HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – NBA players remind me of political candidates during election season. They go from city to city, facing a media throng eager to pepper them with questions that usually result in answers that barely raise an eyebrow they’ve been given so many times.
Every now and then, though, you get something totally bizarre. And that’s exactly what the reporters covering the Miami Heat practice in Cleveland today got when they assembled to interview LeBron James after practice.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Dwyane Wade’s return to action from an ankle injury last night was greeted with flash bulbs and the fanfare you might expect from the crowd when one of the league’s best players is back on the floor.
But if you didn’t see what he and LeBron James did against the Knicks in Miami, well you missed an absolute showcase. Lucky for you our friends that chronicle these sorts of things decided to give you a breakfast treat today.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sifting through the wreckage that was “The Decision,” the 60-minute ESPN spectacle that saw LeBron James declare his intentions to join the All-Star party in Miami, has left us with very few real winners but oh so many losers.
Sure, the Heat vault to the top of the list of title contenders in the Eastern Conference on star power alone, sending their fans and folks in and around south Florida into their own hoop dream that ends with parades up and down Ocean Drive. And James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all checking their ring sizes in anticipation of the hardware they will chase for the next five seasons, and possibly beyond.
But there is little else to celebrate today, with frayed feelings everywhere else.
Their rage remains palpable, not only with James but with any and everyone that doesn’t share their anger about the way this all went down.
Still, the Hang Time crew had been charged with handing out awards for the winners and demerits for the losers. And no matter what, we have to do the job. So without further ado:
WINNERS — Miami, South Beach and business owners all over South Florida
Every single restaurant, club, condo and boutique hotel and shop owner in Miami should start planning to clear out more space and expand their facilities, because if James’ arrival there has a similar impact to what he had in Cleveland, business is about to get really, really good. Already one of the world’s finest party hot-spots, Miami and South Beach get the added boost of being the epicenter of the NBA universe for at least the next year. And if the Heat actually lives up to the immense hype that surrounds this groundbreaking compilation of stars, Will Smith might want to find his way to the studio for his 1997 hit, beinvenido a Miami!
LOSERS — Jim Gray, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert
Both James and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will spend plenty of time as punching bags for folks that don’t agree with how they have handled themselves during this process, and rightfully so. The entire broadcast was a classic example of how not to handle something like this, as both Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and Buzz Bissinger of Vanity Fair made abundantly clear in these must-read accounts of what went down Thursday night. But the man we’d most like to bounce on his head here at the hideout is Jim Gray. Not only did he drive us wacky playing 21 questions (fine, he asked 18 before getting to the only one anyone cared about), he did it in such a smug manner that even James appeared to be annoyed with the silly banter. Even worse is the news that Gray was possibly behind this entire debacle, per CNBC’s sports business guru Darren Rovell. We waited 30 minutes for James to give us what we came for and we’re putting that last 30 on Gray and his useless interviewing scheme. This wasn’t fair to the fans in Cleveland or anywhere else to drag out the decision the way they did.
WINNERS — Dennis Scott and the rest of the media working the story
LOSERS — Mike Brown and Danny Ferry, the ousted brain trust
Former coach Mike Brown and former GM Danny Ferry were both ushered out of town in the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ playoff flame out last season. Brown was fired, while Ferry chose to depart rather than spend his time dealing with the foolishness that he must have known was in store in free agency. Both men were scapegoats for failures that deserves to spread out among many more, including James and Gilbert. Brown departed as the most successful coach in franchise history and really a pawn in a game far more sinister than he probably imagined. Ferry got out ahead of the craziness. And good for him. They’ll both resurface elsewhere and the hideout crew wishes them the best.
WINNER — Tom Izzo, the Cavs-coach-that-wasn’t
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew better than to dip his toes into the NBA waters in Cleveland, whether LeBron James was on board or not. Kudos to Izzo for smelling the stench ahead of time and avoiding being a casualty in this high-stakes hoops-opera that would only have served to tarnish his legacy as one of college basketball’s best coaches. Izzo resisted the intense and lucrative recruiting pitch of another MSU Spartan, Gilbert, who clearly isn’t ready to turn the operation over to anyone else, not even Izzo. If he watched Thursday night’s show, and there was no reason for Izzo to bother, we bet he was relieved that he hadn’t jumped at Gilbert’s offer when he heard the words “South” and “Beach” roll of James’ lips.
