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LeBron, Wiggins, Love, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!!!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. If you’re anything like me, it would have been awfully hard not to. I had some things not go as planned over the weekend, and had it been any other weekend, it might have been a fairly miserable one. But just the knowledge that LeBron James was coming back to Cleveland carried me through. I can’t recall the last time I watched as much ESPN as I did over the weekend. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of watching people talk about the Cavaliers and the return of Mr LeBron.

In so many ways, it still doesn’t feel real. I remember feeling the same way when he left. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my favorite basketball player ever wouldn’t be playing for my team anymore. Like an idiot, I watched the Heat celebration live when they introduced LeBron and Chris Bosh. It wasn’t so much like watching a car wreck, but it was more of just trying to affirm that I wasn’t dreaming and that this was real. But when I saw him turn around on the stage in the Heat uniform, it became real. It was over.

Over the last four years, I probably only watched LeBron play in the regular season less than five times, outside of when he was playing against the Cavaliers. It never got any easier. I wasn’t angry these last couple years anymore, but I still just didn’t enjoy watching him play for another team. But I watched almost all of his playoff games, and while I rooted against his teams from afar, I was constantly reminded of what it was the Cavs had lost and just how far they had to go to get back to that kind of level of play.

Now, he’s back. And this time the thought of seeing him play in a Cavs uniform again doesn’t seem real. In many ways, because I avoided watching the Heat play so much, it feels a bit like a long lost best friend moving back into the neighborhood. Sure, you saw each other a couple times over the years, and you saw the Facebook photos through the years, but you had mostly lost touch. Now you’re back to seeing each other all the time again. In so many ways you’re excited to resume your friendship, but things are a little different. Your friend has changed a bit, and you’ve changed a bit as well through the years. You’ll always share a common nostalgia and you’ll both want things to be like they once were, but the truth is time moves on and nothing stays the same. It’s going to be different this time. It has to be. I just hope things can be even better than they were the first time.

*****

So how did this happen?

I’m fascinated by the Butterfly Effect. Not the movie, but the theory. Well, actually, I kind of thought the movie was sort of interesting, too, I’m ashamed to admit. But I love contemplating how the smallest things can set a course of events into motion. I love reading about American History, in particular, the American Revolution. There are so many things that happened just right to allow the colonies to outlast the mighty British military and secure freedom from the crown.

For example, in 1777 the British were advancing to Philadelphia. They sent a group of sharp shooters to hide in the woods outside Philadelphia in an attempt to take down George Washington’s unit. Eventually a couple American officers came riding through the woods. The British sharpshooters were led by Captain Patrick Ferguson, one of the best marksmen in the British army. Ferguson had one of the officers in his sights, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot an unsuspecting officer in the back without warning. He called out to the officer, who just looked back quickly and then rode away. That officer was none other than George Washington. Had Ferguson just taken the shot, who knows how history would have been changed. But he let Washington ride away, and it was George Washington who did his best to keep the American army together and who kept forcing the British to chase them throughout the rough terrain of the American wilderness.

So what’s the point? I keep going back to that 1.7% chance the Cavaliers had to win the lottery. By all reason and logic, the Cavaliers shouldn’t have won the lottery. 1.7%! Are you kidding me? How does that happen? For a rough approximation, imagine putting the numbers one through fifty into a hat. How many times do you think it would take for you to pull, say, the number 21 (Wiggins’ number) out of the hat? Probably a lot. But what if you could only pull numbers once. Just think about how crazy it would be to pull the number 21. That’s what the Cavaliers did.

What if a different number was pulled out of the hat. Any of the other 49 numbers. Would LeBron still be a Cavalier? Would David Blatt still be the Cavaliers’ coach? I just keep going back to an alternate timeline, the darkest timeline, where the Cavaliers had the ninth pick in the draft, Alvin Gentry was the coach, Kyrie Irving was refusing to sign a full extension, and LeBron just didn’t feel the Cavs roster and situation was compelling enough to return to.

Maybe it wouldn’t matter. Maybe this solely was an emotional decision to come home. But I can’t fully believe that. I think this was a long term basketball decision as well. But again, going back to Butterfly Effects, what if Ray Allen misses that three pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals and the Spurs win the Championship? What if that fuels the Heat to come back and beat the Spurs instead of the other way around? Would LeBron still be leaving the Heat.

