Monday, November 29, 2010

Advice For LeBron--And The Heat

I have turned on LeBron. One year ago, I worshiped the guy. Now, following his dissing of his hometown, his one hour TV special to announce the dissing of his hometown, his giving himself the nickname "King James", and his stupid new Nike commercial, I've grown to dislike him very, very much. I used to think of him as perhaps the greatest physical talent I had ever seen on the court--a down-to-earth guy who would win many titles. Now, I think of him as an egomanical coach killer.

So, it is with great hesitation that I offer this advice to LBJ. Nothing would please me more than to have the Cavs finish with a better record this season than the Heat--but that's not going to happen. What also isn't going to happen is Miami winning the title. Unless they follow my plan.

There are a few guys in the league who I've always thought were out of position. Two guys in particular who play the 2 & 3 spots that I've always thought should be point guards. One is Brandon Roy--he was a point guard for half of his four years in college at Washington, and when you watch Portland games he does more ball handling and playmaking (especially in the 4th quarter) than anyone on the team, including the always overrated Andre Miller. Roy's rookie year I thought he was Portland's point guard, because that's what it looked like on the court and because Jarrett Jack sucked. For his career Roy averages 5 assists per game, an has a great feel for the art of passing. The Blazers have nothing to lose, having not won a playoff series since '00--although I understand that Roy's knees are bad, and playing point might be too much. However, playing the off guard position requires you to chase guys like Kobe and Wade and Manu night after night, which isn't exactly a vacation for your knees.

But I digress, because it's the other guy in the NBA that should be playing point for his team that I really want to discuss: LeBron. He currently leads the Heat in assists at 8 per game. Imagine what kind of assist totals he would rack up if he went Magic Johnson on us? It's soon-to-be Miami head coach Pat Riley's job to talk LeBron into being his team's Magic. In fact, that's what Riley and LeBron both mentioned as a big factor in his choosing Miami--he didn't want to worry about how many points he scored, he just wanted to set up Wade and Bosh. So why not do it? Right now James and Wade are each averaging 22 ppg. Who exactly is setting up whom?

The Heat have no point guard. They are a mess right now, with everyone worried about deferring to everyone else. Nobody on the team wants to be seen as a ball hog, so they all go overboard to please their teammates. Giving LeBron the point guard duties would establish desperately needed order. LeBron is, along with Jason Kidd, the most gifted passer in the game today. His ball handling is good, not great--but Magic wasn't exactly Curly Neal. As long as you know how to take care of the rock, you don't need to be an otherworldly dribbler to play an effective point. And, Magic was 6'9 (soft), LeBron is 6'8 (chiseled)--both a matchup nightmare with the size to see the whole court.

Plus, Wade is the Jordan-esque closer on that team, not LeBron. Things would work a lot better if it was James setting up Wade for the kill. LeBron looked like he might become a Jordan-esque closer, but that was just for one night in Auburn Hills in '07. He never got there again.

I really believe that LeBron would put up Magic-like numbers if he played the point--he would average 18 points and 12-15 assists per game. I think he would love it. And, taking over the most unselfish position on the court would do wonders for his image.

We would also find out if LeBron is a winner or not. Magic was great because, above all else, he had a burning desire to win. We don't know if LeBron has that. We don't know anymore if LeBron is a classic leader, or just a spoiled talent. Moving him to point would answer a lot.

But, since it's my great desire to see the Heat fail, I hope that they don't read this blog.

Monday, November 8, 2010

We've Never Seen Anything Like These Cowboys

The 2010 season has, quite simply, been the worst Cowboys season of their 51. Two other poor campaigns come to mind: 1960 and 1989. However, there were no expectations for either of those squads. In 1960, the Cowboys were a first-year expansion team with some former Giants assistant named Landry coaching them--they were expected to go 0-12, and they went 0-11-1. 1989 was Jerry and Jimmy's first year--they were expected to fall on their faces, and they did, going 1-15.

