami to win. The problem on South Beach is simple...
2: Dwyane Wade is finished. D-Wade is a legit first ballot Hall of Famer and his career has been spectacular. But that's all past tense now. Some years back an ESPN columnist, I think, penned an article on why Wade wouldn't have a long career. In sum, his style - slashing and physical - is ill-suited to his frame. He has been knocked down a lot in his day and the wear and tear has really shown over the last two seasons. This past year he simply didn't have that extra gear when it was needed against the Spurs and the year before he was one bad bump from needing crutches by season's end.
Fantastic player, franchise legend, model pro. Also, doner than a thin sliced steak that's been grilling over a hot flame for six hours.
This isn't necessarily fatal, except that, as Jurgen Klinsmann pointed out not long ago when talking about Kobe, here in the US athletes get paid for what they did in the past. The Heat are loyal and they're going to take care of their guy - public opinion leaves them little choice, I suppose - but in a salary cap world handing out big dog contracts to old, broke-down dogs means you can't afford to pay the players you need to win.
The smart thing for the Heat to have done - harsh and slightly sociopathic, yes, but smart if they wanted to keep winning - would have been to trade Wade last summer. Get what you can for him, if anyone will take him off your hands, and free up the cap space you need for this summer. For the amount he earned, and will earn, you could afford to surround James and Bosh with the kind of depth that would give them a chance at winning a title.
I respect the loyalty. We live in a world where we could use more of it from employers of all kinds across the country. Just understand that in this case that loyalty means you're choosing to lose.
3: Speaking of choosing to lose, Chris Bosh. What the fuck? He turns down a fantastic offer in Houston to return to the aforementioned doomed Heat? Now, the Rockets are the furthest thing from a guaranteed title winner - Dwight Howard is a prima donna of the first order and while James Harden can score (in the regular season), "El Matador" couldn't cover a plate of cold mashed potatoes. Nor would he try to. But there's talent there and Bosh could maybe have been the catalyst for a dramatic improvement in the coming seasons.
He certainly had a better shot at getting back to finals there than he does in Miami.
4: By the way, about LeBron's letter. Pure class. four years ago I ripped James in a piece entitled "Welcome to the Punk Hall of Fame," and he deserved every word I wrote. I didn't blame him for leaving Cleveland - that was the smart thing to do no matter how you looked at it. But how he did it - The Decision - that was Douchebag of the Year behavior.
LBJ has grown up since 2010 and learned from his mistakes, apparently. I respect that. It isn't at all clear that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has learned anything, though.
5: Starmelo. Oh lookie! Carmelo Anthony is in negotiations to return to the Knicks! Shocked - SHOCKED I am! Who could possibly have seen this coming? Other than, you know, everybody?
Let's be clear. If you thought there was any chance that Carmelo Anthony was leaving the Knicks, you ought to be embarrassed. The 2011 trade deadline gave us all The MeloDrama, but this free agency has been pure Kabuki. Starmelo talks about how important it is to win, but the truth is that what motivates him is fame. He wants to be the man in the city. Bright lights, big paycheck, and you don't have to win for that. Go ask Starbury. Oh sure, Melo would like a ring - everyone would - but he isn't willing, and never has been, to actually sacrifice for it.
He might have left NY under these conditions:
a) a sign-and-trade max contract so he didn't have to surrender money
b) a big market where he could be the star (so LA or maybe Chicago)
c) a chance to win without being asked to do stuff that's beneath him, like play defense
There may have been places that could have met one or two of these criteria, but all three? No way. Chicago? Bitch, please. You think he was going to take less money to go to a team that already has iconic franchise faces Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah so he could play for a coach who insists that everyone defend like Rohan at Helm's Deep?
In other words, this free agency hasn't been about Anthony exploring other options, and perhaps finding a way to get to a championship situation. No, it's been nothing but a big HEY LOOK AT ME! tour. He can't have been happy about the fact that he was upstaged by James from the git-go, and this is probably why he waited so long to announce the decision that never had to be made. He was waiting for the King James furor to die down a little bit so he could get people to point a camera at him.
Carmelo has his priorities straight, and nothing going on here will surprise any of us Denver Nugget fans.