By MICHAEL DAY
Congratulations to the Oklahoma City Thunder for ruining my otherwise fun night by beating the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. You are now forcing me to contemplate a NBA Finals that includes you and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is like forcing me to go out for a night on the town where I can only choose between .50 beer specials, and this situation never ends in a good place. The taste is terrible and not worth the next morning’s hangover.
But..these teams are so well-liked and fun to watch.
Sure, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are awesome, and the Cleveland team scoring points at will is definitely not a boring brand of basketball to watch, so yes, point conceded. It’s not the players that I have a beef with, though. Oh no, it’s the teams’ owner and management that make my head spin.
Sam Presti receives a lot of credit for building the Thunder into a championship caliber team. The label genius gets attached to his name quite often. He drafted the core players: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc. This is all true, and no one can take this away from Presti. I do wonder, though, if Portland helped Presti out by picking Greg Oden first, because the obvious choice was then Kevin Durant after Oden was off the board as those two were clearly the top two picks in that draft. Would Presti have chosen Durant over Oden if he held the first pick? I am sure he says he would now, but hindsight always has a habit of making things a little more clear and obvious. I know people are tired of talking about the James Harden trade, but it needs mentioning that Presti is the guy who blew that trade, even if it somehow netted Steven Adams. None of the players traded for Harden are equal to Harden. I mean, one of the players, Kevin Martin left after one year – uhm, I guess he didn’t really fit in right, or was it that he just wasn’t as good as Presti thought? The other player, Jeremy Lamb, is no longer with the team, either. He also agreed to the atrocious Kendrick Perkins extension. Oh, and Derek Fisher played crunch time minutes for the Thunder in their series loss to the Spurs before Fisher finally retired. For a genius, he sure made some huge mistakes, but yet, he somehow magically pieced together a team that may yet win the title. What message does this send to aspiring GM’s? Hey, to build a championship team, screw up and trade a potential MVP candidate, overpay a guy who couldn’t score 20 points in a gym by himself, and squander years off two young stars’ careers. Yet, here they are poised for a championship run.
Anyone else picture the Thunder owner, Clay Bennett, sitting behind a big oak desk with his big ol’ cowboy boots propped up on the desk, lighting up a big ol’ cigar, and after exhaling smoke saying, “Can you believe those latte’ heads in Seattle actually thought I’d keep the team there? Why would I do that when I’ve got an arena right here? Boy…for a bunch of tech-savy people, they sure are dumb?” So what if Mr. Bennett doesn’t wear boots or smoke or whatever. This guy killed basketball in Seattle—he lied about his intentions, and he shouldn’t get to enjoy a title. No, nothing but years of heart-wrenching defeat is what this guy deserves, but that isn’t how things work – rich people get what they want all the time in this world, so I guess the championship is par for the course.
Cleveland’s owner, Dan Gilbert, almost makes Clay Bennett a viable rooting option by comparison. It’s incredible that this is even possible. How did Gilbert ratchet up his game to usurp Bennett? Well, he acted like a petulant child after LeBron James left to go play for the Miami Heat as evidenced by this letter he wrote after James’ departure. It was as if James left after a two-year renter’s lease instead of giving the Cavaliers seven years of service. Here are just a few paragraphs of the text from the letter.
This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.
The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
Did I miss the epic war story of LeBron cowardly retreating in battle? Aren’t these words saved for soldiers who shirk the battlefield? This is a lot of venom for a professional athlete who just decided to play for another team after seven years.
Naturally, LeBron decides to return to Cleveland, and now Gilbert is two series away from … oops, let’s just say one series away, because Toronto has no shot at winning. Gilbert is one series away from hoisting the trophy.
Golden State is the only team that stands in the way of this .50 beer night hades – ya know, possibly seven nights of choosing between .50 Team-Stealer or .50 Rich Crybaby. Please Golden State, find your shooting touch soon before I have to navigate a hangover I don’t want.
A couple of thoughts…Did Seattle deserve to have a basketball franchise? As for Bennett’s intentions, a local famous football couch also lied about his intentions, but I didn’t see anyone crucifying him. It all becomes a matter of which side he landed on. OKC love their Thunder and think it was the best decision ever. Does Seattle even remember they had a team.
As far as Cleveland goes…personally I feel Lebron deserves the title more than Cleveland. They chose to burn him at the stake. He has since came back and has now twice had them on the brink. This is his redemption. His chance to make it right. His lore. He wins a championship and there will be a statue of him erected.
This is the epitome of fandom. On one hand, arguing the owner sucks because he followed the money, the other argues that the owner sucks because he chastised the athlete for following the money. Only in sports can we have and eat our cake too.
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Thanks for stopping by the site and reading the article. I’m guessing you mean Saban? Yep, he did catch a lot of grief, in fact, I believe Dan LeBatard called him Satan for a long time after Saban accepted the job, and that is just one example. We could also argue the semantics of a coach leaving versus a team getting hijacked out of a city, but let’s just move on to, Does Seattle deserve a team? I think Seattle deserves a team as much as any other city – I mean, if the standard we judge whether or not a city deserves a team is based on whatever arena an owner thinks is needed, geez, get ready for a four-city league. Also, if the owners weren’t so darn greedy, Seattle would have a team with a league expansion, but the owners aren’t willing to slice the pie with any additional teams. If your argument is that the owners are free to follow the money at whatever cost, I agree – sure, we all know money is at the root of all these things. At some point, though, someone has to buy their product. That’s the beauty/curse of being a fan, we have to put up with whatever they decide to put out in front of us. So..yes… owners/rich people win…all the time.
Thought-provoking write-up. I enjoyed it although as a Sonics guy I always struggle with reading on this topic. The world of professional sports franchise owners is fascinating. Looking forward to following your blog!
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Hi. Thank you for reading the post and taking the time to comment. We really appreciate it and hope to produce more content to generate more discussion. ah… Seattle, yeah, I miss the Sonics at times. Other times, though, I am sort of glad I don’t have to deal with the angst of them losing in historic fashion (versus the Nuggets) or the 64 FT attempt Suns game in the Western Conference Final. Anyway, stop by often.