NBA

NBA needs a little more hater-ade

FOX Sports Mitch Lawrence
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Look who’s back in the NBA. Our dear, old friend, hate.

If you heard Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wig out over LeBron James’ defection to the Miami Heat, you know that hate is alive and well.

To be honest, it’s good to see. It’s good to see Cavs fans burning James’ jersey after he stuck it to his hometown team and quit on the Cavaliers one more time, just for good measure. It’s good to see Gilbert post a 400-word diatribe on his team’s Web site, where he laid out James as if he were Kevin McHale putting the clothesline to Kurt Rambis.

Gilbert called it an act of “cowardly betrayal.’’

We agree, because after all the Cavs did for James in his seven-plus seasons, King Bailout didn’t even have the decency to tell Gilbert face-to-face that he was leaving town. After he kept Gilbert in the dark during free agency, he owed him that much. But LeBron wimped out, just as he did against Boston. He had one of his cronies call Gilbert with the worst news to hit Cleveland since Art Modell took the Browns to Baltimore.

It was also good to see Gilbert then take his bitterness up a few more notches, accusing James of tanking in several playoff games, including his epically feeble performance in Game 5 against Boston, which turned out to be his last home game as a Cavalier.

“He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game 5, but in games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."

Hate rules!

The NBA will have no comment on Gilbert’s assault-and-battery of one of the game’s top stars, because the league doesn’t know what to make of it. The league was unprepared to deal with all the craziness brought on by the great gold rush of 2010, let alone the unprecedented public vitriol an owner had for his franchise player.

“He has gotten a free pass," Gilbert told the Associated Press the night of “The Decision,’’ knowing his comments would be transmitted to the farthest points on the globe. "People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is. It's not about him leaving. It's the disrespect. It's time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I've been holding this all in for a long time.’’

POLL

  • Dan Gilbert's reaction to LeBron has been ...
    • Ridiculous
    • Righteous!

Can you feel the hate? The world is a much more interesting place when people are at each other’s throats and don’t hide their true emotions. Sort of like the NBA back in the '80s, when Boston and L.A. used to meet in the Finals. Or when the Knicks and Heat or Knicks and Bulls played in the '90s.

But lately, the NBA has the scene of one, big sickening love-fest, starting with the players. Everybody’s buddies. The top guys even get to play together on Team USA, fostering the dangerous alliances we see today.

So who can be the least bit surprised when two megastars, James and Dwyane Wade, trash the time-honored tradition of leading their own separate teams. Joining forces normally doesn’t happen until players are well past their primes. When Karl Malone jumped to the Lakers in 2004, he was a week short of his 40th birthday, and he had been busting his butt, trying to win a ring, in Utah for 18 years. By that late date, nobody was offended by the move.

But here, James quit on the Cavs when he’s still only 25. And Wade threw his buddy a life preserver when he’s still only 28. If this is a new model for building teams, somebody needs to take a hammer to it.

We hate this new marriage in South Beach, and it has nothing to do with James sticking it to the Knicks. There’s something wrong when three big-time performers conspire to work together. When Charles Barkley was traded to Houston in 1996 and joined Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, two other Top 50 Players of All Time, they were all at least 33 years old. Old men, compared with Wade, James and Bosh.

Barkley also burned some bridges on his way out of Phoenix, but nothing like James. It didn’t spark nearly the reaction from Suns ownership, either.

“I couldn’t believe it,’’ Wade said of Gilbert’s attack on James. “I’m speechless. It’s very unfortunate, and I think it makes LeBron feel that much better about his decision.’’

The good news is, hate will be back next summer, even if there is no free agency. When the owners decide to lock the players out as everyone expects after the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2005 expires, the ensuing nastiness will make Gilbert’s rants against LeBron read like a love letter.

Read more of Mitch Lawrence's columns at the New York Daily News.

Tagged: Cavaliers, Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade

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