Posts Tagged ‘Miami Herald’

LeBron To Cleveland? It Has Begun!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The NBA trade deadline usually serves as the conspiracy theorist’s Christmas and July 4th all rolled into one. Wicked rumors, wild plots and just about anything the mind can imagine is fair game in the months, weeks and days leading up to the deadline.

It’s a rare occasion that the juiciest plot is saved for the hours and days after the deadline.

But that’s exactly where we are today, with the growing buzz surrounding Miami Heat superstar LeBron James and rumblings that he could return to his North Ohio roots in the free-agent summer of 2014 and conceivably play alongside Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, the man who succeeded him as the face of the franchise in Cleveland.

I’m not making this stuff up. Plenty of others beat me to it, as Michael Wallace of points out:

There seems to be growing speculation — both inside and outside of respected NBA media circles — that a James-Irving partnership could become a reality should James opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat in 2014 and return to Cleveland.

For now, James laughs off the notion — as he did after Sunday’s 109-105 win over the Cavaliers when he explained his motivation behind that harmless halftime connection with Irving, one of the NBA’s rising superstars.

“Oh, from Kyrie,” said an apparently fatigued James, who perked up when asked about dunking Irving’s miss. “That was an extension from All-Star Weekend.”

Exactly a week earlier, James and Irving played together on the East team that lost to the West in Houston during Irving’s first All-Star appearance. Whether they’ll establish any meaningful chemistry as teammates on the same roster is an issue James bypassed Sunday like a helpless defender.

“I can’t worry about, you know, speculation or rumors,” James said after the Heat extended their longest winning streak of the season to 11 games. “My only focus right now is to win another championship [in Miami]. What we’re doing on the floor right now is what it’s all about. We’re playing good ball right now, trying to win a championship. So, you know, I can’t worry about what people say.”

It’s a great attitude to have, because people have quite a bit to say about it. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald sounds the alarm in South Florida, where the subject (even in its conspiracy theory infancy) has obviously touched a nerve:

How would Miami feel if James opted out and left in ’14? How should we? Would it matter if the Heat collected another title or two this season or next, or would the feelings either way be the same?

I would imagine many fans and likely most would thank James for the thrill ride and the parade(s), understand his desire to return to Cleveland, and wish him well.

I would also imagine many others would be angry and see him as turning his back on the city that embraced him when everyone else hated him. The city where he enjoyed his greatest success.

There would be plenty in either camp whether James left with one championship ring, two or even three, and it’s tough to say where sentiment would mainly fall.

What I mostly think is that I hope we never find out. James is such an extraordinary talent I have no trouble blurring the line between journalist and fan in this case and hoping Miami finds a way to re-sign him. Selfishly, I would love for James to end his career here. I only wish I believed he would.

Sunday will be interesting because both his teams will be on the court when the Cavs visit the Heat: The one renting his services, and the one that still owns his heart.

It feels like it has already begun.

The Long Goodbye.

Heat fans will at least have seen this one coming, if it ever does. Cavaliers fans never imagined James would depart the way he did. And it’s taken the ones who have gotten over it lots of time (and plenty of Kyrie) to steer clear of the primal instincts that accompany a breakup as brutal as the one they had with James.

It doesn’t help matters when folks like Denver Nuggets coach George Karl weigh in with comments like these, to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida:

 “I think LeBron is at that stage where he’s challenging himself to motivate him to do something that’s maybe more difficult. I could see him maybe (returning to the Cavaliers). I see (Cleveland point guard Kyrie) Irving maybe being a reason for that.”

James had that classy, if not typical, response mentioned above.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard it,” he said. “My only focus now is to win another championship. I can’t worry about speculation or rumors. What we’re doing on the floor right now is what it’s all about. We’re playing good ball right now. We’re trying to win a championship. I can’t worry about what people say.”

And ultimately, he’s right. He can’t worry about what people say.

That doesn’t mean it’ll slow the tide of conspiracy theorists who watched him react to Irving’s 3-point shooting fireworks in Houston during All-Star weekend or to any other gesture that can be manipulated to support their theories.

The only thing that will silence all of this chatter is the summer of 2014 coming and going without LeBron returning to his roots!

Bulls, Heat Fuel Already-Raging Fire

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The more we see of the Bulls and Heat, the more we want to see of the Bulls and Heat.

