I was in the Stanford Basketball office last week and Brian Eskildsen, (our director of scouting and head video coordinator) was talking about a recent quote about LeBron James and his market value as a professional athlete. I looked up the ESPN article and here is an excerpt.
“What I do on the floor shows my value. At the end of the day, I don’t think my value on the floor can really be compensated for, anyways, because of the (collective bargaining agreement),….If you want the truth. If this was baseball, it’d be up, I mean way up there.”
The article went on to discuss that LeBron James has never had a “max contract” in his entire professional basketball playing career.
I am absolutely astounded that LeBron James has never had a max deal. It shows an incredible amount of unselfishness and commitment to the team. Can you imagine the Miami Heat without Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, and so many other great players on the team? This is all made possible by the fact that LeBron James was willing to accept less money in order for the team to be able to bring in excellent role players.
What’s even more interesting is the current collective bargaining agreement. First of all, let’s be honest, fans go to NBA games to see the superstars. People who are excited about basketball go to games to see LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and people like Shaq, Barley, etc. But the current collective bargaining agreement lowered relative salary on the superstars while raising or keeping the salaries on the role players roughly the same. The NBA is a great league and it was a dream come true to play in the NBA. But I do agree with LeBron in the sense that if the collective bargaining agreement mirrored the baseball model, his salary would be at least double his current level. Just some food for thought as I warm my computer back up and try to become a more regular blogger in the future!
My old teammate and fellow Bay Area native Brian Shaw is rumored to become the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the current Cleveland Cavaliers owner (Dan Gilbert) does sign Brian Shaw then I believe the chances of LeBron James staying in Cleveland will go up dramatically. Brian Shaw has instant credibility having played in the NBA for years and as a basketball mind he’s not only a point guard but he’s either played in the triangle offense or coached it for much of the past decade. When I was on the Lakers B. Shaw was one of the few players that had the complete respect of Shaq and Kobe both. Most importantly he has not only NBA playing experience, but championship experience as a player and as a coach.
When there were problems in the locker room it was Shaw who was able to communicate with everyone on the team from the best player all the way down to the 15th man. Sometimes he would reason with Phil Jackson in team meetings about strategy or different things going on with the team. One day during such a time, Phil Jackson laughed and told Brian that “he should really consider going to law school when he was finished with his playing career.” Obviously Phil respected Brian’s basketball mind so much he didn’t give Brian time to take the LSAT and brought him directly into the Lakers fold.
My prediction is that the new credibility that Shaw brings will absolutely play a factor in increased odds that LeBron James stays in Cleveland. With the mayor of NYC making overtures to LeBron and practically every other team in the NBA trying to woo him, things seem to be getting a little bit brighter in Ohio.
If he does NOT stay in Cleveland, how can he turn Chicago down. It’s a large media market with a great young nucleus of talent with Rose, Noah, and Deng. But my prediction is that he’s going to stay in Cleveland and a few years from now a newly minted banner will be hanging from the rafters.
Coach Mike Krzyzewksi of Duke Coach K had some interesting things to say about basketball in his recent Q&A with the Charlotte Observer. At one point in the article, he compares young high school basketball players to 16 year old Michelle Wie who is a tremendous young golf talent who is able to reap the financial rewards of turning pro at a young age. Coach K. stresses that he does not think the exodus of great high school players to the NBA will hurt the college game but that NCAA basketball is going to be fine regardless. I guess it’s just refreshing to see such a respected coach like Mike Krzyzewksi state publicly that opportunities like playing in the NBA should be based on merit—especially when most of the other professional sports are already allowing the best players to come join their ranks.
It is ironic that so many other sports allow high school athletes to make the jump directly to the professional level. It is really a tough thing to say though given that for every Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, or Kobe….there are countless players who don’t get drafted and never make an NBA team. For those guys, (who could have been stars in college), they’re thrust overseas or onto some CBA or NBDL team where they have to go against grown men who are ten years older and stronger.
The quote I found most interesting in a different article by the Charlotte Observer was this one. Here is the question that was posed to Coack K. When asked about the biggest differences between the NBA game and the International game, Coach K. responded by saying:
“I didn’t know this because I’m not coaching the NBA game, but in the NBA, they really don’t allow much physical contact. They’re trying to make it more of an offensive game, so there’s not the bumping and all that on the ball handler. There’s no hand checking at all. The international game is 180 degrees different. … That’s their rule, and we have to adjust to it, instead of saying, “That’s not the way we play.”
I think in the late 1990’s the NBA game was truly a physical, gritty, and very punishing league in terms of physical contact. Granted I was at home in college watching the games from the sofa with a bag of potato chips, but that’s my view. Sometime in the early 2000’s the philosophy of the NBA rules committee changed to promote more scoring. The end result is that in some ways, high school and college basketball are more physical than the NBA. You might think I am joking or that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I can tell you that when I first played in the Long Beach Summer League with NBA rules for the first time, I almost fouled out in the first game. I still remember Kevin McHale telling me two years ago about how “if you so much as tough a guy with your hand on the perimeter, it’s a foul,” whereas, “you can absolutely tackle a guy away from the ball in the paint and there’s no foul.” Perhaps the NBA should re-evaluate the direction of the physical contact rules so that we are more prepared for international competition.
At any rate, it is what it is, and we as players have to adjust to it. To finish up, I wanted to share one line from the letter that Dwayne Casey sent out to all of us players dated August 22nd. It was a letter that definitely got me fired up for the coming season. “Training camp will be demanding and everyone will have to earn their spot.” I haven’t heard a sentence like that since my high school coach John Raynor who referred to every single player every year as a “varsity CANDIDATE.” I am very excited for camp to start and I’ll be writing more about our informal team workouts in a few days.