Danny Ferry’s Game Of Chicken

LeBron likes his new Indians hatWhose Side Are You On??

The more and more I read about this upcoming Cavaliers season, the more and more I find reasons to be skeptical. Namely, LeBron’s reaction to Danny Ferry’s game of chicken he’s playing with Anderson Varejao worries me. LeBron is perceived as a loyal teammate, and that loyalty may be put to the test. Peter Vecsey wrote about this subject in the New York Post today, asking the question….is there trouble in LeBron’s ‘hood? For 4 seasons, the LBJ show has been nothing but smooth sailing, for the most part. Yes, we’ve gone through coaches, offensive systems, defensive systems, etc., but for the most part, the fans have adored LeBron and LeBron has lived up to become everything we thought he could be and more. But lately, there’s been more and more of a feeling of turbulence on the ride.

Perhaps the most notable example of a public falling out is this latest “controversy” involving LeBron showing up at Jacobs Field with the infamous Yankees hat on. I feel like we got the last laugh and its time to move on, but the amount of hateful vitriol being spewed in LeBron’s general direction has been nothing short of stunning. LeBron hit a definite nerve with the Cleveland fan base, and managed dig a deep wound that, from the looks of things, is going to take some serious time to heal.

Additionally, larger questions are looming in the horizon. A big test of where LeBron’s loyalties lie will be presented in how he deals with the contract situation involving Sasha Pavlovic and Andy Varejao. According to Vescey,

“At what point will LeBron James flex his all-mighty muscle and put pressure on Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to resolve the contract gridlock with restricted free agents Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic?

The franchise force says he won’t get nervous until wins and losses begin to count for real. But word has it his habitual nail-biting has increased its intensity and velocity. It may have everything to do with negotiations turning very ugly, especially in Varejao’s case.”

What makes this case fascinating to watch, are the implications that reside between the lines…..a LOT is going to be learned depending on what kind of pressure LeBron applies, particularly in the context of LeBron’s own expiring contract in 2010.

LeBron seems to be a smart guy, and clearly he can see the folly of giving in to Pavlovic and Varejao’s demands, essentially bidding against ourselves because there are no other suitors. The ONLY reason to do that would be for immediate results on the court this season, with no regards for the future ability of this team to sign impact free agents. If LeBron starts leaning on Ferry and putting quiet pressure on the organization to pay Varejao what he wants to get him back on the team, I would take that as a very foreboding move if you are one who is inclined to put hope into LeBron playing his entire career in Cleveland, such as I am. It would seem to show a blatant disregard for the future of the organization. In other words, LeBron wants to win, and he wants to win NOW.

On the other hand, if LeBron should choose to sit back and let Ferry ride this out (keeping in mind that Ferry clearly has the upper hand in terms of leverage with both Pavlovic and Varejao) and make the shrewdest move he can make, thus setting up the future of the club, I would take that as very promising sign for the future all around. LeBron is a competitor, and the ONLY way he would want to play without a full arsenal on the court would be if he knew it was in the best interest of the future success of the franchise. Lets face it, 3 years from now, this franchise is going to be at a crossroads. Being able to free themselves of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones’ contracts while re-signing Varejao and Pavlovic for what they are truly worth, will set the franchise up twofold. One, it will allow them to try again to sign impact free agents who can help LeBron. Two, it will make re-signing with the team that much more of an attractive option for LeBron.

This is a pivotal time for the future of this franchise. As much relief as was felt when LeBron signed his extension last year, it’s back to business and this team must always keep one eye on the future to ensure that they have the best chance possible to keep LeBron in the Wine and Gold. And that’s why Danny Ferry is stuck in a position of playing chicken with Varejao. According to Vecsey’s article,

“Without the knowledge of agent Dan Fegan, GM Danny Ferry traveled to Brazil and met with his 6-10 backup center/macho forward to promote management’s perspective, and, perhaps cut out the hardcore middle man. Evidently the backdoor play backfired. Indications are Varejao is remaining loyal to Fegan and adhering to his demand.”

Again, this move of desperation reeks of ulterior motive. Ferry understands the implications of signing Varejao through the context of the weight of LeBron’s magnitude within the organization. Time will tell what happens in the future, as things tend to end up being as unpredictable as can be, but over the next few weeks, keep a sharp eye on the back and forth between Pavlovic, Varejao, LeBron, and the Cavaliers organization, and look between the lines, because an interesting story is devloping there.