Somebody Needs to Come Clean in LeBrongate
When it comes to LeBrongate, the fix is in, and it is so obvious.
That's because this sloppy attempt at what looks like a cover-up by NBA commissioner David Stern is so blatant.
Otherwise, given the legitimate questions about LeBron James vanishing during the playoffs this spring, and the extent of Chris Bosh's ankle woes this winter, and the timing of Dwyane Wade's huddle with his All-Star buddies this summer, the scenario would go like this ...
You're Stern, and you're coughing from all of the smoke surrounding James, Wade and Bosh becoming teammates on the Miami Heat. I mean, you just know a towering inferno called Something Is Obviously Wrong Here is raging.
So you call a news conference.
You announce you are spending the next few days, weeks or months interrogating these three guys, along with Heat guru Pat Riley, officials, coaches and players throughout the league, the folks on CSI: Miami, the women of The View -- everybody you can find -- until you discover the truth about how, when and why super free agents James, Bosh and Wade decided to work together.
That is, if you really wish to discover the truth.
"There is nothing here, at this time, that is causing us to launch an investigation," Stern said this week, suggesting he would rather discuss in depth why basketballs are round.
To translate: Since the NBA is fresh off the explosive charges of former referee Tim Donaghy involving rogue officiating in the game, and since Stern is claiming the league is gasping after losing $370 million last season, the commissioner wants no part of anything that could push the NBA closer to the edge of death.
Instead, Stern prefers to insult our intelligence regarding most things involving King James these days.
We needn't go further than that one hour of nothingness on ESPN last week called "The Decision." It featured James announcing he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers after seven seasons for the Heat, and Stern referring to the whole deal as "ill-conceived" -- you know, even though the all-powerful commish realistically could have probably killed the thing before it aired.
Consider, too, that Stern praised James for "his honesty and his integrity" on the telecast out of one corner of his mouth, and then Stern said out of the other that James received "poor" advice to do the show.
You've been exposed, and so has the cover-up.
Stern even nailed Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert with a $100,000 fine to shut up. That's because Stern thought Gilbert went overboard with his language in slamming James for leaving the team of his birth region ("cowardly betrayal"). Could it also be because Stern either suspected or knew Gilbert was dribbling near the truth?
Gilbert said James "quit" in this year's playoffs when the Cavaliers lost in six games to the Boston Celtics.
Did James quit?
Well, if the fix wasn't in, Stern would tell everybody that the commissioner either did -- or that he was going to do -- exactly what Gilbert suggested: Go back and look at the tape.
For those of us who did, it wasn't pretty.
In Game 5, for instance, the Cavaliers were ripped by 32 points on their home court with James looking apathetic throughout. He made just three of his 14 shots from the field.
Worse, in the decisive Game 6 for the Celtics, James played as if his mind was in -- let's see -- South Beach or something.
When the Cavaliers needed to scramble from a deficit at the end, Mike Brown tried to get James and the rest of his players to foul. Not only did James ignore his coach to the point of waving him off, according to one report from the Associated Press, but anybody watching on HD or otherwise could see that James was distracted, disinterested or both.
So it's fair to ask: Did he quit?
If so, did he quit consciously for whatever reason (that's why I think you need an investigation) or subconsciously, because he knew he was gone?
As for Bosh, he helped the Toronto Raptors become entrenched as a playoff-bound team in early February. Then he tweaked his ankle after the All-Star Break. With their best player listed as day-to-day, the Raptors tumbled so far and so fast down the pecking order of contenders that they eventually missed the postseason -- by one victory.
Here's my point: Many around the Raptors Nation wonder in hindsight if Bosh could have returned earlier than he did from his ankle problem, because he sat seven games.
If the Raptors win one of them, well, you know the rest.
Was Bosh protecting himself for free agency in general and the coming of Miami's Big Three in particular?
Either Stern knows the answer to these questions, or he doesn't wish to know. Mostly, he fears that if the public knows too much about how this particular sausage was made along the way to becoming what has been called the "Three Kings" around Miami, the public might refuse to eat anything served by Stern's league.
Not good for Stern, especially since the NBA is just a summer away from the possibility of a brutal work stoppage.
The thing is, if you're the omniscient commissioner that everybody thinks you are, you should just do the right thing. You realize that perceptions often are stronger than reality, and you announce you're investigating the rumors of the latest Miami Vice soon after James finishes boring the world last week before those live ESPN cameras.
For one, Bosh slipped during a news gathering to say Miami's big three talked for "months" about playing together. Then he quickly switched to "days" when he realized the magnitude of his gaffe.
For another, you had that exhaustive work in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer by Brian Windhorst, who has chronicled James' life forever. According to the story, James, Bosh and Wade began plotting for Miami in Japan as members of Team USA at the 2006 world championships.
The story also said Wade huddled with James and Bosh during the last week of June to seal the deal. If true, that would have been prior to the official start of free agency, which feels like tampering, collusion, tacky or whatever else that lacks ethics.
That is, if you really care about ethics.
"There's nothing here at this time that is causing us to lodge an investigation," Stern told reporters this week. "If somebody has some formal charge they'd like to lodge based upon a variety of gossip, bound together with some innuendo, infused by hearsay, I'd be happy to receive the charge, and we'll take care of it from that point on."