|For LeBron, we'll give you ...|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
When the balls were bouncing and spinning in the bingo barrel last night, there was nothing a GM could do but hold his breath and hope. If you listened closely, you could hear whispered prayers and mumbled promises to the supreme being: "I swear, if you do me this one favor, I'll never ..."
But after the little ping came ponging down in favor of Cleveland, the draft no longer belonged to the gods or to the fickle fingers of chance. After the ball had spoken, it was man's turn, and if you listened closely throughout the first few hours of Cavalier-bliss, you could hear cell phones ringing. The powers of persuasion had pushed fate and luck out the way -- guys were pitching deals, putting on the hard sell, looking to wrangle their way into a date with King James.
The way we heard it, Gordon Gund got all sorts of offers last night. The way we heard it ...
The Rockets were all set to part with their first-round pick, Cutino and Stevie Franchise, Yao's sweet little iBook, the big rocket ship logo on the floor of the Compaq Center and the full set of alien decoder rings that comes with it, plus a pair of Robert Reid autographed short-shorts.
The deal broke down for two reasons: One, the Rockets wouldn't throw in Rudy T's gravely voice -- you can trade the Franchise, but you can't go trading the X-factor, don't ya know. And two, their 13 slot actually belonged to Memphis anyway.
So then Mr. West catches Gund on the phone on his way out of the studio, and he says he's not calling to make a deal, but just to offer his congratulations. It's a marvelous opportunity, LeBron's a great talent, I wouldn't worry at all about his age -- look at what we were able to do with Kobe, yada yada yada.
Gund starts looking pale, his throat's drying up and shrinking a bit. He hangs up, hands shaking, and ducks quickly into his limo, just seconds before the suffocating Vader mind-control thing the Genius is working completely overtakes him.
Seattle called to say they'd be willing to deal the rights to Scottie Pippen if maybe they could get Olden Polynice in the deal. Oh wait, that wasn't last night ...
Right, right, last night, they rang to say LeBron was easily worth their 12th pick, Ray-Ray and Reggie Evans.
When they heard nothing on the other end of the line, they pumped up the deal by adding Spencer Haywood's double-jointed fingers circa 1973, a year's supply of free lattes for all Cavs' players and staff, and outright ownership of the Space Needle, which citizens of the Emerald City have been looking to unload since about 10 minutes after the close of the 1962 World's Fair.
Gund has a soft spot for buildings, and for naming them after himself, so he was actually listening. But the deal somehow felt incomplete to him.
The Needle is good, he said. I like the Needle. Tell you what -- throw in the Wheedle and we're in business.
The Supes hung up. Kids love the Wheedle. Lose the kids and you lose the future, they said. What good is LeBron if the kids aren't here to see him, they said. No Wheedle, they said, no way. We'll put Sweetney down low and be happy with it. Hell, we'll put the Wheedle down there with him. Kids'll love it.
What were the Warriors willing to part with? The 11, and Jamison or Jason Richardson, plus a bunch of these cushy chair pillow dealies, the secret powers and true heart of their Silver Surfer logo guy, and a year's worth of free-throw lessons from Rick Barry for all Cavs players.
What wouldn't they let go of? Well, if they had a say in the matter, they wouldn't let go of Gilbert Arenas. But they don't have a say in the matter of Gilbert, so flexing what muscles they do have, they're holding fast and firm to those suits Al Attles used to wear, every one of which is hanging in a vacuum-sealed bag in a climate-controlled closet in the executive suite at the Coliseum.
Some serious Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song mojo in those babies. You can talk all day about how mature LeBron is, but there ain't no way he's got the savvy and stones at this young age to match the spirit of those suits.
And the Wiz? That Juan Dixon appearance on the dais last night was a tell: Jerry Stackhouse, straight-up, Baby. That was the Pollin offer.
The Cavs are still laughing. We'd rather have Bobby Dandridge, they said. Now, today. Suit up Bobby D, throw in Wes and MJ -- oh, wait, you can't do MJ, can you? Bummer. You were close, too. No, really, this deal was looking real good to us.
