Saturday, December 25, 2010

So that's the reason

Now we have a pretty good idea why LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland.

The other day in Phoenix, James let his hair down, so to speak, when he strongly suggested the National Basketball Association would be more entertaining if subtracted teams. Get rid of them. Contraction.

He didn't use the term contraction. Not sure he even knows what the word means as far as the NBA is concerned. But that's exactly what he meant when he said the following:

"Hopefully, the league can figure out one way to go back to the '80s where you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team. The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is (now)."

Then he went on to add, "Not saying let's take New Jersey out of the league. But hey, you guys aren't stupid. I'm not stupid. It would be great for the league."

As much as I detest what he did to Cleveland and the city's fans, and this is hard to admit because of that, James is absolutely right. The league is watered down. But it's been that way for years as it expanded well beyond its competitive capabilities. It has been stretched to the point where there is a noticeable imbalance of power.

There are basement dwellers, the middle-class teams that spin their wheels every season and go nowhere, the very good clubs that play just well enough to get into the playoffs, and the elite clubs that always seem to challenge for the title every year.

The NBA has become a status league. And James, to his credit, wants to see it change. The historian in him wants to go back and recreate the generation of the NBA that made it great.

And the only way to bring back the so-called glory days of the league would be to return to a more sane number of franchisees. Thirty is way too many. However, that's not going to happen. The NBA Players Association will see to that. The union wants to protect jobs, not see them disappear.

Franchises will not be subtracted. If they fail, they will be moved. It's that simple.

The ironic part of James' latest pronouncement is that by leaving Cleveland, he has become part of the problem. His absence is the main reason the Cavaliers own one of the worst records in the league. Without him, they are significantly less than mediocre. With him, they'd be a contender for the league championship.

So it will be interesting to see whether Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decides to (a) hold on to a team that appears headed for many dark days, (b) sell the team at probably a loss or (c) move the team after taking a financial bath.

Whatever he does, he can trace the move back to when his superstar decided to make a little history himself. And now we know why.

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