Monday, May 24, 2010

No Longer His Chosen One: Mike Brown Out



That's what Brown can do for you.

That's what Mike Brown did for the Cleveland Cavaliers in five years.

Doesn't matter.

Brown was relieved of his coaching duties. The move saved the Cavs $4.5 million dollars. It may have saved them a lot more though, and not just in terms of dollars.

Despite all the games Brown won for Cleveland, the Cavs clearly are sending the message to LeBron James that they will do whatever it takes to win a championship. This is the same message they've sent since LeBron has been in Cleveland. More importantly, since Danny Ferry was hired by Dan Gilbert to run the franchise in 2005.

Shaquille O'Neal. Mo Williams. Delonte West. Ben Wallace. Wally Szczerbiak. Daniel Gibson. Antawn Jamison. JJ Hickson. Anthony Parker. Jamario Moon. Leon Powe.

Those are some of the names Ferry has brought to Cleveland to surround James. Ferry handpicked Brown to be the head coach. Brown was an assistant in San Antonio. In case you weren't aware, San Antonio has won 4 championships since 1999. Brown was an assistant for 3 of those rings.

Ultimately, Ferry (and Gilbert, and maybe LeBron too) made the right move. Brown took this particular team as far as they were going to go. The Cavs won 127 games the last two regular seasons. However, it's what they didn't do in the playoffs.

They didn't make it past the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite having homecourt last year, they lost to Orlando. Despite having homecourt this year, they lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round.

To avoid having to pay Brown his $4.5 million salary (which the team would have, had they not fired him before midnight tonight), the Cavaliers decided to go in another direction. But the direction is the same one they've been heading in since they drafted #23 (coming soon to an arena in year in a #6 jersey - team yet to be determined) in 2003.

Had the Cavaliers retained Brown as coach, maybe LeBron would have left? To me, it comes down to four simple things for LeBron.

1. Loyalty. By all accounts, he's extremely loyal. He always says the right things about loving Cleveland, loving Ohio, loving Akron, etc. He fired his agent and created LRMR marketing, also ran by 3 of his childhood friends. Even though LeBron could have told the Cavs to find a new head coach after last year's disappointing loss to the Magic, he didn't. The Cavs would have, and everyone knows they would have. They'd be foolish not to. Loyalty, for LeBron, will play about a 25% role in whatever decision he makes.

2. Winning. LeBron wants to win. As it stands, outside of joining forces with one or more of the following in any city - Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowtizki, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard - Cleveland is his best opportunity to win. The team has, for the most part, good chemistry. This depends on whether you believe the Delone West rumors and Game 5 (if you don't know what I'm referring to, please look it up). Winning will play about a 25% role in whatever LeBron decides.

3. Legacy. LeBron wants to be a global icon, whatever that means. The man already has countless awards and has won a lot of games. Everyone knows he's one of the best two players in the league. But LeBron wants to play basketball, win a lot of games, make a lot of money, and have his name attached to a lot of brands. Until he wins a ring, which will tie all of those things together, many detractors feel he doesn't deserve to be mentioned amongst the greats. His legacy, and desire to be a global icon, will play about a 25% role in whatever decision he makes.

4. Control. LeBron wants control. It's pretty clear. Give LeBron more of a say than your general manager, and he'll sign on the dotted line. Cleveland knows this, they realize that despite the fact they're willing to do whatever it takes to keep LeBron, the real key to keeping LeBron is giving him control. Ferry can still announce the trades and his title will still be general manager. But if LeBron stays, he's the one calling the shots. He's the one that called the shot w/ Brown. Control will play about 25% role in whatever decision he makes.

Three of those four factors are in the Cavs favor already. I'm assuming the conversation went like this.

Ferry: "So yeah, we're thinking of firing Brown... but we wanted to get your thoughts..."

James: "He's a good coach, but we've gone as far as we can go with this guy. I'm tired of dribbling the ball for 20 seconds and having to create something. I'm tired of his funny expressions. Charles Barkley is right... if I stay here, we should be pushing the ball."

Ferry: "Okay, I'll fire him, if that's what you want."

James: "Yeah, okay, whatever, I've got to go ice my elbow."


Tonight, the Cavaliers gave LeBron control.

The next move(s) is/are his. Will he remain in Cleveland? If he does, will Delonte? Doesn't he try to trade Jamison (cap relief in 2012), JJ Hickson (young big man the Raps covet), "Boobie" Gibson, Delonte and a future number 1 for Bosh? Does he tell Shaq that as fun as it was to have him in Cleveland, his services are no longer needed unless he's willing to accept about $1 million a year and a reduced role of about 6 to 8 minutes a game?

Who does he pick as his next head coach? Avery Johnson? Dwayne Casey? Mark Jackson? Jeff Van Gundy? Doug Collins? Oh, wait.

We've waited for the summer of 2010 to see what LeBron James will do. Did any of us ever think we'd be wondering what he'd do as the GM of the Cavs?

That's basically what happened tonight.

Ferry will let LeBron pick his roster, his coach, and whatever else he wants.

Likewise, Ferry also gave LeBron complete control to decide where he wants to play next year. "If you stay, you call all the shots. If you go, just make sure you do a sign and trade which will bring us back enough to save some face and remain competitive until 2012 when we have cap flexibility."

It may be the smartest deal Ferry has ever made.

It will be if it works. And it will save the Cavs a lot more than $4.5 million.

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