The Cavs are still laughing.
The Knicks didn't call. Their guy Allan Houston was just running around trying to find Stern: Have you seen the Commissioner?! I need to talk to the Commissioner. We had a deal. We did everything he told us to do. Our GM, Scott Layden, said all the right things. He said stuff like, "Everybody is hoping for good luck, but in reality, you have to be prepared for wherever you end up. We're looking to improve the team, that's the most important thing to us."
He said all that crap the Commish told him to say. And now this? The freakin' Cavs?! Like LeBron isn't going to just shrivel up and die in Cleveland?! Like Ricky Davis is ever gonna pass him the ball? Seriously. So what, now I've got Pavel Whatshisbucket coming to town?! That's supposed to help me? Supposed to free up Spree? Right. That's the ticket. That'll get it done. I can see the Podkolzin jerseys flying out the door now. We play in New York City. Stern knows that, right?!
That's the way we heard it anyway.
Billy Knight was like, "What happened? Were we even in this thing? I was up on stage, right? Did you see me? Had the hair just-so and everything. I was looking good. You saw that, right? No, seriously, what happened?"
Then George Karl of the Bucks gets on the horn to Gund and says something to the effect of, This kid is going to do nothing but break your hearts. He's one of those "modern" players, you know what I'm saying? All flash. Yeah, he says all the right things, but look at the Hummer, man. I'm telling you, he's a heartbreaker. What you need -- you know what you need? -- you need an old-school warrior, someone who will set the tone for your guys, teach Ricky and Dajuan a thing or two about playing to win.
You need a guy like Payton. What do you say? The eight spot and GP for King Trouble? With the eight, you probably get the Polish kid, Lampe, to play the four for you (and let's be honest, you guys need another swingman like you need a hole in your head, anyway) and you get the veteran leadership and Secretariat-size heart of Payton. Deal?
Gund says nothing. Truth be told, Karl's rat-a-tat-tat enthusiasm scares him a bit.
Later, Gund's phone rings and the voice on the other end of the line says, "Gordon, Gordy, Gord-o, the Gordmeister, Gordawn-Gordawn, Gordarooski. What's shaking? Good, good, good. So here's what I'm thinking: The seven, plus my two babies. That's right ... both Tyson and Eddie. What say you?"
Gund hesitates then quietly says: "Jerry, is that you? Um, you know you're not the GM of the Bulls any more, right Jerry? You know that, right?"
Elgin Baylor never called.
We just don't grade the James kid all that high, he said. And besides, we're happy with the core of players we have right now.
Gotta love the Clips.
Pat Riley called crying -- a technique he learned from one of the unabridged editions of the "The Art of War." ("All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which each victory is evolved.")
Might have worked, too, but Gund thought it was still Krause.
Toronto called ready to move the fourth pick in the draft, Vince Carter's untapped potential and an accompanying team doctor, 10,000 Rance Mulliniks throwback bobblehead dolls, the world famous Canadian Brass Quintet, and a lifetime supply of Molson.
Gund was not impressed: That's it?
That's all we got. Well, that and Mo' Pete and Celine Dion.
Yeah, um, I got another call coming through ...
It was Denver owner Stan Kroenke on the line.
He didn't want to work a trade -- he feels pretty good about life with either Darko or Melo alongside Nene; for starters, he loves the all-name thing he's got brewing -- but he wanted Gordo to know he could hook him up with a trunk full of Sky Masterson suits like the one he was wearing on the dais last night in Secaucus.
"Pinstripes say you don't take no guff off of nobody," he said. "Pluswhich, they're very slimming.
"And one of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider."
Gund had no idea what he was talking about. And besides, he didn't want any suits. What he could use, if they were offering them, were a couple of those old Nuggets jerseys with the skyline of Denver on them. Gund has a soft spot for buildings ...
And just when he was getting all caught up thinking about an entire city named Gund, Detroit called ...
... just to say: We're cool. We like our spot just fine. Best of luck with the kid.
There it was. Best offer Gund heard all night: Sit tight, roll with the kid.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.