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HOOPS EVERY DAY
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SORRY, YOU'RE NOT
June 28, 2014
By Anthony J. Fredella
MIAMI, Florida - LeBron James made some waves this past week by announcing that he was opting out of his current contract with the Miami Heat. While this move was expected, it still made headlines around the globe because, well, it's LeBron James. The headlines continued all week long speculating where LeBron may end up. Is he going to the Lakers to team with Kobe and Carmelo? No, he's going to the Rockets to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden. No, no, it's the Clippers and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Or is it the Knicks? Or the Mavericks? What about the Bulls? The speculation and the rumors are rampant because, well, it's LeBron James. He's the best player on the planet and one of the greatest basketball players of all time. People like to read about James, so keeping him in the news, regardless of the merit of the story or rumor, means more viewers, more ratings, more readers, more hits, more clicks, more money. So all of the "big boys" will spend the next week or two dissecting what LeBron is thinking, who he's talking to, where he's "interested" in going, who he wants to play with, and how those teams can make cap room to sign him. But what I'm about to say is going to kill all of those pipe dreams, so let me please apologize ahead of time. I'm sorry. But here is the truth: your team is not getting LeBron James - that is, unless your team is the Miami Heat.
It's about an 85-90% chance that LeBron James just re-signs with the Heat under a new contract. The reason for the opt out to begin with is to re-evaluate what the Heat need to get better, and then re-structure his contract accordingly so that the Heat will be in a position to obtain new players and be better in the next few years. It was painfully obvious while watching the NBA Finals a couple of weeks ago that the Heat need help in multiple areas, most notably defense, point guard play, and rim protection. If they don't address those deficiencies this offseason, the Heat will have the same problems that they did against the Spurs come playoff time next year.
LeBron James is 29 years old and in the prime of his career. He was drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and did all that he could do to bring a championship, finally, to the city of Cleveland. After realizing that the Cavs' ownership was not devoted to building a perennial Eastern Conference power around James, he bolted for the Miami Heat in 2010 to allow himself a better opportunity to win a championship. Say what you want about LeBron leaving and teaming with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in order to win, but he was never going to win in Cleveland with guys like Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden starting alongside of him. With that being said, why would anyone think that at this point in his career, after winning two titles with a franchise that is devoted to winning - headed up by Pat Riley - that he would want to leave, go somewhere new, and start over? He wouldn't. He doesn't. He won't. Next season, LeBron James will be back in a Heat uniform. His surroundings, however, may be vastly different. At least one of the other two members of the Big Three will most definitely be there, and more than likely it will be both. Marion Chalmers and Norris Cole? Highly doubtful. The Heat already traded for the draft rights of UConn's Shabazz Napier and late last night we heard that a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry, probably the most coveted PG free agent on this year's market, is imminent. Upgrading from Chalmers and Cole to Lowry and Napier? That seems like a very good start.
Now I know I have not said that James is 100% back to Miami in a week or two. I said 85-90%, and that's because I still leave a tiny - tiny - window open for the possibility that King James will return to his hometown Cavs, who now have a dynamic PG in Kyrie Irving and super-rookie-to-be SF Andrew Wiggins, for another attempt at NBA glory in Cleveland. It's not likely, but if he were to move, that's the only place he would likely land. But again, it's not likely. And pay no mind to LeBron's wife Savannah's Instagram post from this past week. It had nothing to do with where the King is headed to play basketball. The James family still maintains their home - a monstrous, beautiful one at that - in Akron, Ohio. That is where they were headed for the summer, to their home, not to the Cavs.
So while it's fun to talk about LeBron and James Harden and Dwight Howard teaming together in Houston, it's not going to happen. Same goes for the Clippers, Lakers, Bulls, Mavericks, and especially the Knicks. So move on. Start focusing your concentration on the free agents that actually have a chance of joining your team this free agency season. And start thinking about how your team might have to stop a revamped Heat squad, which is still going to feature King James.