Thursday , May , 19 , 2005 Oly Sandor

To Keep LeBron James

The way LeBron James fired his agent must trouble the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After all, Goodwin Sports Management had been with the star since his senior year in high school. They had made him rich by negotiating lucrative endorsement contracts with several blue-chip companies. And none of it mattered. Last week, James dismissed his agent and replaced him with friends from high school.

In two seasons, the twenty-one year old becomes a restricted free agent. Cleveland can offer a one-year qualifying deal or match any contract that he receives from another franchise. But James could try to force a sign-and-trade and fire the Cavaliers like he fired his agent.

To Keep LeBron James

There are rumors about a conspiracy to get James out of Cleveland . The NBA wouldn’t mind if he left Ohio for a bigger market. Nike sponsors him and they’d like their spokesperson to play for the New York Knicks. In 2007-2008, the New Jersey Nets are moving to Brooklyn and they need a big name to sell tickets.

The Cavaliers must make changes on and off the court, so that James doesn’t attempt to join another team once his rookie contract runs out.

Dan Gilbert needs to hire a GM and then back away from the team’s basketball operations. Gilbert bought the Cavaliers at mid-season and then fired the coach and GM. His hands on, Mark Cuban approach kept Cleveland out of the playoffs, which surely frustrated the ultra-competitive James.

There’s management help available for the Cavaliers.  Jerry West wants out of Memphis and Larry Brown might trade Detroit ‘s bench for Cleveland ‘s front-office. Seattle GM Rick Sund is unsigned for next season and Chuck Daly’s name keeps popping up. Bottom line: the Gilbert dictatorship must realize that meddling owners rarely win championships and usually just annoy players like James.

Cleveland ‘s new coach must be able to handle a star like James. Phil Jackson has worked with basketball’s biggest names, but the Zen-master probably doesn’t want to deal with Gilbert. Nate McMillan is without a contract for next season. Flip Saunders and Scott Skiles are options. The Cavaliers will likely turn to Eric Musselman. This is a risk. Musselman had two mediocre seasons as Golden State ‘s head coach and remains somewhat unproven.

The Cavaliers need to use their cap room to surround James with better talent. The club is interested in signing expensive free agents like Ray Allen, Michael Redd and Larry Hughes. However, Bobby Simmons and Antonio Daniels would cost a lot less. Simmons and Daniels are solid players and the team would have enough cap room to bring back centre Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Gilbert should lobby Commissioner David Stern and the NBA owners to extend the length of rookie contracts from four to five seasons as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. This is a long shot, but it could keep James in Cleveland for an extra year.  Stern would listen to Gilbert because he paid 375 million dollars for the Cavaliers and with negotiations on a new CBA breaking down, the Players’ Association might extend rookie contracts if the owners bend on other issues.

Gilbert and Suns’ owner Robert Sarver could join forces on this matter. Sarver just paid 400 million dollars for the Suns and extending the length of rookie contracts would make it harder for Amare Stoudemire to leave Phoenix when his own rookie deal expires. Gilbert and Sarver need to find out what they can get for 775 million dollars.

Cavalier fans are just getting over Michael Jordan’s series winning jump shot on Craig Ehlo.  They would never get over LeBron James leaving Cleveland .

By Oly Sandor. Oly is an NBA analyst and a free-lance sports journalist based out of Vancouver , Canada . Even after watching the Vancouver Grizzlies draft, start and re-sign Bryant Reeves, Oly’s passion for hoops just couldn’t be denied. His basketball writing has appeared in insidehoops, eurobasket, hoopsvibe, and Ballerz magazine. Send him an e-mail at [email protected] .