Generally speaking, you don’t get cell phone reception on subway trains or in stations in New York. One of the exceptions to this rule is on the F line in Brooklyn, where the train comes above ground for two stops to pass above the Gowanus Canal. On Friday afternoon, my train came up out of the tunnel into the 4th Avenue/9th Street station, and Twitter exploded my phone. Two other guys, complete strangers who happened to be sitting near me in the car, fished in their pockets at the same time I did, and at the same time said “Oh shit.” You know what we saw.
— Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) July 11, 2014
For more than a week since the end of the season, the sports world had waited with bated breath for LeBron to decide between continuing his run in Miami and returning to his hometown of Cleveland. People went insane, posting things like this:
The Onion had my favorite take, announcing that LeBron was considering joining Al Qaeda. In the end, LeBron announced that he would not join Ayman al-Zawahiri or Pat Riley and would instead go home, with a lauded Sports Illustrated essay in which he talked about the importance of bringing not just a championship, but economic hope, back to Northeast Ohio. He deserves every bit of credit for that. Of course, it was also a sound basketball decision: With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh getting older and the team unable to effectively upgrade elsewhere, the Heat had no chance to improve over the next few years—meaning LeBron wasn’t winning another title there. Meanwhile, by going to the Cavs, he joined a team with young talent that can improve over the next few years (more on this in a second), and gets to stay in the far, far, far more forgiving Eastern Conference. LeBron got to make a good basketball decision and he gets to go home with a hero’s welcome. He played it perfectly. And then the other dominoes started to fall. Among them:
Carmelo Anthony: Well, this one didn’t have anything to do with LeBron. Melo was ALWAYS going back to New York, and not because of the “I’m a Knick at heart” bullshit. There was just no way he was walking away from the extra money the Knicks could give him. Does he care about the money more than winning a title? Obviously. If he wanted the best basketball fit, the best chance to win a title, he would have gone to Chicago. Now, I don’t totally fault him for this. Most of us would take the money too—especially if we’d grown up in what might be the most violent, impoverished, fucked-up neighborhood in America.
I wish he would have gone to Chicago, but like I said, I don’t blame him. Just calling it like it is.
Houston Rockets Schadenfreude: I don’t know why I hate Houston so much. Actually, yes I do. 1) It’s in Texas—fuck Texas; 2) they have the most insufferable star in the NBA, who subjected us all to the two-year Dwightmare; 3) James Harden, who should be awesome, has devolved into a thoroughly unlikable player—whiny and pouty on offense, maybe the worst defender in the entire NBA; 4) Daryl Morey acting like he’s smarter than everyone else (note: yes, I’m aware this is how Billy Beane acts—sports fandom is not a rational thing). So to watch Houston give away Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, miss out on the Bosh signing that might have made them a real title contender, and then in the process let Chandler Parsons, an overrated but still good player, walk? I enjoyed all of this immensely.
What I’m probably going to enjoy less than this is the resolution of the Kevin Love situation. My beloved Golden State Warriors could have traded for Love a month ago, but they dicked around and wouldn’t just put Klay Thompson in the deal and make it happen, and now Cleveland can suddenly put together an offer that’s better than what the Dubs can (especially if they throw Andrew Wiggins in the deal), at the same time offering Love an even better situation (playing with LeBron and Kyrie) than he would have had in the Bay. Goddammit. I really wanted to spend the next five years watching Curry and Love run pick and rolls.
If Kevin Love ends up on the Cavs because the Dubs wouldn’t give up Thompson, I’m going to murder someone.
So the balance of power has shifted, at least somewhat, across the league. Miami went from being the favorite in the East to probably being a second-round out. Cleveland might now the favorite in the East. Chicago could have been the East’s best team with Melo, although the signings of Mirotic and Gasol mean they’re the team that’s most likely to challenge the Cavs anyway, if Derrick Rose can actually still play basketball. Indiana? We’ll see what happens with Hibbert and Stephenson.
Meanwhile out West, the Rockets took a step back, the Mavs have likely improved (though they’re probably not a true contender). The Dubs squandered a chance to become a true contender. And none of this matters because the Spurs will probably win the West anyway. The more things change, the more they stay the same.