Fortune Magazine Cover LeBron JamesFrom Fortune Slams To Varejao Quotes

While LeBron is still sitting out with a sprained finger, those of us going through LBJ withdrawal can get our fix by checking out the latest issue of Fortune Magazine. The article is a fascinating read, as it discusses LeBron, Inc CEO Maverick Carter, Warren Buffett, and Nike, amongst other aspects of the LeBron Empire.

The one disturbing aspect of the story, though, is the repeated slams of the city of Cleveland. We’ve become somewhat numb to the major media bashing of both the city and the organization, as they all seem to be in collusion together in an attempt to convince LeBron to get out of Cleveland ASAP. This was amongst the harshest criticisms I’ve read yet, though.

“Ultimately, LRMR’s future does not rely on research but on James’s winning an NBA championship, and in Cleveland’s current lineup he is getting little support. This is an issue, because the success of the Cavaliers – who at presstime were playing .500 ball in the early season – will dictate the success of LRMR. For better or worse, James is locked into playing for Cleveland until 2010 at least, based on a contract extension he signed in 2006.

Ohio may be home, but it is not a major media market. And there has been speculation within the league of his moving to New York or Los Angeles when his contract is up.”

Again, this isn’t anything we haven’t heard/read before, but after a while it starts to get old. I don’t know what LeBron’s going to do in 2010. I don’t think he has to leave Cleveland. He’s already the 3rd highest endorsed athlete, almost $10 million higher than the next closest NBA player, Kobe Bryant. I also think LeBron would be perfectly happy to stay in Cleveland, but he’s not going to do so out of charity. If Danny Ferry can build a successful team around LeBron in the next couple years, there will at least be a chance of LeBron sticking around.

Looking around the web, a lot is being said about Anderson Varejao now that he will be rejoining the Cavaliers. SI.com has already spoken with Varejao. For his part, Varejao is trying to take the higher road now (not that he has a lot of choice….he’s going back to Cleveland whether he really wants to or not),

“It’s good. I’m happy. I’m going to be back playing basketball. I am grateful to the Bobcats for signing me to the deal I wanted, but the rules … I was restricted. … But I’m happy to be in Cleveland.”

Andy also talked about his teammates, saying:

“They all know me and they love me. I love them. We have no problems. They understand me and the situation, and they know what was going on. I spoke with Sasha and Z. They are happy. They welcomed me back and said, ‘We’ll see you in a couple days.’ ”

Finally, he addressed his comments last week about now wanting to come back to Cleveland,

“I love the fans in Cleveland. I just was sad and upset with everything. It was negotiations. I’m looking forward to being back there and playing like always.”

The Sporting News has some quotes from Mike Brown, Danny Ferry, and Drew Gooden,

“”His size, his athleticism, his strength, his knowledge, all that stuff — yes, it’s an added bonus,” coach Mike Brown said before Cleveland’s game at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

“We’re looking forward to getting him in Cleveland and getting him back on the basketball court,” Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said. “He’s a player we respect and admire and he’ll help us become a better basketball team.”

“I’m happy to have him back, especially now, when we are down guys,” forward Drew Gooden said. “He will be helpful for us.””

An awful lot has been written about Varejao’s holdout. The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto asks what the point of the holdout was,

“What were the agendas?

1. His agent is Dan Fagen, who sees himself as the NBA’s Scott Boras. He hates restricted free agency and wants to challenge it. You can do that with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, impact players. But if you sit out a defensive specialist with marginal offensive skills, the league will be content to let your guy sit. Fagen picked the wrong guy to make his point.

2. Varejao is like most of us. We always see the people producing less and being paid more than us, and he focused on that. But it skewed his view of reality.

3. The Cavs were not about to pay this guy like an All-Star at nearly $10 million a year, nor did they want him to walk away after one season.

So where does that leave us?

1. The Cavs need a big guy, and Varejao is back.

2. The Cavs will be a better team because Varejao is effective, especially playing with James — and his contract is extremely reasonable.

3. Varejao will be happy to be playing again, but he has to be asking himself, “Was all this worth it?” Sure doesn’t seem like it.”

Joel Hammond at Crain’s Cleveland writes that the Cavaliers were the real winners,

“Ferry had the eyes of the world on him in this negotiation, and comes out smelling rosy. In Varejao, at that price, he gets a) a player who can help the depleted Cavs compete this year, at a manageable price, and b) a deal that offers the ultimate flexibility. The Cavs, don’t forget, have draft picks again, and can stockpile young, energetic forwards for when they either trade Varejao’s expiring contract next year or lose him in free agency after the 2008-2009 season.”

John Ludden at Yahoo! Sports doesn’t mince words in strongly making his case for the Cavaliers as the side which came out on top,

“By staring down Varejao’s stubborn agent, Dan Fegan, Cavs GM Danny Ferry struck a blow for front office officials everywhere. Ferry didn’t just beat one of the league’s toughest negotiators — “Danny Ferry cleaned (Fegan’s) clock,” said one giddy rival agent — he prevented Fegan from setting a precedent for other prospective holdout candidates.”

Tom Ziller at FanHouse, though, isn’t so sure that Fegan won’t be the one with the last laugh,

“The reported deal is for the mid-level for three years; the third year, however, is a player option. I’d say it’s a brilliant ploy by Varejao’s agent Dan Fegan — the Andy camp wanted either huge money or a very short flyer which would get dude to unrestricted free agency ASAP. However, I’m not yet willing to concede this is the best Fegan could get; that call will be made in two years when Varejao (assumedly) does hit the market.”

Blogging for Yahoo! Sports, Kelly Dwyer says that while Fegan didn’t get his way, this was all a whole lot to do about nothing,

“The big man’s agent, Steely Dan Fegan, is notorious for getting great money for players who rarely deserve it, and, until last summer, he’d boasted a nearly perfect record of forcing teams to overshoot for his clients. This time around, Fegan more or less crapped out; and his NFL-style holdout experiment didn’t exactly produce the results he expected. Varejao signed with the Bobcats for around $5.5 million per year, only two years guaranteed (AV, likely flush with Fegan in his ear, will opt-out in 2009), and the Cavaliers will spend a week exploring trade options before matching the offer for the restricted free agent.

This is where I come in: Varejao isn’t really worth our time. He’s a solid big man who can walk and chew gum at the same time, which is good to have and worth the money he’s going to make, but that’s about it. Limited offensively, not a killer defensively, and he’s going to have a hard go of things now that the NBA is locking down on flopping and needless charge calls. Even worse, look who he resembles most in terms of sheer production:

AV, per 40 minutes of game action, age 24: 11.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.1 blocks.

Scott Williams, per 40 minutes, age 24: 12.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.9 blocks.

We’ve seen this dance before.”

Stan McNeal, in a blog for the Sporting News, says don’t look to Varejao for financial advice,

“The one perk in this deal for Varejao is that he will be able to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent after next season. So you can give him credit for being confident in his earning power. Just don’t look to him for advice on how to win a holdout.”

Meanwhile, while everyone is getting fired up one way or the other over the Varejao contract, the Cavaliers were on the court attempting to play basketball tonight. I suppose there’s good reason why everyone’s so easily distracted lately. The Cavs lost 105-86 to the Wizards tonight and are now 0-4 without LeBron. At least Drew Gooden is bothered by this,

“Being the caliber of team we are, even having this many injuries, losing this many games in a row is unacceptable.”

I don’t exactly know what kind of caliber this team is without LeBron, but I’m much more interested in what caliber this team is with LeBron healthy and AV back in the lineup. Hopefully by next week we can start finding out.

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