2010 is different. This team was thought by many--locally and nationally--to have the most talented roster in the NFL. This team was picked by many--locally and nationally--to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 45 at the Deathstar. The Cowboys strutted around training camp like the cock of the walk. Wade Phillips was noticeably relaxed and overconfident. Stephen Jones confided in those who would listen that "we really have something special here." So how did it go so wrong? For me, it all started back on the second weekend of this calendar year.

January 9th, 2010: Mission Accomplished

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14. The Cowboys win a playoff game. Wade raises the "Mission Accomplished" banner. He gets the monkey off of his back. So does Romo. So does the rest of the team. And, because they have a head coach who doesn't know how to drive a team or demand excellence from a team, they think they've arrived.

From that point forward, they put it on auto-pilot. They thought they had figured it out. They thought they would follow a natural progression upward. Never mind the fact that Minnesota beat them one week later 34-3--they saw that as a small speed bump on their road to next year's title. The organization was so impressed with itself for winning a playoff game that they forgot to do what any champion does: work harder in the face of success. This year's training camp was a joke, and everyone noticed except for Wade.

I believe that I can make a solid argument for Wade being the worst coach in Cowboys history. First, we eliminate Landry, Jimmy and Barry, because they all won Super Bowls. Campo? Terrible record, but he had awful rosters to work with. Parcells? Never won a playoff game, but rebuilt a bad team into a good one. Gailey? Got a team in demise, unlike Wade, who got a team on the rise. Plus, Wade was the head coach for Jerry's most disappointing moment as owner (the playoff loss to the Giants in '07), most embarrassing moment as owner (the 44-6 loss to Philly in '08), and the most embarrassing season he's ever presided over as owner (2010). Jerry said all of that, not me. Wade was brought in here to take the franchise to the next level up. Instead, he's dragged it down to it's lowest low in 51 seasons.

An Enema, Please

This franchise is a mess. We all know it starts with Jerry admitting he's Al Davis and stepping aside. But, we also all know that will never happen. Modern medicine and extreme wealth will keep Jerry alive for at least 30 more years, and he's not going to give up his GM title until he croaks.

Getting rid of Wade and getting a taskmaster head coach in place is step one. Letting that coach evaluate talent is step two--along with revamping your scouting department (how silly does it look now that they told us in '09 they were drafting for special teams?). Unless Jimmy or Bill has been in charge, the talent evaluation has sucked. Too often they look at athletic ability only and ignore the fact that the player might have a low football IQ (Felix Jones), might not be very tough (Mike Jenkins), might be more interested in making rap videos than playing hard (Marty B), might be more interested in celebrating mundane plays than focusing on the big picture (Igor Olshansky). It's got to change

As our buddy Mike Lombardi always tells us, the best teams are honest with themselves about their talent. But that won't happen around here as long as Jerry is in charge of the talent.

Jerry has a huge decision to make in the next few months regarding his next coach. Paul Sullivan writes in his new book "Clutch" something that I think directly applies to Jerry. He says "You cannot be clutch when you are making business decisions to advance your personal standing--or get revenge for being slighted." Since the day Jerry fired Jimmy, this is what he's tried to do--prove to people that he can build a champion without Jimmy's help. Prove to people that he's a football man. Prove that he can evaluate talent. Prove that he can juggle everything that people say he can't. Get revenge on the people who have slighted his abilities as a GM. He makes his business decisions based on advancing his personal standing--in other words, his ego.

That ego is responsible for poor talent evaluation now coming back to haunt them. That ego is the reason the most uninspiring and underachieving head coach ever was hired four years ago. That ego is the reason the Cowboys are now the laughing stock of the pro sports world. Have we ever seen a team, in any sport, with such lofty expectations turn into such a joke so quickly? No, we haven't. The Cowboys are making history of the wrong kind. The sad thing is, Jerry has no idea why.