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Rockets Contracting? Heat Expanding? More Hot Air?

With a marquee match-up looming I thought I'd offer a few flu-induced disjointed thoughts tangentially related to the matter at hand.

First you need to be familiar with the latest LeBron James Tempest in a Teapot. Some people have defended LeBron, saying, essentially "Hey, man, he's just speaking his mind. It's so typical of this cynical media establishment to lambast the poor man for doing it, yet even so, I am shocked and appalled."

No, wait, poor LeBron didn't even know what he was saying! He didn't! He had to look it up later! He's spent so much time focussing on his talents and South Beach and how they might most harmoniously merge, that he didn't know what he was saying. At least he gets points for a funny non-apology.

So, does LeBron think the Rockets need to be contracted? I say, based on nothing, that yes, he does. He thinks that this proud franchise with its long history should cease to exist, and for this he must die. Wait, is that a wrong interpretation? Heck, I don't even know what the word "die" means. I had to look it up on Wikipedia just now. I now think, after self-medication self-education that instead he should be pelted with rotten fish innards. At very high velocity.

Anyway, LeBron spoke his mind about there being fewer teams, and maybe he's right. Some teams aren't in strong markets and get little support, but most of those teams haven't helped their cause by being badly run. Most towns aren't going to keep shelling out for a newish team that does nothing but lose. There's no long tradition of support, or family ties of growing up rooting for the team with parents or grandparents and friends. There's just this team that has been around a few years that never reaches the playoffs, and makes stupid decisions and then asks you to give them your money so that they can keep doing it. (Or else they'll leave - oh noes, what a threat!) Is it a moral or religious obligation to support such a team? Is it a family obligation? Not every team gets a 10 year grace period of support like the Houston Texans, mainly because they don't deserve one.

Who knows what support a contending Grizzlies team would have? Or Charlotte? The history of local support for good teams in one pro sports team towns is actually pretty good overall (Portland, San Antonio, until very recently Sacramento, Utah, OKC it appears). The only team we know won't be supported, no matter what they do, is New Orleans. They've lost one NBA team already, and if not for the terrible hurricane, and much-belated guilt, would have lost another one already. I'll also note the contraction talk as being funny because, except for certain years, the Miami Heat themselves are not a very well-supported team.

So contraction isn't an implausible idea, but James' remarks strike me as a small example of why I think the NBA Players Association will lose again in the summers contract negotiation. Here is arguably the best and most prominent player in the entire NBA floating the idea of there being 45 fewer NBA player jobs - a 10% reduction. Not HIS job, certainly, LeBron's job is clearly safe, but you know, some other guys he fist-bumps regularly.

If I was an NBA player, I'm not so sure I'd be happy with LeBron right now. The players association wants more jobs, more money for those jobs, and for things to stay essentially as they are. It'll be shocking if they can achieve that already. I can't see how it helps any NBA player to have someone as prominent as James coming out in favor of contraction, something that was assumed to be merely an NBA negotiating ploy (and probably is).

The league on the other hand, with David Stern handing out fines like Halloween candy, has maintained draconian message control with its owners heading into the summer's negotiations.

But look at it not from the players point of view, or the owners, but another, very special, viewpoint, LeBron's. It certainly would be nice if there were fewer teams, as that would mean that James could have a better bench in Miami for cheap.

Wait sorry, it wouldn't be better for LeBron because he'd get some low-priced bench help from those unemployed guys, it would be better for The League. Like those great old days when there were like 5 teams and Boston always won. Anyhow, The League is going to fight pretty hard for its own interests, and not at all hard for LeBron's, so his concern is in fact, touching, and selfless. I apologize for thinking otherwise.

It's fascinating how the wheels have come off the LeBron image lately. The media has certainly poured on the gasoline, but James has struck all the matches himself. Soon perhaps we'll see LeBron indulging in Iversonian persecution rants. Self-pitying sports millionaires are intoxicatingly charming. I can't wait.

On to the matter at hand where it would be particularly sweet for the Rockets to go over .500 by beating The Three Bandidos, or the The Three Tenors, or The Three Blind Mice, or The Gang of Three, or The Super Best Friends or whatever they are.