Why the NBA was great in the 1980s

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. Not really sure why. But I’m back now.

In my time away, I’ve had a chance to think more about what LeBron James said about the NBA needing to contract teams – mentioning the Minnesota Timberwolves – in an effort to create more super-teams like the league had in the 1980s. That was a decade most would call the “Golden Age” of the NBA.

I don’t disagree with James’ statement, though I think it’s in his best interest to keep opinions like that to himself. Certainly, that’s not something the Players’ Association wants to hear him say.

The NBA more than any other league struggles with parity. Dating back to 1984, the NBA has had only seven different franchises win a championship. If the ultimate goal of every team is to win it all, there’s some problems there that haven’t been resolved for a lot of the league’s teams.

But what also made the NBA great in the 1980s was the star players. Think about it. Magic’s Lakers. Jordan’s Bulls. Bird’s Celtics. Those players were synonymous with their teams.

So I think it’s easy for LeBron to point to the Timberwolves or New Jersey Nets and say that such-and-such team would be better if it had Kevin Love, so let’s get rid of the Wolves. But back in the 1980s, the star players didn’t opt to not be the man.

I don’t have any problem at all with LeBron choosing to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a super team. He’s entitled to do what he wants. But the NBA wasn’t like that in the 1980s.

Sure, Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. There was plenty of talent on those Bulls teams. But he won titles with Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley as starters. Craig Hodges and John Paxson logged significant minutes. Good players, of course. But not stars. Jordan made those players around him better. He made them a great team, a 72-win team.

That desire just doesn’t seem to be there anymore with many of today’s stars.

LeBron mentions Timberwolves in his support for contraction

LeBron James isn’t saying the NBA should contract the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he is saying this:

“Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the [league]. Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”

I’m not saying I disagree with James’ take that the NBA would benefit from contraction, though I doubt New Jersey is high on the list of teams to be contracted. But for a guy that could have saved himself a lot of headaches over the last few months by talking less, the mouth keeps going.

Note to LeBron: Open mouth, insert foot. Fans of the Timberwolves and Nets know what you are saying, and I’m guessing most of them don’t want to hear it.

Stick to doing what you do best, and that’s building super teams and alienating franchises. Oh wait. That is what you’re suggesting with your latest comments. Proceed.

James unrelenting on, off the court

LeBron James‘ 38-point performance Thursday night in Cleveland was the kind of game that Cavaliers fans can appreciate. Problem is, he doesn’t play for them anymore.

LeBron James

LeBron James scored 38 points in his return to Cleveland on Thursday. Associated Press photo

James made his return to Cleveland on Thursday night, for the first time as a member of the Miami Heat. Flanked by stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the game wasn’t even close. I found myself continuing to watch only because I wanted to see what James had to say after a game in which he was booed every time he touched the ball, had his name announced, etc.

But the two words I thought James could say to TNT’s Craig Sager that could make things all better were never said. You know. That two-word phrase you say when you wish you would have done something a little different, even if the end result would have been the same. Married men and women say it all the time, even when deep down they don’t feel they did anything wrong, but to simply diffuse a situation.

“I’m sorry.”

He doesn’t have to be sorry for leaving Cleveland. He doesn’t have to be sorry for “The Decision” on ESPN. There’s nothing wrong in this capitalistic society to do what makes sense financially.

But a lot of Cavaliers fans were hurt by him leaving or “The Decision.” And a simple, “I’m sorry my decision hurt them,” would go a long way. But instead, James opted to reiterate that the Miami Heat have a long way to go but he’s happy in South Beach.

It was a predictable ending to what was expected to be an unpredictable night.

Finally, I leave you with this video, which is supposed to be Michael Jordan’s reaction to the James commercial “What Should I Do?” It’s actually not a commercial, but a YouTuber’s handy work.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EalorZaTlI8

Laughter is best medicine for LeBron, and NFL picks

If LeBron James wants to get past the PR nightmare that was “The Decision,” he should start by not taking himself so seriously.

LeBron James

Why so serious, LeBron James? Associated Press photo

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had a story in today’s editions about how James will be gunning for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season and, notably, forward Anthony Tolliver.

Tolliver, if you remember, did his own version of “The Decision,” which he published on YouTube under the title, “The Decision: Part Deux.” In it, he confirms to the world that he will indeed play for the Timberwolves, spoofing James’ announcement earlier in the offseason, when James told the world on national TV he would play for the Miami Heat.