LOSERS — Cavs coach Byron Scott and the team and fans James left behind
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott remains a fantastic choice to lead the Cavaliers into this most uncertain future. But he could have kept his analyst job with ESPN if he’d known he would be coaching a team with Mo Williams as its first option. Scott was rumored to be the next in line for the Los Angeles Lakers if Phil Jackson left, he didn’t. So you go from almost coaching a team led by Kobe Bryant to almost coaching led by James to coaching a team led by Anderson Varejao? That’s just not right. We’re rooting for the Cavs, who still have some room to maneuver and add star power of some sort with nearly $12 million in available cap space, once they renounce their rights to James. But Scott will have to work some magic to save this season for the Cavaliers and a fan base that’s been cut to the bone by yet another disappointing sports moment.
WINNERS — The team that upends the Miami 3 on their way to a title
LOSERS — All the teams that didn’t land James, Wade or Bosh
James never did name a runner-up for his services or a pecking order for the six teams he considered. So we’ll throw them all in here since the Heat snagged the top three free agents on the market. The Knicks, however, lead the pack of the biggest losers. After spending the last two years doing whatever they could to create hype for James coming to Madison Square Garden and saving a basketball-mad city, so losing out to former Knicks coach Riley has to sting for the Knick faithful, yes that includes you Spike Lee. Amar’e Stoudemire is not an adequate consolation prize, we don’t care how many different ways the Knicks try to sell it. Waiting another year for Carmelo Anthony or some other member of the free agent class of 2011 isn’t going to cut it either. The Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers and even the Clippers have foundations to work with. Meanwhile, the Knicks are back to chasing ghosts.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Scoff all you want at the notion of the South Beach version of the Big 3.
One thing you can’t deny, though, is their star power.
The Miami Heat’s super trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has turned the basketball world upside down months before anyone hits the floor for training camp this season. But they are paying immediate dividends for the franchise that won the free agent sweepstakes.
They’ve also sparked a ticket craze in Miami. In fact, you can’t even get a season ticket down there anymore.
The sellout was the result of an intense two-day influx of interest that twice crashed the team’s website and jammed its phone lines.
Those trying to buy a season-ticket package through Heat.com Thursday afternoon were greeted with the message: “To purchase your HEAT Season Tickets, please call 786-777-HOOP (4667).”
But many who dialed the number were greeted with an automated response. Those fortunate to get someone on the line learned that just a handful of tickets still remained — at some $6,000 apiece. But as the day progressed, even those vanished.
While the season tickets are apparently gone, the entire season is not quite a sellout. The organization is holding back some single-game tickets for the public, but those will surely go just as fast — especially if James heads south.
The Heat declined to comment on the ticket situation Thursday.
The unprecedented crush began with Wednesday’s news that Wade and Bosh agreed to join forces in South Florida, and reached a fever pitch with speculation that James would complete the All-Star trio.
For anyone remotely familiar with the apathetic nature of the South Florida sports fan, this level of fervor is foreign, to say the least.
It’s been said more than once that Miami gets excited only for world-class events, and this has to qualify.
Last year, when the Heat went 47-35 and was quickly bounced by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, the franchise ranked 15th and 16th in average attendance (17,730) and capacity (90.5 percent), respectively.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We waited with bated breath for this?
LeBron James delivered the news we’ve been hearing about all day.
He’s going to Miami, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to for a Heat trio that is expected to be the foundation for a modern-day NBA dynasty.
James leaves in his wake a city and team in Cleveland that will likely never recover from the emotional scar of being spurned by the near-hometown kid during the most insane free-agent frenzy this sport has ever seen.
Those folks in New York, Chicago and New Jersey will lick their wounds as well. At one time or another in the past week, they all thought they were going to be the winner of the LeBron sweepstakes.
But they didn’t have the emotional connection the folks in Cleveland had to a player that grew up in Akron and has spent his entire life in Northeast Ohio … until now.
Some 28 minutes into his primetime special, “The Decision,” James finally delivered his decision.
And the words seemed didn’t seem to get stuck on the way out, though he said he didn’t make his decision until Thursday morning.
“This morning I woke up, had a great conversation with my mom and once I had that conversation I was set,” he said.
The Miami Heat!
“It gives me the best opportunity to win for multiple years,” James said, admitting that it was hard to turn down an opportunity to play with Wade and Bosh in a situation where they could all realize their championship dreams.
And to the fans of Cleveland?
“It’s hard to explain,” James said. “I never wanted to leave Cleveland. And my heart will always be around that area. But I also felt like this is the greatest challenge for me, to move on.”