Chain Gang

Where will LeBron go?

When you think of the greatest basketball player of this generation you think of Lebron James, with no doubt. He’s clearly the greatest player to enter the league in the last 15 years and will continue to be great for only a few remaining years. Still, at 33 years old he’s producing at a record breaking level. Eight 40 point games in this postseason, 4 triple doubles in this years playoffs, and he’s absolutely putting the team on his back. But an embarrassing sweep to the Golden State Warriors, a fractured relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, and the extreme workload he has every time the Cavaliers take the floor could cause an exit out of Cleveland. I will layout some potential landing spots and why it would be a good or bad fit.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says there are 7 teams Lebron will meet with in Free Agency this summer. It’s Stephen A. Smith, so take it for what it’s worth but they all seem somewhat logical. The 7 teams listed are Cleveland, Boston, LA Lakers, Houston, Golden State, Philadelphia, and Miami.
Cleveland: Normally resigning seems the most ideal for any player in the NBA, but Cleveland has not gotten any closer to coming anywhere near taking down the Golden State Warriors. Also, the Cavs are extremely locked with the players they have due to very little cap space. The addition of Alabama point guard Collin Sexton should be beneficial. Yet, I don’t think adding Collin Sexton to the mix will change Lebron’s decision one way or another.
LA Lakers: This is very puzzling due to the fact that a move to the Lakers means you’re now in the western conference with harder competition and in the same division as the Warriors. With that being said, there is a lot of emerging young talent such as Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, etc. Another thing to take note of is that the Lakers have enough cap space for 2 max contracts. This means if Lebron goes there, then they could also sign a Paul George or trade for and take on the contract of Kawhi Leonard.
Philadelphia: The Sixers had a great season and have 2 blossoming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They also have some solid role players set in place. This could be very lucrative for Lebron James to move into. A dispute to Lebron going to Philly is that him and Simmons can’t play together because they’re the same type of player. Many say they’re similar because neither can shoot very well, this isn’t true simply due to the fact that James made 149 3-pointers this season whereas Simmons made 0. But then again Simmons and Lebron are both very ball dominant so they’d have to split the point guard duties amongst each other. This could be a good fit.
Houston: Lebron could be great around CP3 and James Harden. But, why breakup what you have when you were so close to knocking out Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. If Chris Paul doesn’t go down with a hamstring injury and have to sit game 7 then maybe Houston wins it all. Also, to resign CP3 and sign Lebron would take a lot of roster moves. They would have to dump guys such as Clint Capela, PJ Tucker, or Trevor Ariza. Overall this would take a ton of work and I don’t see the point in breaking up this championship caliber team.
Golden State, Miami, Boston: In different ways these 3 teams are all in the same boat. Outside shots to land Lebron James this summer. Golden State is a dynasty and in no way do they need James and really shouldn’t even want him. The league would be in shambles if he went there. The competition league wide wouldn’t be good and they’d dominate everyone in there path. Also, they’d need to shed most likely Klay Thompson to land James. A return to Miami for Lebron also seems unlikely because plain and simple the talent level isn’t quite there on the Heat roster. But if anyone can bring him back it’s Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade. Boston also looks unappealing due to the fact that Kyrie Irving demanded a trade to get away from him. So, he clearly doesn’t want a reunion. If Lebron leaves Cleveland which he very well could, unless he joins the Sixers, the Celtics are immediately the frontrunners to win the Eastern Conference. Kyrie and Gordon Hayward will be healthy and they’re loaded at forward with budding stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Another issue is cap space, 3 players already on max contracts (Irving, Hayward, Horford), and Marcus Smart’s contract is up and Terry Rozier is up next year. These teams would all need some serious work to accommodate Lebron.
The whole NBA world is watching and waiting anxiously for him to make his choice. I believe it’s very much a toss up between whether he’ll stay or leave. It’ll come down to 4 things for his decision. First, Loyalty to the city of Cleveland and his home. Second, How much does he value championships? Third, Does he want young, up and coming players, or a veteran team built for now. Fourth, His family and what’s best for them. It will definitely be interesting.

Chain Gang

Chain Gang Blog: Vontaze Burfict

Vontaze Burfict. A polarizing name in the NFL. If you’re a Bengals fan you love him, if you’re not you hate him. Well, these days even Bengals fans are getting fed up. At what point does it all add up? The questionable hits, the injuries, and now even an off the field issue.

He hasn’t started a season without a suspension since 2015. That doesn’t even consider all the games missed for nagging injuries. This automatically sets the Bengals well behind the 8 ball. He is an emotional leader on defense and a force when on the field. The last time he played all 16 games he was a first team all-pro in 2013.

Some of his conduct on the field has been questionable at times to say the least. His first suspension resulting from “multiple plays detrimental to player safety.” With the last straw resulting from a hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the 4th quarter of a playoff game.

This set the “Burfict is a dirty player” talk ablaze. Leading to a bad boy reputation from the media and the NFL. After more controversial plays in 2016, whatever credibility he had left was gone. He was getting more and more negative attention.

In 2017, he came into training camp with no reigning suspensions over him and was ready to start the season. Then in the Bengals 2nd preseason game, on a play that wasn’t even flagged, resulted in a 3 game suspension for a hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.

Now, less than 3 weeks ago, it emerges that he is facing another 4-game suspension. This time for performance enhancing drugs. Burfict claims it was prescribed by a doctor to help nurse a head and shoulder injury suffered due to a debatable hit to say the least by Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.

juju-smith-schuster-vontaze-burfict

The question I’m posing to Bengals fans and NFL fans is this: “When is it time to give up on Burfict?” What will it take for the Bengals to release him? I think the Bengals have invested too much in him so far. When he’s out there he’s a big vocal leader and makes a ton of plays. Owner Mike Brown and coach Marvin Lewis continue to back his every move. They obviously aren’t thrilled with his actions but publically stick with him.

If the Bengals do get fed up and try to move him, a potential landing spot could be the Oakland Raiders. There have been rumors that Oakland has contacted Cincinnati about getting Burfict. This could be believable due to Oakland head coach Jon Gruden raving about Burfict on Monday Night Football. Saying he loves the toughness he plays with and how he would love to have him on his team.

With all this being said the Bengals should continue to stick with Burfict and try to coach him up better to avoid many more mind-boggling situations in the future. When he’s not hurt or suspended he has proven to be a top tier linebacker in the league.