Posted by Sekou Smith
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.
Nowhere is that empty feeling greater than it is in Northeast Ohio, and especially Cleveland and Akron, where James has lived, worked and played his entire life prior to Thursday’s night’s stunning departure. And if you need proof, just take a look at the number of people in Cleveland that watched the show Thursday night compared to the number of folks in Miami.
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
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard and former ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith are both being credited with breaking the Miami Big 3 story, deserving plaudits for two guys that turned out to be spot on in their reporting and analysis. Broussard scooped his own network a day early. But he and Smith were not the first pundits to float the idea of a Justice League-style conglomeration in Miami. That honor belongs to NBA TV’s very own Dennis Scott, who suggested Miami as destination paradise for the elite members of the free agent class of 2010 on this special edition of the Hang Time Podcast … over a month ago! 3D detailed exactly how Pat Riley could get it done and everything.
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
There are about 20 teams that would love to ruin the fairy tale ending Wade, James and Bosh have in mind. The NBA history books are littered with super teams that were put together with multiple championships in mind, the most recent group being the Shaquille O’Neal-Bryant, Karl Malone–Gary Payton Lakers of 2003-04. They made it all to the NBA Finals before being dispatched in five games by a then superstar-free Detroit team, whose legacy in Pistons’ lore was cemented by their dethroning of Hall of Fame Foursome the Lakers assembled. This Miami 3 already have a target on their chests and plenty of teams are aiming for them, including Stephen Jackson and the Charlotte Bobcats and Magic GM Otis Smith, who added fuel to the Southeast Division and Sunshine State rivalry by stating publicly that he thought James was “more of a competitor.”
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.