I just can’t shake the feeling that literally every single thing that had to happen for LeBron to come home did happen. Call it luck, fate, karma, serendipity, coincidence, whatever you want. When the Cavaliers’ ridiculous Season of Huh came to an end back in April, there was no chance LeBron was returning. None. But so many things fell into place, and now LeBron is back.

Make no mistake, nobody on the Cavaliers’ side deserves any credit for this. Not Dan Gilbert, not Chris Grant, not David Griffin, not Kyrie Irving. The only person who gets credit is LeBron. He’s the one who made the unprecedented decision to return to his roots. I said in last Friday’s podcast that in so many ways his decision was a validation of home. If him leaving was a reflection of Cleveland’s deepest insecurities, his return is a tip of the hat to the fact that there really is power in the idea of the hometown hero and prodigal son coming back to reclaim his birthright. This is truly one of the most remarkable sports stories to happen in my lifetime, and I can’t wait to get the next phase of this journey started.

*****

A quick thought on that two-year deal

I realized immediately when LeBron’s two-year contract was announced that all he was doing was making sure he maximized his earning potential. I read LeBron’s letter, of course. I believe him when he wrote “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.” After crafting such a beautiful letter with SI’s Lee Jenkins, it’s hard to imagine LeBron leaving Cleveland again.

But this is Cleveland. Strange things happen in Cleveland sports. Unimaginable things. The future is bright now, but what if Kyrie doesn’t mesh with LeBron and regresses? What if the Cavaliers decide not to trade for Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins turns into a bust? What if LeBron and David Blatt don’t get along? What if Dan Gilbert and LeBron find it too hard to coexist? What if all of those things happen and a situation presents itself where LeBron and Kevin Durant can go play for the Lakers together?

We hope LeBron never leaves again, and I’d say the smart money is on LeBron retiring as a Cavalier. But I’m not willing to say there is zero chance he ever leaves again. There’s a bit of an unknown to all of this because we are in some seriously uncharted waters here. I thought ESPN’s Bomani Jones made some great points on this subject on Twitter over the weekend:

I think it’s easy to say “Hey, LeBron and Dan talked it out and they’re all good now and everything is going to be ‘happily ever after’ in the end!” But we don’t know that. The odds of LeBron leaving in a year or two are slim, but it is a possibility. This isn’t anything we should be freaking out over, we just have to hope the Cavaliers’ front office can make the right moves to keep the team competitive moving forward and that Dan Gilbert can mostly stay out of LeBron’s way.

*****

What is Love worth?

Because it’s so important for the Cavaliers not to squander this second-chance opportunity with LeBron, it makes the Kevin Love trade situation so fascinating. The Cavaliers must do the right thing here. But what is the right thing? Some would say the Kevin Love is a known quantity and the Cavaliers should just trade Andrew Wiggins for him right away rather than risk Wiggins being a bust. Others point to the salary difference between Love and Wiggins and the potential for a long term title run with a young potential superstar like Wiggins.

The truth is, there is no obvious right or wrong answer here at this point. The only certainty is that at this point in time, right now, the Cavaliers absolutely should not trade Wiggins for Love. There’s no reason to even entertain the idea. The Wolves don’t have a quality offer on the table from another team that the Cavaliers need to be worried about. The Cavaliers can be patient, wait until the trade deadline, see what other players that we’re not even thinking about right now become available, and then decide based on seeing Wiggins play a couple months whether or not they want to trade him.

Make no mistake, though. Kevin Love is an incredible basketball player. Very few bigs are as skilled as Love. He can shoot, pass, rebound, handle the basketball, etc. He’s been an All-Star in three of his six seasons. He has won a three-point shootout. The Cavaliers are always said to have failed to deliver a Pippen to LeBron’s Jordan, well, on Basketball-Reference’s ’Similarity Scores’, the second comparison to Love is Pippen. You put Love on a team with Kyrie and LeBron and you would like to think the Cavaliers are absolutely the favorites to win the East and compete for an NBA Championship. And that’s what this is all about.

