LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony sure could use a vacation right now. (I’m sorry.) The NBA’s most famous foursome of friends have each experienced their own unique brand of misery during the first month of the new year, a rare moment in NBA time that’s seen the four stars make headlines for not ideal reasons. Who has had it the worst so far? Welcome to the first (and likely only) edition of the Banana Boat Crew Misery Index.
It hurts me to see Dwyane like this. Miami has highs in the '70s this week, while Chicago is a solid 40 degrees colder. In addition to that risking parka budget, Wade is now in the middle of a full-blown bleep-show in Chicago. The problems really started this summer, when the Bulls front office added two headstrong, poor-outside-shooting guards in Wade and Rajon Rondo to the roster. Wade said all the right things about the pairing at the time, but his frustrations with Chicago’s middling record blew over this week, when he and Jimmy Butler publicly criticized the team, calling out some players for their lack of effort. Wade threw in some curse words for good measure, and was reportedly upset with Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams for their shot selection.
With Wade already upset with a) his teammates b) his team’s record and c) Midwest winters are no joke, Rondo added fuel to the fire with a ludicrous Instagram post about how his veteran teammates in Boston would have never acted the way Wade (and Butler) did. This is the same Rajon Rondo who admitted to not playing defense at the end of his tenure with the Celtics, who was so hated in Dallas that his teammates voted against giving him a playoff share and who was deemed too dysfunctional to play for the Sacramento Kings.
So yes, it’s a complete clown-show in Chicago. You have to imagine Wade is pretty fed up, and his superfriends at least have the comfort of a lot more money coming their way. Wade has one year left on his deal with the Bulls. He can opt out, but he's unlikely to make as much on the open market. Wade will basically have to choose between money or misery in the off-season. This is practically a real-life version of Wade’s “Get Me Out Of Here!” commercial.
It’s not that I don’t feel bad for Carmelo Anthony, but he should at least be comfortable in his current environment, because the Knicks only exist in various stages of chaos under the stewardship of owner James Dolan. Melo has been involved in numerous trade rumors of late, which actually makes sense for the Knicks, who should have been building around Kristaps Porzingis before signing Joakim Noah and trading for Derrick Rose. The trade rumors are one thing, but Melo also has to deal with Phil Jackson, who has been taking shots at Anthony throughout the season, and Phil Jackson’s friend Charley Rosen, who wrote a takedown of Anthony earlier this month.
Melo seems engulfed in a classic power struggle with Phil. I wouldn’t blame Anthony for not wanting to be forced out of New York by an out-of-touch Jackson, who hasn’t proved he could build a winner the same way Anthony hasn’t proved he could currently carry one. Melo does have a nice card in his back pocket, a no-trade clause that forces Jackson to seek approval from Anthony before dealing him anywhere. Melo also has financial security thanks to the remaining two years on his contract. Still, this is a bad situation, and I selfishly want to see Anthony play for a contender, though it appears he and his family are quite happy living in New York.
LeBron took shots at his front office this week, going off about the Cavaliers’ need for a playmaker to lessen his burden. James certainly had a point, as he’s played big minutes lately for a Cleveland team that’s lost six of eight entering Friday. ESPN reported James’s frustration stems from what he believes is a lax attitude from ownership, which he thinks is not as committed to winning this year after already securing a championship. Is James right about this perceived cost cutting? Yes and no.
Cleveland does have an open roster spot, and it is a little weird for a title-or-bust team to have three very young guys in DeAndre Liggins, Kay Felder and Jordan McRae playing any amount of minutes. But Cavs GM David Griffin can’t conjure up cap space to swing a deal for this mythical playmaker James wants. Cleveland’s cumulative payroll the last three seasons is the highest in NBA history, and Griffin has still managed to make moves (Kyle Korver) to improve the team. The Cavs are very limited in how they can add players, and that’s probably restricting roster construction more so than money.
What’s funny is this has all the result of a strained relationship between James and owner Dan Gilbert. How is this relationship ever not strained? James hasn’t exactly been all buddy-buddy with Gilbert since his return to Cleveland, but he seemingly forged a solid enough work relationship so the two could co-exist after the infamous letter. Now? Bron is probably remembering all too well why he left Cleveland in the first place. (James was also clearly unhappy in Miami when the Heat made cost-cutting moves in his last year on the team.)
The Cavs will be fine, but LeBron is maaaaaaybe leaving the door *slightly* ajar for another exit in the future. Also, this team needs a backup point guard.
Paul is injured, and he was shockingly snubbed from the All-Star team Thursday. (His snub was so egregious the normally reserved Ben Golliver described the injustice with an exclamation point.) Still, judging by all the things happening to his friends, Paul’s situation is not awful! He should return from his injury in time for the playoffs, and the time off could give him fresher legs. Blake Griffin’s return should help the Clippers remain steady in Paul’s absence. And the All-Star omission, while unfortunate, at least makes some sense considering Paul won’t be able to play. If anything, Paul needs to stop hanging out with DeAndre Jordan and Damian Lillard, who apparently can’t go to Paul’s house without causing all kinds of destruction (at least in insurance commercials.)