These teams were made to go at each other. The first of their four regular-season matchups this season lived up to every bit of its pre-game hype, adding more fuel to an already raging fire between the two teams that played in the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Did you see the reaction of reigning MVP Derrick Rose after he failed to snatch this game away from the Heat at the end? Did you see how sick it makes him to lose to the Heat again (not having Luol Deng certainly didn’t help the cause)? We’re talking about a competitive atmosphere between stars that could only be matched by a handful of others in the league today.

The late-game stumbles (of both Rose and LeBron James) aside, this is the sort of action that will ultimately determine the winner of the Eastern Conference champion.  No one would be surprised to see these same two teams battling it out again.

And we’re not talking about some nasty, save-the-handshakes-for-later rivalry here. This is game recognizing game, great players rightly saluting other great players and fierce competitors  showing one another the proper respect by bringing it right at each other all game long.


LeBron, Heat Keep Moving Forward

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you ask LeBron James, 2011 seems so … two days ago.

Longer than that, actually, for the most publicly prosecuted player in the NBA, someone who endured constant fan abuse despite not committing a crime or being a menace to society. Plenty has happened since, all for the good according to LeBron, who ushered in the New Year by announcing his engagement to his long-time girlfriend, Savannah Brinson. The couple has two children together.

Of course, even this will bring out the skeptics as Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald mentions. Such is life for LeBron in the wake of “The Decision” and a few other public stumbles. Anything he does, even if it seems heartfelt, will be dismissed as a staged production by someone desperate to make the public think he’s a changed man, if only to get more endorsements in his pocket and the boos off his back.

His commercials with State Farm and McDonald’s and even Nike have a community relations flavor to them, where LeBron is seen helping kids or stressing education. He’s pushing his charitable foundation and making contributions to other causes. It’s all part of LeBron getting back to his “old self” as he said, all part of LeBron living up to his preseason pledge, when he said:

“For me personally, I’m a totally different person than last year. I’m just back to loving the game of basketball, not taking too much for granted, playing with a smile on my face and just understanding I’m just a kid from Akron, Ohio, in the NBA. I lost that last year.”


Waiting On The Magic Words

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Faced with the latest drop-dead date to save the on-time start to the regular season, we’ve arrived here to this afternoon’s scheduled meeting between the league and players’ union in New York.

Can they beat the deadline?

Can they save the season?

Will cool heads prevail?

Can we finally get back to basketball?

Only time will tell. And based on Sunday night’s “last-ditch” meeting that lasted nearly six hours, time is a fluid term during these labor negotiations.

But there is a growing sense among most of the people observing these proceedings that it might only be a matter of time before someone utters those magic words (“we have a deal”). And the basketball loving public surely won’t haggle over where it comes from, be it NBA Commissioner David Stern or union executive director Billy Hunter.

After all, during the last lockout there was just one meeting between the two sides before regular season games were canceled. This afternoon’s session will mark the sixth meeting in the past 11 days between the two sides …

Hold That Apocalypse

Mark Heisler of After two years of bellicose posturing, the last weeks of September and the first few days of October would show who was serious.

Not only was that true, Stern wound up extending his drop-dead date for opening on time to Oct. 10.

Overheated as this thing has been, with owners who sensed their last great opportunity threatening to burn their village to save it, the last three weeks saw the parties whittle their “irreconcilable” differences down to three percentage points.


All Of Miami Counting On A Game 7

MIAMI — A celebration some 11 months in the making is on hold for now.

At least until further notice, and certainly until after Sunday night’s Game 6 of The Finals, which is shaping up as the Miami Heat’s (second to) last stand.

Down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the line, the Heat not only have to stave off elimination Sunday night at American Airlines Arena, they also have to save the financial bacon for local merchants here that have planned all year for a championship parade since the day the Heat’s Big 3 came together last summer.

That pressure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are feeling right now is very real, especially for the folks here in South Florida that are heavily invested in the lucrative residue that accompanies a title run.

There are more than just a few legacies riding on Game 6, as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald explains:

From T-shirt makers to nightclub owners to shaved-ice vendors to newspapers and radio stations to a West Miami-Dade botanica selling Heat-themed voodoo dolls, a broad slice of Miami’s economy has some skin in the game, with an impact that could stretch beyond just the immediate sugar high of a post-championship celebration.

“I hear all the excitement and anticipation,” said Tadd Schwartz, a public relations maven who represents the Miami Downtown Development Authority. “Everyone would want to attach their name to the Miami Heat in some way shape or form. All of this is good for Miami.”

And it all rests squarely on the shoulders of the Heat’s Three Kings. Without a title, there’ll be no championship parade, no celebratory blowouts at swanky hot spots, no ringing cash drawers at sports merchandising shops across South Florida and no commemorative insta-books reveling in the team’s achievement.