But you had better be sure about that. You have to be absolutely certain that Love’s defense won’t be too much to overcome, especially when you also have Kyrie on the floor at the same time. You have to be certain Love won’t fracture either of his hands again (he has fractured his left hand once and his right hand twice already in his brief career). You have to be certain that Kyrie, LeBron, and Love are good enough to win a Championship.

Why? Because the moment the Cavaliers trade Wiggins for Love, that’s it for the team building exercise. With the contracts of Kyrie, LeBron, and Love the team will basically be in the same situation the Heat were in, being able to only sign players using Mid-Level and Bi-Annual exceptions and veteran minimums. There’s something scary about just jumping into the deep end like that.

If it were up to me, I would do exactly what the Cavaliers are doing right now. I would be patient and wait. I would tell the media every day that Wiggins is going nowhere. I would keep the pressure on the Wolves. Because the Cavaliers are in the better position here. If no trade happens, the Wolves lose Love and get absolutely nothing back in return. But for the Cavaliers? Life goes on with Kyrie, LeBron, and a bunch of really young, developing players. And like I said earlier, the Cavaliers can still make another trade. It’s not Love or bust. Other really good players will become available at some point in the trade market.

If the Cavaliers traded Wiggins for Love today, yes, they would be a better team this season. But they would lose all flexibility. Keeping Wiggins for now not only keeps the team’s salary more flexible, but it gives the Cavaliers four (FOUR!) young, developing players who should benefit from playing with LeBron and Kyrie and can eventually be used in trade offers. Wiggins, Waiters, Bennett, and Thompson can all grow into nice looking trade pieces if needed. Or maybe they develop into a young core of supporting players on a dynastic run of NBA Finals appearances.

The point is, there’s a fine line between going for a title now and maintaining flexibility. You can’t have flexibility forever. At some point you have to strike and maximize assets to go after the title. There’s plenty of time for the Cavaliers to figure this stuff out. There’s no reason to do anything right now. The longer the Cavs wait, the more pressure there will be on Minnesota to get a deal done. If the Cavaliers can eventually make a deal where they get Love and also keep Wiggins, well, the future will look brighter than it ever has for any Cleveland sports team in my life. If they trade Wiggins for Love, this upcoming season has potential to be special and the future will still be pretty exciting. If they make no trade at all, the future looks good to me, as the team still has young players, flexibility, and the tools to make other trades. It’s a pretty nice position to be in.

*****

That’s it for me this week. No new music to really talk about as we’re still stuck in the annual July rut for new releases. I’m enjoying The Leftovers still, but I don’t have much to say about it right now. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is all going on. In truth, the LeBron news pretty much put me into a pop culture hiatus for a few days.

I hope everyone has a great week, and maybe next week I’ll have a more diverse set of topics to discuss.

 

 

  • MrCleaveland

    I like your comments on the butterfly effect, Andrew. It is interesting to think about all the decisions, coincidences, accidents, bits of luck, etc. that put all of us exactly where we are today. Each of our lives could have easily gone in a million other directions.

    I agree that we should wait out Minnesota. We could even wait until next year and sign him as a free agent and we might not have to get rid of anybody we don”t want to (but I admit all that salary cap stuff is beyond my knowledge and interest).

  • dwhit110

    Any day that WWW starts off with a quick American History lesson is a good day!

  • Ezzie Goldish

    This was all awesome. Great story about Washington and analysis on life’s little events all mattering, and amen on not trading Wiggins for all the reasons you said.

  • Harv 21

    Good analysis, Andrew. Agree with most of it.

    My brain tells me when you have a window to get a 25 year old star with a game that would mesh perfectly with LeBron’s and make a long-tern nucleus with Kyrie you have to jump on it or possibly regret it forever once Wiggins tears up his knee. But my eyes and heart tell me trading this explosive 19 year old who would be the perfect cheetah next to LeBron and Kyrie, someone already able to spell LeBron on the toughest defensive assignment and who has explosion dripping from every move, someone who at that size could just dominate at SG, could just be a legendary panic move. Especially since we might end up with Love anyway. That four – LeBron, Kyrie, Wiggins and Love – would mean basketball in late June as a matter of course. Today I say don’t trade Wiggins.

