Summer 2010, for me, was a wake up call.
We were all reminded just how quickly the NBA’s landscape could change, with 13 words.
“I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach, and join the Miami Heat.”
LeBron James changed our perspective on the professional game. Many people changed their view, and believed the NBA would be useless to watch anymore.
It was supposed to be guaranteed championships for Miami’s Big 3. It was supposed to be — in the words of LeBron — eight championships. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven. EIGHT.
Do we remember that?
I chuckled in disgust watching the slumber party they threw together in front of their fans. Not because of who they are …. but because of what they were doing.
Sure, free agents have the right, and the opportunity, to do what they want. “What’s best for them and their families” is the phrase that is often uttered.
It’s kind of a weird situation.
If you polled people on the streets, you would find a consensus that the league is more exciting today than it was in 2009 and 2010 (before Miami’s dominance). When the Heat formed an unbeatable Eastern Conference trio, the NBA drew in more fans. The popularity skyrocketed, as did the level of intensity on the court.
However, excluding Boston’s Big 3 (which only had one successful season), I relished the league more in the days of 2007-2009. Superstars were spread out, and you honestly felt as if more than four teams could win a title.
That may not have held true, due to every NBA Finals since 1999 including the Spurs, Lakers, or Heat. I believe a ton of people were on board with superstars building their own teams in cities throughout the country, and having the playing field feel ….. well, even.
As the Eastern Conference stands right now, if Pat Riley was to pull off the unthinkable and get his guys to take salary cuts to draw Anthony in, would the season be worth playing?
I know, I know. The jokes and jest concerning the conference disparity is getting old. We hear it every single day. However, who can quarrel with that? Four East All-Stars would be on one franchise, and the rest of the conference would be trying to get on the phones to bring in Big 3’s of their own. If we were really concerned with the issue of fans not watching the regular season due to expected outcomes, wouldn’t that be even worse if there was a Big 4?
There seriously wouldn’t be a need for the Eastern Conference Playoffs in April-May. Indiana wouldn’t be allowed to even pray for the number one seed, or say they have a shot this time around.
Let’s take the alternate option, and say he elects to be in the Windy City, joining the Chicago Bulls.
Currently, Chicago is the number one choice.
It’s more likely that he would leave a couple million dollars on the table to go win with Tom Thibodeau, than it would be if he left nearly $10 million to form a Big 4 and automatically win a championship.
In Chicago, he would be the number one offensive option, have a defense that is still a top three in the association, and have a coach that’s had a history of winning — on a coaching staff. Sure, Derek Fisher has five rings. Sure, Fisher is all about winning. But what has he ever done in a coaching position? Nothing, yet.
The Bulls would need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and be extremely active this summer to create a formidable bench, because we witnessed exactly what could happen if your starting lineup is the only thing holding you up (Pacers).
If he becomes a member of the Bulls, Anthony’s public perception isn’t as bad as it would be if he went to South Beach. But, still, it’s not attractive.
Anthony was a guy that took LeBron’s route since the 2003 draft, and stayed with one team (Denver) for a good amount of time. There, he reached the Western Conference Finals once, getting ousted by the Lakers. Knowing he couldn’t win, he made it clear that he wanted to move on. He didn’t make a free agency decision to leave for New York, but he urged the situation to happen.
We’re on the cusp of having Anthony join his third team, all in hope of finally winning a title. In terms of how you’re viewed for that choice, it’s not a great image to have.
Staying in New York would be his best viable option, because it shows loyalty. And, it actually gives Phil Jackson a chance to do something to help your cause.
What chances has he given Jackson since taking over as President?
This would be completely different if he’s already had Jackson as the leader for 2-3 seasons, and still finds himself without a trip to the East Finals.
Anthony can make the most money this summer by re-signing with New York, and that’s where society will give him criticism. He’s debating whether to take less money to join a contender (which is something we praise most of the time) or to take maximum money and possibly lose. It really becomes a fight between legacy and capital.
Leave New York just to win, and there will always be those that believe your career is tarnished. Take the money and stay in the Big Apple, and you will turn out to be a “greedy” superstar, and one that is only playing for the money.
When are those same people going to realize that making a living is just as important to these guys as winning a title? It’s not the popular statement to make, but it’s just the truth. They paved their way to becoming NBA superstars by working hard throughout high school, and Anthony knows what it’s like to win with a team at the collegiate level.
He could take the lucrative deal New York would give him this summer, and put all trust in Jackson to fill out the roster.
Jackson, more than anyone, realizes a championship team can’t be predicated off one superstar and a lineup full of ineffectual players. With Michael Jordan, he was able to coach a well-rounded play maker in Scottie Pippen. He was able to have a defensive stool in Dennis Rodman, and point guards that were capable of learning the triangle offense.
Jackson has work to do, but he’s not going to leave Anthony on an island by himself. He’s never had the chance to make trades, sign free agents, or hire a coaching staff. He’s always been the one at practice, working with the guys management gave him. It’s role-reversal, but Jackson’s never epically failed at new challenges in front of him.
The only reason Anthony would be hesitant to return to New York and wait for Jackson to make roster changes is because it would be a long-term deal. If the Knicks are going to re-sign him, it would be for the long haul.
Jackson has told Raymond Felton that he’ll be traded as soon as an option opens, and he also understands the need for personnel if the triangle offense will indeed be implemented.
This week, Anthony had what he claimed was a “great” meeting with Jackson and Fisher, and I’m not sure why folks are questioning their relationships. They’ve never had reasons to dislike each other, or not trust each other.
Anthony is in the driver’s seat with this free agency decision, but he needs to let Jackson see if he can take the wheel.
Public likability may not mean much to Anthony, but it does when you consider athletes still care about how their legacy will be written. Give Jackson a chance, because he’s yet to prove what he can do with this organization.
Hopefully with James Dolan in the picture, that path isn’t limited. It’s hard to do anything when your owner wants a say in most of the decisions.
Anthony, you just hit your 30’s. The time may be running out for a title shot. But, don’t become a chaser. If there’s ever been a leader to trust and a coach you could develop a strong friendship with on a professional level, it’s in New York. Make the right decision.