New Miami Heat Roster Shaping Up

July 19, 2010 in Basketball, NBA

We all know the Miami Heat now has the formidable trio of Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh, but without much else, few experts predicted them to be genuine title contenders.  Now, as expected, the rest of the roster has just about filled up with plenty of solid players taking a pay cut for the chance at a championship.

Let’s take a look at how the brand new Heat roster stacks up.

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Defending Lebron’s decision and pondering how good the Heat will be

July 11, 2010 in Basketball, NBA

I still don’t condone what Lebron James did when he announced he will be taking his talent to South Beach, but now that the dust has settled a little, I am beginning to get a different perspective.

Yes, I am going to defend Lebron’s decision.  Not the way he declared it to the world, but ultimately, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers is a good decision.

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Thoughts on Lebron going to the Miami Heat

July 9, 2010 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers

[This Lebron thing is too big to ignore.  Below is an amended article taken from my basketball blog, Pacers Pulse]

Lebron James is going to the Indiana Pacers…

…and then I woke up!

The new Big Three

It’s a done deal.  Lebron James is joining the Miami Heat in the hope that he can win multiple championships with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh (plus whoever else the team can get for low dollars).

Even though Miami was speculated to be the popular choice, I just couldn’t quite believe it when I followed the event live.  I understand some people saying that Lebron has sold out.  He has betrayed his home team in Cleveland, who have done everything they could to help him win over the last few years.  He has given up the challenge of winning by himself in the place that drafted him.  He has forgone the opportunity to play under the bright lights of New York City.  He didn’t want to follow the footsteps of Michael Jordan and play in Chicago.

Instead, Lebron went with the easiest way out — joining fellow All-Stars D-Wade and Chris Bosh to form the new Big Three.

I must say while I am intrigued by the prospect of such a terrific trio playing on the same court for an entire season (and possibly for many years), I have lost a little bit of respect for Lebron.  I wanted him to be loyal and stay true to his fans in Cleveland, who are absolutely heart broken.  I wonder if they will boo him (along with the fans in New York and Chicago?) when he returns to play next season.  I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

However, I don’t fault Lebron for his decision.  Not totally.  At the end of the day, all he cares about is winning.  He is taking less than max money to play for a championship.  When it’s all said and done, people are going to look at the number of championship rings he has on his fingers and make an assessment as to where he belongs in the GOAT discussion.  If he only has one or two (or none), that’s not going to be enough to get him there.  In Miami, he has the chance to win five or six, or perhaps even more?

On the other hand, if I were the Lakers, the Magic or the Celtics, I wouldn’t exactly be quivering in my boots just yet.  Yes, this new Big Three is pretty impressive, but we’ll have to wait and see what other pieces they can scrap together.  With these three guys taking up the majority of the cap space, who else are they going to get?  Basketball is, after all, a team sport.

That said, I don’t see it being a huge problem for the Heat.  For starters, Boston proved a Big Three could be enough.  In any case, I bet there will be plenty of solid veterans and role players willing to play for the Heat at minimum money.

Provided there are no serious injuries, the Miami Heat are going to be lethal next season.  This is not a case of simply having a few good players playing on the same team.  Lebron James is the reigning MVP and the best player in the NBA.  If you want to say he’s not, then one of the two guys that could challenge him would be Dwyane Wade (the other being Kobe Bryant).  So that’s two of the top three players in the entire league playing for the same team.  We haven’t had that since Shaq and Kobe played together in the early 00’s.

On top of that, there’s Chris Bosh.  Some would say Bosh is not a superstar, but he’s definitely one of the top five power forwards in the NBA at the moment, formerly the best player on a team skirting the playoff fringe.  He has his weaknesses but don’t pretend for a minute you wouldn’t love to have him on your team.

This is way bigger than the Boston Big Three.  Paul Pierce was probably a top 10 player in the league.  Ray Allen was probably a top five shooting guard.  Kevin Garnett is and was the NBA’s biggest douche, but in terms of basketball ability he was on his way down (though probably still a top five power forward).  The Miami Big Three has two of the three best players of any position in the league plus a top five PF.  Think about that.

But all it takes is a couple of injuries to derail the team.  High risk, high reward.  Potentially.

I asked a couple of basketball fan friends what they thought of the move.  One said, “Total sell out by LBJ!”  The other said, “I feel somewhat betrayed by LBJ.  [Miami] have to be special for LBJ to be forgiven by Cleveland.  Like MJ 72-10 special!”

