Marching toward the NBA All-Star game Feb. 20, what better time than to give some credence -- or maybe examination is a better word -- to controversial comments LeBron James made some weeks ago.
In fact, The King might be on to something -- though it will never happen.
James commented about how much more competitive teams would be if the NBA were to "shrink" the league. Thinking about it, maybe he is right. Just watch some All-Star games past.
Of course, it will never happen.
Neither the NBA Players Association nor the league owners would go for it. Die-hard fans, too, still want their NBA teams win or lose. Lakers' Derek Fisher, president of the NBA Players Association, immediately took James to task, and James backed away from the comments saying they were taken out of context. Certainly, too much money to be made, and, fewer franchises mean fewer multimillion contracts for players.
But consider the way of the league in 2010-11. While we delight in anticipating the playoffs with the Heat, Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Bulls, Magic and Hawks as the prime-time title players, 14 of the league's 30 teams are sitting below the .500 mark and three others are at barely above .500.
And just look at the sorry state of some of the franchises -- such as the knucklehead Washington Wizards these days, 0-25 in road games for the season, and the miserable 9-45 Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of 26 in a row before snapping the skein against the Clippers. The Nets, Raptors, Kings, and Timberwolves aren't faring much better.
So while he did backtrack, maybe LeBron James is on to something. In this column, we just can't let James off the hook so easily. We need to have some fun first.
So let's do what LeBron said originally and shrink. Let's go radical and eliminate 12 franchises: Minnesota, Sacramento, New Jersey, Indiana, Memphis, Cleveland, LA Clippers, Charlotte, Toronto, Milwaukee, Denver and Golden State. Sorry guys. No rhyme or reason for our choices. Most of you have been proud franchises down the years , but we have to shrink somewhere. So Nothing against those aforementioned locales, and, remember, we're having fun here.
By the way, you'll note we're keeping the old-school franchises from the 60s, 70s and 80s, such as Washington (nee the Baltimore Bullets, Chicago Zephyrs, Chicago Packers), Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Besides, this blog is based in Baltimore-Washington, so the Wizards are our baby.
So here is what it comes down to: With a league shrunk by more than a third, we can divvy up the superstars and do a Big 3 for the remaining teams. Heck, let's instead go for a Big 4 for the remaining teams.
Here goes, in no particular order, with commentary:
Miami Heat: James, Wade, Bosh are as good as it gets, in fact, revolutionary, no matter how you feel about Cleveland and "The Decision." But whether the Heat can truly compete with Boston in a 7-game series without a big bruiser in the middle remains to be seen. We'll know a lot more after the two face off today on national TV. Erick Dampier, Juwan Howard and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas may not be enough for the bigs stockpiled in Boston, so we'll ship the talented Michael Beasley and his 20.3 scoring average back their way from Minnesota to make that Big 4..
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest are a serious Big 4 already. You know, two-time NBA champions. And they still have long Andrew Bynum to contend with on the boards. So as enticing it might be to put Chauncey Billips in a Lakers uniform since we are breaking up the Denver Nuggets, we can't do it. But it is tempting as Billips would look good running the show alongside Kobe?
Boston Celtics: Boston coach Doc Rivers finagled Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on the East All-Star roster --even though the Celtics failed to win a championship last season. All great players and you can't argue much against those four, but four Celts as All-Stars is a bit much. We're not talking Russell, Cousy, Bird, Heinsohn, McHale or Havlicek. Let Rivers win another title first before he starts stockpiling All-Stars like Joe Torre (Jorge Posada).
New York Knicks: With Amar'e Stoudemire, a great start toward a Big 4. But it's time to overhaul the backcourt. So steady Devin Harris of New Jersey and spectacular Monta Ellis (25.1 ppg.) of Golden State, welcome to your new team. We like Raymond Felton at the point, but Harris would be an upgrade. And to round out a Big 4, we'll move Andrea Bargnani and his 21.5 ppg. over from Toronto. Can you say Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari.
Washington Wizards: Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, John Wall, Zach Randolph. Maybe time for Melo and Gay to come back home (Baltimore) with Wall dishing it out. Melo wants to be in NYC, surely, but to us he will look just as good strolling Capitol Hill, K Street and dining on the Potomac. And big Zach from Memphis can score and board with the best of them. (Plus, since the Wiz are our fav team, we're shipping Steph Curry of Golden State back East to the nation's capital to help Wall.)
Detroit Pistons: We were going to put the Pistons on an ice floe and roll them out to sea, but that Super Bowl commercial and the gripping TV show "Detroit 1-8-7" (Natalie Martinez, wow!) changed our minds. So you start, of course, with vets Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Baron Davis of the Clippers is still a heck of a point guard, so he looks good with Hamilton and Prince. Then drop in the bad boy rookie DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento. Detroit had the original "Bad Boys," so the Motor City also welcomes J.R. Smith from Denver to wreak more havoc.
