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LeBron Still Undecided

July 10, 2014

Most thought LeBron James would have told the world by now that he would stay with the Miami Heat. Yet, the days and weeks keep passing by and he has not let his intentions known. 

There are many factors inherent in James’ free-agent decision, some of which he can’t fully assess yet and all of which only he will know how best to react to. What was once thought of as virtually impossible seems to actually have a chance of occurring: James back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, Cleveland is now a viable option. The Cavaliers have positioned themselves to have max room to be a serious contender for a possible homecoming for James.

James left Cleveland for Miami four years ago with no championships on his resume, seeking top-tier talent to bolster his title chances. With four consecutive trips to the Finals and two championships, his plan worked. 

Things have changed. The Big Three have gotten older with the wear and tear most evident on 32-year-old Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is not the player he used to be. And the rules are different now.

LeBron: everybody wants him

The formation of the Miami super team was followed a year later by a five-month lockout that fundamentally changed the NBA’s financial and competitive landscape. With shorter contracts, free-agent movement restrictions and massive luxury-tax penalties for big-spending teams, forming a team of superstars isn’t as easy as it used to be. Keeping such a team together is even more difficult. 

Okay, back to Cleveland. They just locked up point guard Kyrie Irving to a five-year deal and have 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins under their control for the foreseeable future. They potentially will have three first-round picks in 2015, which can be used to add youth or in trades to import complementary veterans. They have the means to create room to be significant players in free agency in each of the next two summers. 

James, at the age of 29, now understands that his decision isn’t just about next season or the season after that. It is about how he can best assure he will be in the championship mix on a yearly basis with tools at the front office’s disposal to continually fortify the roster. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the league’s free agents like Carmello Anthony, Luol Deng, and Pau Gasol are forced to wait and see what James does. LeBron’s the league. This is not LeBron’s fault. This is not an attack on LeBron. It’s not an attack on the league. This is just an acknowledgement of the NBA world in 2014, and that world is controlled by LeBron. 

Look around at the free agent market. It’s quiet. Very little is happening. Why is this, you ask? Because teams want to sign LeBron. Players want to play with LeBron. And until LeBron makes up his mind, almost anybody with even the faintest hope of signing LeBron or playing with LeBron will sit and wait. 

LeBron did play a huge role in getting the NBA world where it is today. He got us here, with help in 2010 from Wade and Bosh. When that trio agreed to band together in Miami for less money than they could have commanded had they signed with three different franchises, it changed the way the NBA business was done. In today’s NBA, players are at least considering the notion of taking less money to join with another superstar or two in the hopes of winning an NBA title. Of building a legacy. 

And in today’s NBA, LeBron is the biggest legacy enhancement going. 

P.J’s World 

P.J. Hairston is back in the news. Not surprisingly so, it is on a police blotter. 

The former Tar Heel hoop star who was recently drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the second round of the NBA draft found trouble in two people. 

Evidently he struggles picking friends as Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was pulled over in Raleigh and charged with DWI and speeding while driving Hairston’s car this past weekend. Gordon’s already facing a potential season-long ban from the NFL because of a reported failed drug test. The NFL has yet to hear his appeal and this incident shouldn’t do much for his case.

P.J. Hairston 

Hairston, perhaps while attempting to pick up his car, was served a criminal summons for allegedly punching a kid in a pickup basketball game in Durham over the same weekend. 

Hairston is scheduled to appear in Durham County Court next month on misdemeanor charges of assault and battery following an altercation on Sunday. 

Kentrell Barkley, a 6-5, 190-pound 17-year-old senior at North Durham High School, said in court documents Hairston “punched him twice in the head” during a heated basketball game at the Durham YMCA. I have written of Hairston’s transgressions and decisions as an adult since his days as a Tar Heel. He did not last long with UNC and one has to wonder how long he will stick with the Hornets.  

Bad News Continues In Chapel Hill 

It came out last week that Mary Willingham, a former academic advisor/reading specialist at the University of North Carolina, has filed a civil lawsuit against the University of North Carolina over the way she was removed from her position. 

Willingham has been the whistleblower and the only former/current UNC academic employee to consistently ask for accountability from the school amid an academic scandal that’s now stretched to three years without resolution or punishment. Last week, UNC announced the NCAA was re-opening its investigation into alleged prior academic fraud. It’s a move that could potentially bring sanctions down on the school, depending on who talks to NCAA investigators.

Allegations of phony classes and phony grades date back to the late 1990s. Willingham, who worked for the UNC Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling, has gone on record in the past against the university and never relented in her claims.

Yay! Someone with integrity! Mary Willingham

Willingham worked at the school from 2003-2014. She resigned last spring after a January interview with CNN where she stated that 8-10 percent of the athletes admitted on scholarships at UNC between 2005-2012 were functionally illiterate and not able to read at a high school level. 

Willingham helped tutor many of these athletes in the past, and it’s been her outcries against the culture at the school that has kept the ongoing scandal in the news. 

The lawsuit claims, via the Associated Press’ reporting, Willingham “was demoted and the school retaliated against her after she raised concerns such as low reading levels for athletes and the existence of ‘paper classes’ requiring only one research paper at semester’s end -- which she says helped keep athletes eligible.” 

Damage claims in the lawsuit total $10,000, and Willingham is asking for her job back. The lawsuit also includes clauses that prevent Willingham of being fired or relieved of her duty at UNC again in relation to this ongoing saga of UNC’s stained academic reputation.












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