Brian Windhorst was the MVP of sports media from the time the NBA season ended, right up through the first two weeks of July (and going strong). The beat reporter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has been following LeBron James since he was in puberty, following the prolific modern athlete through high school, his decision to go pro, his drafting by the Cavs, his early development, the first time the Cavs made the playoffs, their run to the Finals, and their subsequent repeated heartbreaks.
He was caught off guard by how quickly James’ demeanor changed once free agency started. He followed the process, all the while being open and honest about the information he received from his sources. And now, with the star-athlete he’s followed for a decade having abandoned his home state, Windhorst has laid out how this all went down.
And it’s not pretty.
Saturday, Windhorst released an article for the Plain-Dealer outlining the exact process from 2006 in the World Championships in Japan to signing-day on Friday in Miami, how the Heat were able to put together a team of three superstars.
Just in case you’re finding it hard to come up with reasons to click through, here are a few gems:
- Team USA played a huge part in this, as their experiences being together, playing together, and talking were what first brought the idea to them.
- The Knicks were primarily the ones who planted the possibility in Riley’s head and laid out the path to creating the cap room necessarily to pull this off.
- Riley set up a meeting between James and Michael Jordan last November, and talked about how modern players should “pay homage to Jordan.” That was the same night James announced he was switching jersey numbers out of respect. Riley had influence, as much as nine months ago.
- Wade went to meet with James and Bosh the last week of June to sell them on this idea. That would be the week before free agency started, when Wade was still a member of the Miami Heat, basically recruiting them to come to his team. The word you’re looking for is tampering.
- Most interesting from that visit, Windhorst reports that Wade was discouraged from making this pitch by Commissioner David Stern. With the way things have gone down, there has to be discussion of whether or not we’ll be seeing tampering charges brought upon the Heat.
- James was offered the same preferential treatment for him and his friends that he was given in Cleveland, so you can expect the same kind of crony-ism to continue.
- Windhorst also reports on why the Bulls and Knicks didn’t land James, which are predictable but still interesting.
For Cleveland fans, it just adds to the feeling of being duped by James and drives the dagger deeper (at this point, the handle’s pretty much inside their heart, much less the blade). For the rest of the world, it shows that these three were serious from the beginning, about controlling their own fate, and manipulating events to bring about what they wanted, the chance to play together.
A good old fashioned conspiracy. Even in the modern era.
The Trail Blazers have only one point guard behind Damain Lillard:
Shabazz Napier, who hasn’t shown much in the NBA.
Recently extended C.J. McCollum and Evan Turner provide playmaking on the wing, so this isn’t a huge need. But Portland would probably like a third point guard.
How about Tim Quarterman?
Partially guaranteed deals like this are often about waiving a player after training camp and assigning his D-League rights to the NBA’s team’s affiliate. But the Trail Blazers don’t have a D-League affiliate, so this is more likely about giving Quarterman a chance to earn a regular-season roster spot.
Portland has 13 players with guaranteed salaries plus Luis Montero (unguaranteed) and Maurice Harkless (qualifying offer). So, there’s room for Quarterman — at least as the roster stands right now.
The 6-foot-6 Quarterman uses his height well to see the floor and rebound for his position. But he’ll need to improve as a shooter and get stronger. There’s a reason he went undrafted.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trail Blazers add a more stable veteran guard to compete with Quarterman.
Michael Jordan has been saddled for years with a line he and those around him have denied he ever said, in relation to his involvement in political matters: “Republicans buy shoes too.” (That comment was allegedly a North Carolina Senate race where Jordan actually did donate to the opponent of Jessie Helms, despite what is rumored.)
While that line may not be his, Jordan has rarely used his standing to weigh in on political events, which is why his donation Monday of $2 million — $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund — was news. In doing so he said, “…I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent.”
He didn’t stay silent, but he didn’t pick a side, either. He played it safe and down the middle.
Carmelo Anthony was asked about that and said this, according to J.A. Adande of ESPN.
“I thought it was brilliant…and about time that he stepped up.”
There is the backhanded compliment you’ve been waiting for.
Anthony stood up at the ESPYs with Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade to make a plea both for peace and for athletes to use their voice to speak to the nation in what are turbulent, divided times. Jordan would have a unique standing to do that, he often just chooses a more cautious path. Like he did with this donation, playing it right down the middle.
DeJuan Blair played for the Wizards last season before being traded to the Suns, who waived him.
Now, he’s facing legal trouble.
Las Vegas Metro PD has confirmed … officers were called to Drai’s nightclub at The Cromwell hotel around 1 AM Sunday morning to respond to a report of a man who allegedly got physical with a woman.
The alleged victim told police … she was arguing with Blair over the line into the club when he picked her up and tossed her off to the side. The woman was pissed and retaliated by striking him back — before calling for help.
Sources tell us … when cops arrived they checked security video and decided there was enough evidence to issue a citation to Blair for misdemeanor battery. He was NOT arrested.
However, cops tell TMZ Sports Blair was also issued a “trespassing warning” from the property and told to leave immediately.
The 27-year-old Blair is a free agent. He has played for the Spurs, Mavericks and Wizards in a seven-year NBA career.
If there’s anyone who won’t fear replacing Dwyane Wade with the Heat, it’s Dion Waiters.
For better or worse.
Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press:
This is presumably for the $2,898,000 room exception. At that price, it’s hard to argue with taking a chance on the talented 24-year-old. For a brief stretch in the playoffs, Waiters put it all together and looked like the complementary scorer and defender the Thunder desired.
But that was surrounded by more sober assessments of his value.
Oklahoma City didn’t extend Waiters’ contract before the season and yanked his qualifying offer last week. This must be a disappointing outcome for Waiters, but at least he can hit the market again in a year.
Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have a reputation for boosting the stock of wayward talented players. Just look at Hassan Whiteside, who became the first player in NBA history to go from a minimum salary one season to the max the next.
Waiters must play with more purpose on both ends of the floor. Too often, it appears he’s just drifting until his next opportunity to jack up a shot — which he does frequently and inefficiently.
Joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for a season reduced Waiters absurdly high usage, but he’s still a gunner. One benefit of Wade leaving — easing the tension between point guard Goran Dragic and a ball-dominant shooting guard — has been reduced.
At least Miami can turn to Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson in the backcourt if Waiters sees this as an opportunity to hunt his own shot without abandon once again.
Waiters has ability as a shooter and ball-handler. He’s strong enough to defend well. There is upside for the Heat here and little downside.
But there’s a reason Waiters had to settle for the room exception even as he’s entering his athletic prime.