    Where I disagree: I absolutely see LeBron as the locker room cure-all. He’s always been that. He came into the league supposedly a marked man by other players jealous of the $90m Nike deal he signed before playing a game – never happened. He seems to be the “we are family” glue with all his teammates on all teams; even Boozer, who was supposedly jealous of the attention, never uttered a nasty word. NBA players respect nothing except the alpha, and LeBron’s the league’s selfless King of Beasts. When LeBron hits training camp Kyrie will be shamed into effort and Dion (if still here) will get pout removal surgery or be gone. I’m certain the team maturity issues will dissipate as quickly as the losing streaks.

  • RGB

    Love is an expiring asset. Expiring Asset.
    Everyone but the press seems to understand this.
    Griffin no doubt understands this.
    Talk to you at the trade deadline Minnesota.

  • 216in614

    If we do trade Wiggins and another one of our first rounders (AB, TT or DW) then we are stuck with very little cap room and very little ability to make changes going forward in the future. Why lock ourself in w/ 3 max contracts? Aren’t we in trouble of turning in the Heat in 2 years? Wouldn’t we rather turn into a dynasty by having the young guys mature?

  • Harv 21

    you’re killing me with these.

  • Patrick Ferguson, not so clutch.

  • Backwoods

    “the team will basically be in the same situation the Heat were in”. Boy, I know I’d be bummed about 4 straight finals appearances and 2 championships.

    I agree on the not being rushed for Love and hoping you can keep Wiggins, but if you fail to land Love, you better hope wiggins becomes a superstar in the next 3 years, or now you will have a max contract Lebron at age 33 with more minutes than Kobe had two years ago. In other words, your window with Lebron is closed and basically, the cavs are finished as a free agent spot.

    Worst case if you get Love for wiggins? In 5 years, you have Irving/Waiters/Bennet/Love/Lebron. Is that so bad? Even with it being a depleted Lebron, it still looks pretty darn good. Love will be 30. And a low mileage 30 at that (compared to Lebron).

    You are being gifted the greatest player in the world. He CHOSE to come back. You dig into that luxury tax and you make sure that he is surrounded by real talent. Not Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. Sorry, I mean Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett.

  • saggy

    “Shamed into effort.” Damn if that ain’t a perfect way to put it. The Principal is in the back of the room, better shut your mouth and at least pretend to be learning.

    Wiggins, btw, looks like he has “it.” He’s not even really “raw,” as they like to say. He just needs some time to get even better. He is a different player than we saw at Kansas – we can tell that already.

    He’s been way more aggressive (and i don’t care that it’s summer league, it’s still a higher level than he has ever seen), and his jumper, while a work in progress, is going to be there for him eventually. Plus, he seems to have the athleticism to get his shot when he wants. His defense, too, will spell LeBron (as Andrew said), the importance of which can’t be over-appreciated.

    The ideal situation is for the Cavs to get Love without de-Wiggifying themselves. Wow, that would be one heck of a team.

  • saggy

    Andrew: you’re gonna drive yourself crazy, pal. Can’t keep doing the “what-if” thing. We won. enjoy it.

  • saggy

    It’s only summer league but i really like what I’m seeing out of Bennett and Wiggy. They are on rookie deals for 3 and 4 more years, respectively. That’s very, very valuable. I want Kevin Love, too, but at the right price.

  • saggy

    IF they mature.

  • Denny

    I hear he had an elbow injury that caused him to not shoot

  • Harv 21

    Hard to imagine “dynasty” when looking at the upside of those guys you mention. Bennett is a complete unknown, could be a productive player but a star? Nobody thinks that. After 3 full seasons time we all admit that Tristan is a guy, that’s all. He’s good for plenty of garbage points and rebounds, but he’s lacking a single offensive skills useful in the defensive intensity of a playoff series and he’s an “effort guy” who has spent long periods without giving effort. That is exactly the type of low-priced guy the Cavs could squeeze into a roster. The league has plenty of Thompsons. I like Dion a lot, but we still don’t know which way his personality will take him.

  • Backwoods

    So keep one. Why have so many unknowns? Yes, it’s exciting seeing presents under the tree, but sometimes that big box ends up just being socks.

