Michael Gearon Jr. — the new Mark Cuban.
Just kidding. Gearon is to Cuban as Joni Mitchell is to Lady Gaga.
And I’m not trying to suggest Gearon isn’t a conversationalist of the first rank — he is. Or even that Lady Gaga isn’t talented — she is. (I love both “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi.”) I’m making a distinction between understated and overt.
The Hawks’ co-owner was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Thursday. It was the lamest fine in the history of jurisprudence. Here was the offending quote: “If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I’d do it in a a heartbeat,” Gearon said. “But am I going to do that for [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas ? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think so.”
There’s no denying Gearon spoke those words. I heard him. So did about a dozen other reporters. Gearon made the apparently egregious statement standing in the Hawks’ locker room the day after his team was swept by Orlando. These words were so explosive they didn’t surface until 12 days later in Michael Cunningham’s post on AJC.com. Heck, I didn’t even write them down.
Why not? Because the sentiment expressed within was the basketball equivalent of saying, “You know water? That H-2-0 stuff? It’s wet.” And Gearon’s intent wasn’t to tempt LeBron James but to say his club was, theoretically speaking, willing to spend to improve itself. And also to credit the Hawks for eschewing bad contracts, such as Big Z’s.
The NBA gets more ridiculous with every judgment rendered. The failure to uphold the Hawks’ protest over the shot clock that didn’t reset in Cleveland on Dec. 30 was a travesty. (That decision also involved LeBron, please note.) And now a Hawks’ owner is fined $25,000 for suggesting LeBron merits big money.
I understand the league is trying to be serious about tampering, but this wasn’t tampering. This was a trifle. But it did provide a moment of amusement.
Reached by phone as he was about to leave the country Thursday — and not, it must be stipulated, to avoid paying the 25 grand — Gearon said: “If you’re asking me for a comment, my comment is, ‘No comment.’ ”
Pretty good line, you have to admit.