Free Agency: A Gamble – A Guffaw – Or a Gift?
~ Amy Lignor
Looking back, there have been dumb deals. Not done, mind you, ‘dumb’. Organizations have gone out on proverbial limbs, betting on either star power or rising stars (hopefully rising quick enough to get them their money back). Some have worked. Some have tanked. Remember Raef LaFrentz and the Dallas Mavericks? No? Well…it was 7 years/$70 million back in 2002. Trading for Raef and offering up that humongo contract, the Mavs sort of walked away into that goodnight – as quietly as possible – the very next season, giving him to Boston where injuries immediately befell the man. Barely playing up in Portland, his final season had the Blazers paying him $100,000 for every point he scored. (Not a bad set-up for the rest of us, of course. After all…one game, eking out ten points, 99.9% of the world would be set.)
Remember Jim McIlvaine and the Seattle SuperSonics? That was 7 years/$35 million back in 1996. Looks like a pauper contract in this day and age, but Seattle was betting on something to emerge apparently, considering before the contract he had a 2.3 PPG/2.9 RPG season with Washington as his ‘best’, it seemed as if they were betting on a dead horse.
Enter 2014 and the above numbers literally look like a walk in the park for NBA organizations. They probably think back on those times and those numbers and wish they could go back. But…they can’t and many players this season have proved to the NBA that free agency may just be a free ride. But there are still those few players who can definitely back up the numbers…but will they keep going in the future? Will they bring all they have promised to the teams they are heading to? And, most of all, are they worth it?
There are two situations being widely spoken about this off-season: One, is Paul Gasol. He is a man who teams vie for. The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers have been working on a ‘sign-and-trade’ package to bring Pau Gasol to the Bulls. This would be a multiyear contract, starting at around $10 million per year. Of course, if this package does not hold together, the Bulls sign Gasol to a multiyear deal that’s approximately $6.5 million per year to begin. Sure enough, Gasol did announce this week that he is saying goodbye to the Lakers and heading for the Bulls. No announcement on the numbers or contract as of yet, but it will definitely not be in the paltry range.
And, yes, the second name that is being talked about everywhere is the already ‘star’, LeBron James. Talk about a soap opera that will go down in the books as a legendary love/hate relationship between organization and player! Everyone saw the burning of the jersey as if LeBron was a horrific man leaving his Ohio fans by the wayside for a bit more pocket cash. Seeing his face on urinal mats also was a large clue as to how his fans felt. And when they weren’t tearing down billboards of the guy, they were agreeing quite loudly with the team owner’s email that ripped LeBron apart (perhaps something that will be placed next to his picture in the Hall of Fame one day).
The exciting history is all there…When LeBron James lost in his first NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, Cleveland clapped. How soon one forgets when a loser comes back as a glorified hero.
LeBron, or shall we say, ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ (in Cleveland back then), is now being heralded as the hero, the one who returns to glory and cheers, leaving the jeers behind apparently, as he says goodbye to fun-in-the-sun Miami and heads back into the Cavaliers’ lion’s den. Egotistical and loud-mouthed once, LeBron is now what you would call likable after his time in Miami. And the four years, four Finals, and two championships don’t hurt either.
The mega-superstar is most definitely now: ‘The Boy Who Lived’ – but will he remain so? Will LeBron go back and deliver on his once egotistical vow that he would bring the Cavaliers fortune and glory? Considering the amount he’s being paid (i.e., a fortune of $42.1 million), he better.
Hero-worship can die in seconds – ask anyone from Lance Armstrong to A-Rod – and LeBron will definitely be under scrutiny as the once red eyes of anger, now turned glistening eyes of fans looking at a possible rebirth for the Cavaliers, will remain on him every step of the way!
Happiness in Cleveland? 42.1 million for just two years? My…how the past does change