  • Harv 21

    I see what you see with Wiggins, but will try to control myself until at least the exhibition season. I keep saying: he reminds me of a taller and more explosive Ron Harper, pre-knee reconstruction. And that would be a fine, fine thing. Harper worked hard to develop and rounded his game quickly. So similar to me …

  • I have read there is a lot of debate whether the Ferguson story is true – or that it was Washington. This article tries to give evidence that it well could have been Washington – see http://www.americanrevolution.org/ferguson.html – either way, the bufferfly effect is fascinating; we look for reasons, and yet it just may be that LeBron’s decision was caused by Patrick Ferguson’s 18th-century DECISION to piss in the woods that day instead of wait to find a latrine.

  • Just for some counter-evidence – check out the May 26, 2014 comment by Scaeva here, suggesting it was not likely George Washington … http://historum.com/general-history/44367-national-myths-8.html … some source material for further research is cited in comments that are very interesting at http://allthingsliberty.com/2013/09/10-fateful-hits-misses/. The discussion brings up other interesting shots not taken – apparently, an American marksman spared the life of Benedict Arnold in a similar situation. (Michael Jordan must be shaking his head).

  • BenRM

    I am honestly afraid of the Cavs becoming the Heat 2.0. Except this time, it is without the cache South Beach and with the oft-maligned Gilbert in place of Riley, King Builder. Those mid-level exceptions and veteran minimum deals will look less attractive in January when there is a foot of snow on the ground and the temp is dipping below 0.

    Also, I know it’s just summer league, but Wiggins looks good. Really good. Like, best player on the court good. I know we are scared because of what went down with Bennett last year, but I am feeling pretty confident that Wiggins will end up being as good as advertised. And sooner rather than later.

  • mgbode

    probably would need a sign-n-trade next July. but, at that point, Minnesota would basically have no choice but to accept or get nothing at all (like us with LeBron in ’10).

  • mgbode

    so you saw that Philly game too. how many “holy, holy, holy” moments can a player have in summer league?

  • mgbode

    in modern-NBA having superstars who are on rookie contracts is an incredible asset to have. however, I don’t mind locking ourselves into 3 max contracts as long as we keep Wiggins just because they are good enough and the cap is going up.

    we’d have 4 years to figure out what to do at the end of Wiggins’ deal. by that time, we may flip K-Love for more underpants to reboot the other side.

  • mgbode

    in July we say when

  • mgbode

    we cannot trade Wiggins straight-up for Love. we would have to include other players.

  • eldaveablo

    Same way with Wiggins – trying to contain my excitement. I would say he is more “unpolished” than raw. I was not expecting to be so impressed – especially with that step back jumper. I hope to see a lot of that this year.

    I like the Ron Harper comparison, although Grant Hill made an interesting comparison last night that I did not see coming. He said Wiggins reminds him of a young Latrell Spreewell. I would definitely be into Latrell 2.0 minus the coach-choking and self destruction. When he was good, he was ridiculous.

  • eldaveablo

    Same way with Wiggins – trying to contain my excitement. I would say he is more “unpolished” than raw. I was not expecting to be so impressed – especially with that step back jumper. I hope to see a lot of that this year.

    I like the Ron Harper comparison, although Grant Hill made an interesting comparison last night that I did not see coming. He said Wiggins reminds him of a young Latrell Spreewell. I would definitely be into Latrell 2.0 minus the coach-choking and self destruction. When he was good, he was ridiculous.

  • eldaveablo

    “Love is an expiring asset”
    Indeed it is… indeed it is…

  • Harv 21

    that’s really interesting, though Hill may not have ever seen Harper play before injuries brought him earthbound. Remember Sprewell as an offensive machine who knew how to get his shot in any situation, but more clever, skilled and wiry strong than explosive or athletic. Don’t remember Sprewell wanting to play defense, or able to split defenders for 360/behind the back dunks. [Yes, I’m transposing highlights. Don’t trade him don’t trade him don’t trade him]

  • eldaveablo

    Let me play a little devils advocate, and ask what makes Love such a sure thing? Wouldn’t it be easy to categorize him as a guy who puts up big stats on a bad team with no other options, isn’t overly athletic, doesn’t play defense, has just as much playoff experience as Wiggins, and has struggled with some injuries?