Phoenix Suns: Sure, Steve Nash is ancient, but can still dish the ball. Vince Carter and Grant Hill are among the biggest names in the game, but those North Carolina-Duke ACC glory days are well beyond them. So Nash needs a bit of a spark and some bulk to power up these wily veterans. First Darren Collison from Indiana comes in to back up Nash at the point and Nene Hilario slides over from Denver. While he's no Stoudemire, Nene will bring a bit more skill to the Phoenix post.
Philadelphia 76ers: Let's reward Doug Collins here. Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala go ahead and welcome Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon from the Clippers to the City of Brotherly Love. Brand is not the Brand of old and it seems Iguodala's star is dimming, but it is the Sixers with a legacy of Chamberlain, Erving, Barkley, Cunningham, Cheeks, Malone and Dawkins. They deserve to be good again, so we'll let young Blake carry the torch. For good measure, here is where Stephen Jackson (reminds of Andrew Toney) of Charlotte lands too for good measure.
San Antonio Spurs: Already with the best record in the NBA at 45-9, and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, what else could the Spurs need? Well, since this is a Big 4 (though Richard Jefferson is a big star in his own right), let's go ahead and plug in the rook Derrick Favors of New Jersey in behind Duncan.
Oklahoma City Thunder: We love Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. Could the missing piece to the puzzle be none other than Kevin Love from Minnesota. Love and his rebounding, double-double prowess lobbied hard and got to be an All-Star. Imagine him going up after Durant missed shots. Since we like OKC so much, here is where Billips from Denver shows up. Since ol' Chauncey is no longer an All-Star, he shouldn't mind serving as a sounding board/backup for young Westbrook.
Houston Rockets: Houston has Kevin Martin and his 23.5 ppg scoring, and that's a good start. With no Yao Ming, Luis Scola is proving to be decent, qualifying as a piece of a Big 4. Probably an upgrade is due at the point, so why not Jose Calderon and his 8.8 apg coming in from Toronto. And bring in J.J. Hickson from Cleveland and the emerging two-guard Arron Afflalo from Denver. Not a super-duper Big 4, but, hey, we're moving the players about.
Chicago Bulls: With Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, who can argue with the Bulls and their sterling 36-16 record. But for good measure, we'll have efficient Danny Granger at 20.9 ppg make the short trip from Indiana to the Windy City to add some scoring punch.
Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard might be Superman, but it will take more than Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to keep Howard away from the Kryptonite that is Miami and Boston in the East. Marcus Camby/Kenyon Martin coming from Portland/Denver to help Howard staff the frontline might seal the deal. Problem is both have been battling injuries all year.
Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams mean some of the best raw talent around, yet not likely to get Atlanta to the Eastern Conference final. So why not add even more pure talent -- young stud Tyreke Evans coming over from Sacramento to run the point for a fading Mike Bibby. And for good measure, we'll throw in Robin Lopez from Jersey.
Portland Trailblazers: A big four? LaMarcus Aldridge should be an All-Star and the injured Brandon Roy is as tough as they come. So that's half the battle. But we're adding Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut from the Bucks with O.J. Mayo coming in from Memphis. Might help resurrect the Rose Garden days of Bill Walton-Maurice Lucas.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzi is Dirk, but, really, who else on this team rates when you think of a championship? Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion are older and Caron Butler is always hurt. But with the talent level already, here is what we do: David Lee from Golden State will add some punch to the lineup with Tyson Chandler is already playing well and Jason Terry big-time off the bench. To give Mark Cuban a little more money to spend, Ty Lawson is coming in from Denver to give Kidd some back up.
New Orleans Hornets: Surely Chris Paul should be playing in New York, but we like basketball in the Big Easy where the legend of Pistol Pete thrilled us. David West is formidable at the 4 and Emeka Okafor is solid. But the Hornets need to get bigger so let's go with Roy Hibbert from Indiana. Then we'll add in slam-dunk champ DeMar DeRozan and his hops from Toronto. And since we admire Antawn Jamison from his D.C. days, his leadership and hard work could solidify this group.
Utah Jazz: Deron Williams lost Carlos Boozer to free agency and needs some backup. Al Jefferson is a solid center and Paul Milsap dependable. Andrei Kirilenko is making almost $18 million a year, but never has added up. Neither has Mehmet Okur. So, to satisfy Williams (they say he ran Jerry Sloan out), we'll bring in Gerald Wallace from Charlotte for inside scoring and Indiana's Mike Dunleavy for outside punch. And wouldn't Marc Gasol look good in a Jazz uni, competing head--to-head in the West with his bro.
- DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog column about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach editor M.V. Greene at DMA722Sports@gmail.com
Photos: James, Wade, Bosh photo, NBA.com