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It became apparent to me that I needed to write this article after ESPN’s post-game show did not talk about the Celtics for the first 20 minutes because they were too busy analyzing LeBron James. So here it is:
It’s a little earlier than expected, but the time has finally come. Teams outside of Cleveland have been preparing for this day for years and the Cavaliers have been dreading the day that LeBron became a free agent.
The Cavs can thank the Celtics for forcing them out of the playoffs much earlier than they would have wanted and it was in ugly fashion as they looked beaten emotionally and physically in the last 1:30 of Game 6. How many playoff teams have you known to give up with over a minute to play down just nine points? That’s not the foul-happy-stretch-out-every-last-second NBA approach that has infuriated the public time and time again.
With LeBron’s future in limbo, it’s time to lay out the possibilities where he could land this offseason, but first we must take a look at LeBron’s priorities when it comes to finding that right team.
The 2010 free agent class is ridiculous with names like Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Ray Allen on the table, but the biggest prize is LeBron James, so let’s take a look at where the King might end up in the biggest offseason since Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic in 1996.
When it comes to big time stars, it’s always nice to see them finish their career where they started. And no, I don’t mean the Nomar Garciaparra way. I’m talking Tim Duncan, Cal Ripken Jr., Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant (hopefully), etc. Cleveland has done all they can to build a winning team around King James and it hasn’t worked out yet, but you know one of these years he will win if he stays in Cleveland. If he leaves the Cavs, it’s going to be an ugly time as this team is not built to win without a superstar. The Cavs can give him the most money (six years and $125.5 million) thanks to Bird Rights and all other teams can only offer a five-year $96.1 million contract, so that’s an extra $30 million in LeBron’s pocket if he chooses to stay home.
Big star. Big ego. Big market. This seems to be the obvious choice as the New York Knicks have done everything short of making a public announcement that they are going after LeBron James, and they’re going after him hard this offseason. The Knicks have enough cap space where they could afford James and then another player like Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer or Rudy Gay. New York is the biggest market out there and the Knicks are dying to become relevant in basketball again. Plus, the Cavs already made LeBron wear those ridiculous retro uniforms that look very similar to Knicks’ jerseys. Maybe it’s a match made in heaven?
Something here tells me LeBron won’t fit well on this team. First of all, he needs to be “the man” on whatever team he is on and the Bulls are already Derrick Rose’s team. LeBron cannot coexist with another potential superstar so while the Bulls are salivating at the chance of getting the next Michael Jordan, the Bulls may have to go elsewhere in free agency to fill that void. This is just a hunch because the Bulls make a lot of sense if LeBron only cares to win a championship, but don’t you think LeBron wants to conquer a city that hasn’t been touched by a superstar yet?
Think about it. Los Angeles is a huge city, filled with paparazzi and is just a fantasy world. LeBron could become a global icon in a city like that. The Clippers would be a project, but could you imagine LeBron and Kobe Bryant squaring off four times a year for supremacy over one of the biggest markets in basketball? It’s perfect! The Clippers could also bring in another player like Rudy Gay to help LeBron with the rebuilding process so I would not count it out completely.
If you asked me which team was best set up to give LeBron a chance at a dynasty my answer would be the New Jersey Nets. They have a young stud point guard in Devin Harris and a young stud center in Brook Lopez, both of whom do not require 20 shots per game to be successful. The Nets also hold the second-best chance at the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft so there’s potential that John Wall or Evan Turner will be on the squad next year, which would give them three young players who could make the Nets a force for the next six years if LeBron chooses to go there. Imagine the headlines, “LeBron dawns new jersey for New Jersey.” It practically writes itself!
Especially if the Heat re-sign Dwayne Wade, it is virtually impossible that LeBron chooses to go to Miami because he is still only 25 years old. He needs to hog the limelight, not share it. Unlike Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who swallowed their pride and became selfless players to win a championship, LeBron is still young and has a lot of great years ahead of him. Yes, the Heat would be the favorites to win if they had both Wade and LeBron, but would he get the credit that he craves? This is the same thing that Kobe Bryant went through with Shaq and we all saw how that ended.