See below for weekly NFL picks. Here’s the video:

Weekly NFL picks

Somehow I once again forgot to make NFL picks last week. I really have to get my life’s priorities straight.

Anywho, I’m at 14-11 picking against the spread this season. Here’s my picks for Week 8:

Detroit by 1 over Washington. Lions

St. Louis by 3 over Carolina. Rams

New York Jets by 4 1/2 over Green Bay. Packers

Oakland by 1 1/2 over Seattle. Seahawks

New Orleans vs. Pittsburgh pick ‘em: Steelers

Radio today: LeBron and Lee

Ben "Kark the Shark" Karkela and I are back on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. on 970-AM WDAY radio today.

Plenty to talk about on today’s show. We’ll discuss LeBron James’ decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. AP sports writer Jon Krawczynski will give us his thoughts on last night’s "Decision."

We’ll also discuss the reports that Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee will be traded to the New York Yankees. Multiple news outlets – Newsday, N.Y. Post and ESPN.com – are all reporting that the Evil Empire will ship prospects to the M’s for Lee.

It’s hard to be surprised anytime the Yankees are involved. But it’s being reported that the Yankees won’t get a negotiating window to discuss an extension with Lee, so this is just a two-month rental – for now – with them too. Obviously, one of the Steinbrenners must have been in the ear of GM Brian Cashman to get this done, because moves like this go against what Cashman has been doing with the Yankees – successfully - the last few years.

Hey, if you want to crown the Yankees, then crown them. Actually, you probably should. There’s no way they don’t win the World Series with Lee, CC Sabathia and that lineup. Also, how did the Cleveland Indians not win with Lee and CC? Not a good day to be in Cleveland today.

To take part in the show, call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com

Wolves do their part to help build another contender

If you want to get three superstars together and try to build an NBA dynasty, make sure to call the Minnesota Timberwolves first.

The Wolves acquired Michael Beasley – yet another power forward! – in a late trade Thursday night from the Miami Heat. The Heat got rid of Beasley to free up salary cap space after finding out earlier Thursday that LeBron James has decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this season.

The Wolves, of course, traded Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics a few years back, allowing him to join forces with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Garnett, who played a decade or so without winning a title in Minnesota, won one in his first year in Boston.

I guess this is the way the NBA is now. Stars team up to form super teams. But what does that do for parity? 

And, more importantly for fans in this market, what does it mean for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks of the world?

It’s unlikely markets like that are ever going to attract two or three superstars at the same time, and even more improbable that those markets will develop two or three superstars before their three-year rookie contracts expire.

That’s why, despite the presence of a salary cap, I think no league has quite the distance between the haves and the have-nots as the NBA does.

Sure, in Major League Baseball, there’s the Yankees and Red Sox, and no salary cap to stop them. But after that, there’s no reason to think year-in and year-out the Minnesota Twins aren’t capable of competing consistently with the rest of the bunch.

I’ll reference the "Title Track" portion of ESPN’s Ultimate Standings. The Timberwolves were dead last among all of the teams in the four major sports in terms of championships won or potential to win a title in a fan’s lifetime.

But it’s not just the Wolves. The bottom six teams in the rankings are all NBA teams, and it’s hard to dispute it.

At some point down the road, the NBA will have to confront this issue, or risk losing the fan bases in a number of its smaller markets.

Did ESPN refuse to confirm a report about itself to ESPN?

There are so many layers of absurdity to this story, that I’ll just open with the link to it right here.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting through "independent sources" that his own network will have a one-hour special on Thursday to announce where LeBron James is going to play next season.

But according to the ESPN report, ESPN would only confirm that there are negotiations for a special and would not confirm that a special is in place.

My head is spinning. There are so many things about this story that don’t sit well with me.

Radio show lineup today

I’m back on "Sports Talk" on 970-AM WDAY radio from 1-2 p.m. today with Forum reporter Kerry Collins.

Today, we’ll be talking about the "big" Twins-Yankees series. Do you think it’s a big series? We’ll try to break it down as best we can.

Also, we plan to discuss the future of LeBron James. Will he stay in Cleveland? 

We’re taking phone calls at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or you can e-mail us at talk@wday.com