LeBron's Decision - AFC North Notes



By Jim Hurley:

He's leaving home ... bye-bye.

Okay, so apologies to The Beatles as we somewhat tweaked that late 1960s hit song but you certainly get the message.

Not only did LeBron James bid farewell to the city of Cleveland last night with the announcement that he would be "taking his talents" to the Miami Heat via free agency but he made - what we truly believe - was an ill-fated career decision.

And the truth of the matter is we don't think James should have picked last night to make the very public (and very hyped) announcement because the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player told interviewer Jim Gray that he really didn't make a final decision until yesterday morning - so what was the rush, LeBron?

Guess what we're saying here is that James showed the type of body language both during the Gray interview and right after when ESPN's other folks queried him that he didn't appear totally comfortable with the decision although we don't doubt for a single moment James' sincerity that he wants to win "multiple" championships and no doubt he felt better able to do so in Miami as opposed to Cleveland or New York or New Jersey or even Chicago.

So, then why are we saying that James made a really bad career move?

Ahh, let us count the ways:

James may have been treated harshly late last night by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who called the seven-year Cavs megastar "narcissistic" and termed the departure a "cowardly betrayal" but the angry owner does have some points here:

The Cavaliers brought in players that could have been good fits with the team (and at what salaries Cleveland could afford after paying James his hefty annual sum) and even fired head coach Mike Brown following back-to-back 60-win seasons because that's what James wanted and still "The King" left town. Just because Chris Bosh didn't want to play in Cleveland didn't mean the Cavs would have been shut out regarding some other free agent stud but apparently that mattered little to LeBron.

If James had stayed put in Cleveland and helped fine-tune this team - his team, for goodness sakes! - than any championship he ever would have won in this championship-starved city would have been treated like earth-shaking news and would have been celebrated for a lifetime.

Now, if he wins one in Miami, it's really no big deal - this cast of characters is supposed to win titles now and we do wonder if James completely understood his historical significance to this town and this region of Northeast Ohio.

And that leads us to our next point as to why did was a bad career move for James:

Naturally, you heard all the ESPN experts weighing in that the 2010-11 Heat would be the favorites to win the East now that James has joined forces with Dwyane Wade and the aforementioned Bosh but - for all the silly talk about "sacrificing" (whether it be money or points) - the real story is that everyone's game must change now to make this a success story and we believe that all three of these rather self-centered players are too deep into their pro careers to start making serious changes:

Will James be happy taking only 15 shots inside of 25?

Will Wade resist the temptation to always be the one to take the last-second shot?

And is Bosh all that he's cracked up to be - it's not as if he's played in a whole lot of post-season games you know (see only 11 of 'em in the past seven years)?

And add more thing here:

We cannot be convinced that current head coach Erik Spoelstra will stay in that position for very long as Heat Team President Pat Riley will be champing at the bit to coach up these stars and thus get his sixth ring (and maybe more) as a coach but something tells us Wade doesn't want Riley in that role and James likely also will bristle at the thought of Riley calling the shots as the sideline general.

Mark our words: It could get very dicey in this regard.

Finally, it's simply the easy way out here for James.

Okay, so we realize we're not the first ones to state this opinion but consider that the challenge of winning in Cleveland or some other place that didn't just ink a pair of "max" contract players (or close to "max" contracts, in this particular case) should have been enough to make James feel as if he could be a real difference-maker. Now he's just gonna be another spoke on the wheel in South Beach and anything less that a trip to the NBA Finals next year will qualify as a major disappointment - no ands, ifs or buts about it!

Think about it for a moment or two: If James would have gone to New York or New Jersey or the LA Clippers - or stayed put in Cleveland - he would be conquering hero stuff but instead he's in essence asking Wade and Bosh to lift him to grand new heights and we simply wouldn't expect a true hoops champion to act like that - it's one thing to lose respect for James because of this circus-like atmosphere he guided the media/fans through the past week-plus but basically admitting that you need other superstars to get you a ring or two is pretty lame stuff if you're still in the prime of your career.

In all, James came off the happenings of the past week-plus looking conceited, self-important and more than a little nasty considering he went on national TV to kick the city of Cleveland in the seat of its pants.

