Thank freakin’ goodness, sports fans. We can now return to our regularly scheduled obsessions. After years of speculation, weeks of anticipation and several days of feverish, obsessive anxiety, LeBron James announced on what amounted to an infomercial about him that he will join the Miami Heat next season. He will join guard Dwyane Wade and forward Chris Bosh to form one of the best three-player nuclei in NBA history. The incredibly dull, exasperating and overwrought 70-minute program brought to an end one round of high-profile questions, but James’ decision launches another set of questions in motion. Here are a few answers.
Are the 2010-11 Miami Heat the favorites to win the title?
No. Not yet, at least. The NBA isn’t a three-on-three league, and I don’t think it’s going to become one anytime soon. At present, the Heat have five players under contract, and they just gave away Michael Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft to try to fit James and Bosh under their salary cap. Team President Pat Riley has his work cut out for him filling out the roster with something better than D-League caliber talent. Depth matters a lot in the NBA regular season, a grind that will often include stretches where the team will play four games in five nights in four different cities. It may actually take a year or even two to build enough of a rotation to make this championship caliber nucleus into a championship caliber team.
Is this the best threesome in NBA history on one team?
We won’t know until they play together, but it seems reasonable to assume that at worst Wade, Bosh and James will be one of the best. Economist David Berri, author of The Wages of Wins, developed a Wins Produced formula and crunched the numbers projecting the Heat’s 2010-11 season. The Heat trio finished behind three of the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Chicago Bulls title teams of the ’90s, and one of the Larry Bird-Robert Parish-Kevin McHale Boston Celtic teams of the ’80s. Still, that’s like a jazz pianist being compared to Thelonious Monk after one recording.
What now for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The party is over, and for a few days there will be anger, frustration and recrimination. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted this hilarious letter last night on the team’s Web site. The good thing is that new coach Byron Scott has taken two teams from the lottery to the playoffs, so the Cavaliers are in experienced hands. The smart thing to do would be to fire sale as much as possible of this team to other clubs with cap room and build through the draft. It sounds like an arduous task, but it’s been done recently; by the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Pritchard, the general manager who built the Blazers is a free agent, so to speak. Once the hangover clears, hiring him would probably be a great first step in the rebuilding process.