That pretty much reflects the general sentiment of everyone not in Miami at the moment.  They can see how much Lebron wants to win, but did he have to gut his old team on national television?

Some say Lebron is like any other person faced with an opportunity to give himself and his family a better life.  If you had a better job on the table, wouldn’t you jump ship either?  In this day and age, job loyalty is a rarity.  How many people stay with the same company for their entire career these days?

I beg to differ.  This was no ordinary decision.  They cared.  People cried over it.  This impacted the lives of thousands and the economy of an entire state.  Lebron had a duty to these people.  Why not treat everyone with a little more respect and dignity?

Speaking of dignity, how about Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert’s response?  Talk about having no class…

DVD Review: More Than a Game (2009)

July 8, 2010 in Basketball, Movie Reviews

The question on everybody’s lips right now is which team free agent and the NBA’s reigning 2-time MVP Lebron James will sign with.  Will the King stay with his hometown Cavs, or will he go join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami?  Will he join forces with Amare Stoudemire in New York, or will he team up with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer in Chicago?  It has become such big news that ESPN is televising Lebron’s announcement live on Thursday night (US time).

Of course, Lebron James is no stranger to publicity, having been anointed “The Chosen One” since his high school days, as documented in the film More Than a Game.  I had heard about this documentary directed by Kris Belman last year when it was first released, but had forgotten all about it until I came across the DVD last week.

So was it any good?

I’d say it’s a “must” for Lebron fans, a “worth watching” for NBA/basketball fans in general, and a “can skip” for Lebron haters.

More Than a Game follows Lebron and his four best friends, Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee (the “Fab Five”) through their trials and tribulations as their team, Saint Vincent-Saint Mary (from previously little known Akron, Ohio), played their way to national stardom.

It’s a coming-of-age story, a rags-to-riches story, and a perseverance-pays-off story full of excellent basketball footage from the time when the friends were just a bunch of poor but talented pre-teen kids having fun in an old gym.

The best part about the film is that it’s NOT a promotional vehicle for Lebron (not that he needed one).  While Lebron does get more attention towards the end when his name took off on a national scale and he struggled with eligibility issues, the film divides time equally between all members of the Fab Five and their coach, Dru Joyce II (father of one of the players).  At various times throughout the 105-minute running time, we received wonderful insights into each of the six central characters, including their difficult backgrounds, their strengths, their flaws and their motivations.  As one of the kids said, they were all stars of a rock band — Lebron was just the lead singer.

The "Fab Five"

Thanks to the ubiquity of the hand held cam and the team’s relatively early rise to stardom, the film also had some ripping footage — not just on the basketball court but off it too.  Whether it’s Lebron dunking as an eighth grader (I think) or him goofing around with his buddies at school, this film had it all.

However, to be honest, More Than a Game should have been a much better documentary.  All the elements were there.  You had a future NBA superstar in the making, already heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition from the first pieces of grainy footage.  You had a team full of African American players from broken families who were considered traitors by their community because they joined a school with predominantly white students.  You had plenty of ups and downs, setbacks and glory.  You couldn’t write a more inspirational story than this one.

And yet, More Than a Game doesn’t quite get there in my opinion.  There is no narrator as the story is told entirely through archived footage, interviews and recorded monologues.  While this was effective in its own way (such as let us make up our own minds about the characters), the story does suffer as a result when it came to exposition and transition.

There were times when it felt as though pieces of the narrative were missing.  For instance, you got the feeling that all these kids did was play, sleep and breathe basketball, but then all of a sudden we find out that some of them actually played other sports too at an elite level and had to make a choice.  In another sequence we were led to believe that the kids hated a particular player on their team, and then shortly thereafter he apparently became one of their best friends without much of an explanation!  And for those who don’t understand it, the system of competitive youth basketball in American is rather confusing.  I found myself asking questions such as why are these kids playing in Division II if they were “the best”, or why they would be “national champions” if they won the “state championship”.  These are easily answered with a bit of self research, but it made me wish things were made clearer when I watched the film.

Overall, not a bad way to watch some highlights of young Lebron in action, and the background stories of all the central characters were inspiring to watch — but as a documentary, More Than a Game was not much more than average.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: Having watched this I sure hope Lebron stays in Cleveland and doesn’t go for the seemingly perfect situation in Miami.  I don’t think he’s guaranteeing himself any rings by choosing the Heat and it could backfire terribly.  He seems like a loyal guy, I think he would be best served creating his own legacy in the city that picked him.]