    Look, I’m a Love fan, but he’s far from a sure thing and comes with additional cost and loss of tremendous flexibility. I don’t see him as such a no brainer.

  • Harv 21

    Attention Nerd Club: someone get at Jim Macdonald about the Annual Meeting at Tweed Union. Boy has potential.

  • CB Everett

    Little known side fact: Afterwards, he was forever known as Turd Ferguson. Look it up.

  • RGB

    Technically Griffin = Riley.
    But, As Long As the transformation into Miami 2.0 includes Championships 2.0, I can live with that.
    Shiny gold trophies insulate quite nicely against the cold Lake Erie winds.
    At this point, I’m trusting Griffin to not make the same mistakes as the previous FO and surround Mr. James with a better class of drek.

  • humboldt

    I beat Garry and mgbode to it!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwLWNXFH2rg

  • 🙂 … alas, I only scored 25% on the online nerd test, but I did score a nerd point for taking the test, and I did run track at Ohio Northern (that’s pretty nerdy all things considered).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The true Tommy John?

  • Steve

    As said above, 4 Finals trips, two trophies. That’s what we’re afraid of?

  • Steve

    No idea how you can say that is the only certainty. There most definitely are other offers for Love, and if he ends up on the Bulls, the idea of a free pass to the Finals is gone, now you have to battle another 60-win ability team. Love locks up the East for years for you. Without him, and even without Love on the Bulls, we’ll I’ll let Lebron tell you – “We’re not ready right now”. With Love, you are.

    And there is no real flexibility now that Irving and Lebron have max contracts.

  • Backwoods

    The rest will be draft picks and salaries to make it work. Minnesota won’t receive an offer higher than Wiggins.

    There is no way they take anyone other than Wiggins. I would doubt anyone wants Bennett and Waiters is valued much higher here than anywhere else in the league.

  • mgbode

    the salaries to make it work are players we need though. Andy, Bennett, and Wiggins would seem like the most obvious match in salaries (would prefer Tristan in that over Bennett, but LRMR has a voice).

    There is no way they take anyone other than Wiggins.

    I disagree. I think they eventually will.

  • Steve

    “There is no way they take anyone other than Wiggins.”

    Does this mean an offer from us or any offer out there? They’ll take something, the Warriors, Bulls, and Celtics all can beat a non-Wiggins Cavalier offer though.

  • Backwoods

    Yes, as in, no other Cleveland offer. Everyone thinks Minnesota has to trade, but they are under no pressure to do so. They can wait till next off-season and still pull a sign & trade to net a couple picks. Would you want Bennett or Thompson? They are gonna eat cap space for a few years and don’t carry much value. Andy is only interesting to a contender and maybe if Kahn was still running things, you could get them to bite on Dion, but in all reality, Wiggins is all we got.

  • Steve

    Absolutely agree, there’s no way they take a non-Wiggins Cavs offer with the opportunities they have.

  • mgbode

    Andy has a 1/2 guaranteed salary that they can cut loose.

  • mgbode

    short distance or long distance running?

  • middle distance – 800 meters, though to train, I ran a year of college cross country

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Go figure huh?

  • architrance

    Cant they use trade exceptions, etc. to absorb some contract?

  • architrance

    I still think we end up going after Love or someone close to his caliber at some point this season. Adding Love while retaining Wiggins gives you a young BIG 4. Miami only ever had an aged big 3. Jumping over the salary cap this season kills the roster flexibility to add more decent free agents. However, they have multiple trade exceptions and Haywood’s $10.5M un-guaranteed contract next year that can be dealt w/picks in a large sign & trade next season. Who cares if you’ve killed your roster flexibility if you’ve put together a young, athletic BIG 5?!

    Kyrie / Wiggins / Lebron / Love / Marc Gasol next season is more than just a pipe dream. It’s the Cavs flexibility to potentially be able to put a team like that together that I’m sure is what put Cleveland over the top in Lebron’s mind.

    The rebuild is complete. They will NOT be building through the draft anymore. The 3 first rounders next year are trade assets. Free agents will be limited to the exceptions. Talent will mainly be added through trade & Dan Gilbert’s wallet.

  • mgbode

    we are the team that has to match a % of Love’s incoming salary with out-going salary