Shame on "The King" - and, to steal a bit of thunder from Mr. Gilbert, we all were "witnesses" to one of the crassest career moves in professional sports history.

Just tell us when Miami's season opener is so we can bet with both fists against 'em!

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The National Football League Training Camps will be here by month's end and so let's stay in a pigskin frame of mind and continue to go 'round the league with a Division-By-Division look at some Pointspread News/Notes. Today, it's the AFC North:

BALTIMORE - Since the start of the 2000 season (when the Ravens won their one-and-only Super Bowl) this crew has boasted eight winning spread campaigns in 10 years including a 14-5-1 ATS (against the spread) log back in '00 and a spiffy 14-5 spread mark in 2008.

Overall, Baltimore is a bombastic 94-75-4 against the odds the past 10 years - a rock-solid .556 winning rate - and note that includes last year's modest 9-8-1 spread season that featured the stunning 33-14 AFC Wild Card Round win at 3 ½-point favorite New England.

Go back to that aforementioned 2000 campaign and you will discover that the Ravens are a collective 8-5 versus the vig in any/all post-season games including a splendid 4-0 pointspread run during that Super Bowl season but here-and-now Baltimore backers will note that this club has covered playoff road games at Foxboro and at Miami and Tennessee too in this brief John Harbaugh Era that began in 2008.

Finally, Baltimore is 6-3-1 spreadwise in its last 10 head-to-head battles with archrival Pittsburgh.

CINCINNATI - Last year's 7-10 ATS record means the Cincy Bengals now have strung together back-to-back-to-back losing season versus the vig the past three years while producing a ragged 20-28-1 spread log during this recent time frame.

Maybe what stands out most here is the fact that Marvin Lewis' squad has been some a rotten betting favorite: Last year alone the Bengals were an abominable 0-8 against the odds as chalk-eaters and they are a collective 4-17 ATS as favs since the start of the 2007 season ... folks, that's a .190 winning rate!

Ironically, last year's Bengals pounded out a 7-2 spread log whenever in the underdog role and so - if you simply wagered on the dogs in all Cincinnati games last year you wound up going 15-2 ATS for a scintillating .882 winning percentage.

Believe it or not, the Bengals have produced a better-than-.500 winning percentage as betting favorites only once since 2001 and that occurred in 2005 when Cincy scratched out a 7-5 ATS mark as chalk sides - so keep this poor favorite's history in mind this 2010 season.

CLEVELAND - Here's one of the crazier things that happened in the NFL '09 season: The Browns staggered badly out of the starting gate while losing 11 of their first 12 games SU (straightup) and yet wound up finishing off the season with a 10-6 ATS mark that ranked amongst the best in the league ... right, go figure!

The '09 Brownies did cover their final seven games in a row to put a smile on their backers' faces but did you know that this AFC North crew ended its 2008 season (under then-coach Romeo Crennel) on a six-game spread losing skein?

Note that in the past three years the Browns have gone 8-1, 0-4 and then 2-0 (last year) as betting favorites thus showing a real topsy-turvy side to this team's fortunes and one final note here is the Cleveland has failed to cover its season-opening game the past five years in a row.

PITTSBURGH - Now, was that any way to follow up on a Super Bowl-winning season?

The 2009 Steelers never did get untracked spreadwise en route to a 5-10-1 ATS season that included five spread losses in their first six games and a shoddy 4-10-1 spread record whenever in the favorite's role. Mike Tomlin's club last year went 1-4-1 vig-wise in divisional play with the lone cover inside the AFC North coming in a 20-17 overtime loss at 7 ½-point fav Baltimore when Steelers' starting QB Ben Roethlisberger didn't play because of injury

Note that Pittsburgh still sports a shiny 94-75-5 ATS mark overall since the start of the 2000 season - a .556 winning rate that exactly matches the spread mark of rival Baltimore during this time frame (the Steelers played one more game during this time and "pushed" that - see above Ravens spread record). Interestingly enough, the Steelers were wagering pups just once last year - that Sunday Night game in Baltimore - and now are 16-7 vig-wise as dogs since the start of the 2004 season.

NOTE: Check out our MLB News/Notes plus the latest - and final -- edition of NFL Pointspread goodies in the next Jim Sez.


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