Who Ya Got In The Finals?

MIAMI — In our rush to take our talents to South Beach, the hideout crew completely whiffed on our most important assignment of The Finals experience.


Forgive us for being distracted a little bit. But Scottie Pippen hijacked our weekend with his comments regarding LeBron James being the “greatest to ever play the game,” over Michael Jordan, “the greatest scorer to play the game.” We also got caught up in some of the ongoing coaching news fallout  — Lakers’ boss Jim Buss regrets not consulting Kobe Bryant before choosing Mike Brown as Phil Jackson‘s successor, HT fave Kevin McHale is apparently headed to Houston and before the week is out the Pistons, despite denials from unnamed sources, could join the coaching search crew by shuffling John Kuester out the door for perhaps Mike Woodson?

And then we woke up to Dan Le Batard‘s passionate detailing in the Miami Herald of the curious case of the team everyone (including members of the “national media”) loves to hate:

Joy is usually enough. Gratitude, too. But that’s not all you’ll find here. “Thank you!” is glued to “Bleep you!” The joy is mixed with anger, defiance and hostility. Grace, humility and civility are noble but not quite fun. And sometimes sports make us irrational, emotion trampling logic on the way to the party. Burning cars in a championship riot? That seems like a way to protest something, not celebrate it. It also speaks to a larger unhappiness in the homes and lives away from that arena.

If LeBron James ends the season holding up the trophy, our city runs the risk of becoming so unhinged that it will put off even more people from sea to shining sea. When we throw things at [TNT’s Charles] Barkley, a beloved icon, and shower him in curses during the Chicago series, we are just giving the media and America the snapshots and ammunition to smear all of us as barbaric, bandwagon baboons.

There is so much criticism in the coverage of this team that the Heat players get ripped for overcelebrating against Boston, changing the narrative almost immediately after the triumph. What is going to happen if a defensive, angry city overcelebrates with a radiator’s hissing relief after an entire season of abuse?

Slow down brother.

They do have to play the games first.


Heat’s Fear Factor Of Celtics Is Gone

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Heat didn’t dance around the floor after finally beating back their tormentors from Boston Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps they’d seen enough of the Celtics since the trade deadline to know that a win over these Celtics isn’t worth celebrating, even if it does give you the inside track for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, not to mention the confidence of knowing you can whip ’em if need be.

The one thing that was put to rest on the last Sunday of the regular season was the Heat’s fear factor where the Celtics are concerned. After being bullied in three previous meetings this season by the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Heat bowed up and showed that they, like most everyone else since Kendrick Perkins departed, are not intimidated by the Celtics’ mystique of the past three seasons.

Jermaine O’Neal did his best to fill in as the Celtics’ enforcer, delivering a shoulder shiver to LeBron James that wound up sending O’Neal flying in the opposite direction. James chucked the ball at O’Neal’s back and flagrant and technical fouls followed, for James and O’Neal as well as others. There would be no more bullying, not with the Celtics in their current state and not with the Heat energized by the challenge.

The Celtics tried to make their usual statement,essentially, “We will snatch your heart if you don’t stop us.” And this time the Heat stopped them.

“We’re not backing down from nobody,” James told reporters after the game, a verbal statement to go along with the physical one the Heat gave during their rout.


No Stopping The Heat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Maybe Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was right.

The Miami Heat just might be the best team in the NBA right now. They certainly aren’t doing anything to hurt their cause. They continue to steamroll the competition in ways that didn’t seem possible just three weeks ago, when many people were questioning their union of superstars.

The only legitimate question surrounding this team right now is who is going to stop them?

Winners of nine straight games after Monday’s win over the Hornets, the Heat’s hot streak could hit 14 by Christmas, when the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers take their talents to Staples Center to face the crew from South Beach.

No offense to the Cavaliers and Wizards, but if the Knicks can’t get them Friday in New York and Cuban’s Mavericks don’t slow them down Dec. 20 in Miami, that Christmas Day showdown with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will take on even more epic proportions for both sides.

If the Lakers can’t stop them, a home game against the Knicks (Dec. 28) and a road game in Houston (Dec. 29) are all that stand in the way of the Heat finishing December without a blemish.

It’s a stunning turnaround from that .500 start, even for a team that boasts two of the best players on the planet in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

We know it’s taboo to look too far ahead, but the way this Heat team is playing right now they could run off a string of wins that challenges the 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA record 33-game streak.