The Quick Hit: For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Orlando Magic, it’s all or nothing.
The all is having Commissioner David Stern hand over the Larry O’Brien trophy in two months and pronounce them world champions in a champagne soaked ceremony.
Only the all will do. Only the all will satisfy their demanding fan base. Only the all will satisfy their demanding owners, who have taken on multi-million dollar luxury tax payments for this precise moment.
While nothing, or falling short of an NBA Title, will force Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Orlando to make wholesale changes this off-season. Right or wrong, fair or not, these are the stakes when playing for a contender.
The Cavaliers have, perhaps, the most wagered on the next two months. For instance, last summer, Ben Wallace, who likely would’ve accepted a buyout on his expiring pact of $14 million, was sent with Sasha Pavlovic to the Phoenix Suns for behemoth centre Shaquille O’Neal, who made $20 million in 2010.
More recently, the club sent Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ expiring contract to the Washington Wizards for stretch four-man Antawn Jamison. Jamison, a former All-Star, wasn’t cheap. And it certainly wasn’t cheap re-signing Ilgauskas after the rebuilding Wizards bought him out.
Owner Dan Gilbert has never had an issue opening his wallet, but this season extra resources were invested because – as the world knows - reigning MVP LeBron James becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. James can walk and the club would get nothing in return.
So Gilbert spent like your girlfriend/wife at the Jimmy Choo outlet store for two reasons. First, the thinking is James won’t leave a champion, especially if there’s the nucleus to form a dynasty. Second, if 2010 is James’ swan song in Ohio, the organization might as well go for broke.
Their eighty year old owner realizes the end is near. Instead of passing the team onto his talented, capable, and experienced daughter, he named his son, despite a mediocre track record, as successor.
Naturally, the team’s high profile and Hall of Fame coach, who is without a contract for 2011, is in a relationship with the same daughter. And naturally, there's tension.
Such a soap opera is only possible with the star studded L.A. Lakers. Keep in mind Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom are all signed long-term for the GDP of a developing nation.
Coach Phil Jackson, who wants a raise on his $12 million per annum salary and is dating the owner’s daughter, will make a convenient scapegoat if the purple-and- gold don’t win a second straight championship. After all, another coach won't be so expensive or factor into the ownership squabble.
Meanwhile, expectations are high in Orlando. Last year’s Eastern Conference Champions added considerable cost to their books in the off-season by trading for Vince Carter, signing Brandon Bass, and matching the Dallas Mavericks’ offer sheet to Marcin Gortat.
However, adding Matt Barnes’ tenacity and Jason Williams’ experience showed ownership was committed to returning to the NBA Finals and, this time, winning it all.
They could use the financial boon of a deep playoff run because Orlando has major salary commitments, $82 million, but can’t generate revenue like a major market. And without a championship, ownership might be reluctant to continue spending.
Problem is there’s only one ‘all’ for Cleveland, L.A., and Orlando to win. And being left with ‘nothing’ means changes.
What happens if the Cavaliers, Lakers, and Magic don’t win a championship? What changes occur? Get at us in the comment box below with thoughts. Photo courtesy of Tiger's Killers.