Gang, remember the mailbag - and JMC we promise to answer your question at some point - and enjoy the ride.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's make the magic happen.
Here we are. The spot of player positioning and team machinations to the point that stars are aligning themselves.
There's a list of folks lined up to woo Carmelo Anthony, who opted out of his contract with the Knicks.
There would be a longer list of folks lined up to woo LeBron if he decides to opt out of his contract with the Heat. (And just for good measure, Mrs. LeBron created a social media sandstorm by saying posting a photo of the map of Ohio with the caption "Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330" in reference to James family growing up in Akron. Of course, Cleveland would love to have a round 2 with LeBron, so the rumors grew like wildfire. The James family said the message was in reference to the family's summer vacation plans.)
Where were we? Oh, yes, the reversal of the determination of fortunes.
When did this happen? When did individual stars controlling the future of the league become the accepted brand of franchise construction?
Sure, the reps for Kobe Bryant and Eli Manning forced draft-day trades to better organizations and better situations for the betterment of their career. That's hardly new. Heck, John Elway did that in 1983.
Leveraging your assets to maximize your position is a common survival tactic.
But this seems different. This seems unsportsmanlike and somehow crooked. Stephen A. Smith said on Mike and Mike this week that he knows LeBron and Carmelo have spoken about potentially playing together.
If stars are willing to take less money and decide which three or four teams have a legit chance at winning a title, then what is the long-term future of 60 percent of the NBA? Do the Bucks ever have a chance? Or the Hawks? Or fill in the blank with any of roughly two-thirds of a league?
It's an interesting social dilemma, considering you have a Tim Duncan electing to take a little over $10 million - well under market value for the greatest power forward of all time - to help the Spurs add pieces for another title pursuit. Duncan is praised for the move, rightly or wrongly, and Kobe is vilified for taking max money and crippling the Lakers' cap situation. Is that fair?
Who knows, but we do know this: In the day and age of players looking to stack their decks, LeBron holds all the cards for two reasons. He is the best player in the league, and the easiest way to a title is to figure out a way to join forces with James, where ever that might be. Second, James is far-and-away the highest earning player in the league. He made $18 million last year - a figure that was in the top 10 in the NBA in salary - but he made more than $70 million total last year when factoring in endorsements, so money is no longer a factor for King James.
And regardless of what he decides, the NBA needs to look at the free agent dealings of players among players. Teams face tampering charges, but players have become the de facto GMs in some situations.
The league is staring at a very real caste system in which there are a small circle of haves - teams with championship-level talent who have assembled themselves to be among the elite - and a large pool of driftwood where teams have to lose and hope the lottery is kind. So there will be eight-to-10 teams trying to get to the No. 1 spot and 20-to-22 teams trying to get the No. 1 pick.
How is that good for basketball or for competition? The answer simply is that it's not. Not at all. And no matter what you think about Donald Sterling's loose lips, the growing competitive hurdles in the league is far and away the biggest issue facing the NBA.
(Side note: Wow, that got long in a hurry, huh? Where did that come from? Who knows, but we'll tighten up the rest of this puppy otherwise, we'll start getting compared to college baseball games in terms of time it takes to complete. Egad.)
We love the draft. You know this.
We started our love affair with the draft with the NBA draft back in the 1980s. We have switched of course to the NFL draft for a slew of reasons.
Still, we are intrigued by the NBA draft for the following reasons:
- There's the draft model and the unpredictability of the domino effect;
- There's the suits of the first-rounders - dude, Joakim Noah's suit will be on the Rushmore of suits with Batman's suit, Shooter's suit in Hoosiers (a real wing-dinger; he got married in that suit) and the orange one Lloyd wore to the Snow Owl benefit in Dumb and Dumber.
- The awkward hugs between Adam Silver and some 7-foot Croatian that are inevitable.
This year - and with the threat of star re-alignment there are some other interesting parts too, such as where does Kevin Love go, how far does a broken foot drop Joel Embiid and what will the contenders such as Miami and others do to add to their aging lineups.
The TFP is hosting a Man Xpo this week at Finley Stadium and there are a slew of cool things there, including NASCAR and golf simulators (hole in one could get you $10K) plus food and beer and a Q-and-A with Kirk Herbstreit and TFP ace David Paschall and the blockheaded sports editor.
We are trying to have a little fun on Press Row with the event too, and we're giving away tickets all week. Yesterday we had spot trivia. Today, we'll have a variation of a classic game show.
Did we ever decide a Rushmore of Game Shows? Hmmmmmm.
Listen in here at timesfreepress.com or at 105.1 FM from 3-6 p.m. Good times.
This and that
- Cool story about a 17-year-old girl who pitches for her high school baseball team throwing BP to the Tampa Bay Rays. Apparently she is known as "Knuckleball Princess" - her youth baseball coach was Joe Niekro of all people - and even had some of the big leaguers swinging and missing. Cool.
- You go Vandy. War Smart Kids. The Commodores used a nine-run inning for a 9-8 win over Virginia in the College World Series. One more win and Vandy secures its first national title in a men's sport.
- June 24 has a potpourri of interesting birthdays. It's World Cup time so Lionel Messi (27); Minka Kelly (34); Jeff Beck (70); Al Molinaro (95) of Happy Days; Tom Lister (56), the actor known as Zeus who played Ice Cube's nemesis in Friday; Chuck Taylor (he would have been a 113); Jack Dempsey (would have been 119); Roy O. Disney (who would have been 121). Good times.
Nice job by all-around TFP ace Stephen Hargis here catching up with Herschel Walker.
This leads us to an obvious Rushmore: Since 1980, who is the Rushmore of SEC football players? And we believe Herschel is far left.