The LeBron Chronicles

1Timing is everything.

It really is.

During our weekly conference call, the staff at EHC discussed posting a LeBron James piece on Wednesday morning, making sure to beat his opt-out date by several days.

It appears the joke was on us.

James announced today that he was opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat. What does it mean going forward? On the outside looking in, not a whole lot. For the Heat to improve, it’s widely known that the Big Three, along with Udonis Haslem would have to opt out of their current deals, while the heat would also have to get creative with the rest of their roster.

What LeBron did today was only the first step in what could be many steps for the Heat.

Or…it could symbolize something else.

The NBA draft is only two days away, and it’s ironic that the only two players to opt out of their deals are Carmelo Anthony and LeBron, who are good friends off the court, and are rumored to want to play together. The question is where, if that rumor proves to be true.

Regardless, for LeBron to come back home to Cleveland, he had to opt out.

The staff at #EHC got together to talk LeBron, and here are our initial thoughts.Sam Chapman: 

Pat Riley’s end of the year press conference told us a few things. We know that Pat Riley is #ImPissed, and that winning championships isn’t easy. I couldn’t help but feel this was a “last ditch effort” by Riley in response to the post Game 5 tandem press conference from the not-so-dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. James did most of the talking, wearing what appeared to be 3D glasses from a recent showing of Godzilla, he spoke on the Miami Heat of the last four years in retrospect.

Can the Heat successfully “retool” their team to go back to the finals next year for the fifth consecutive time? What if they are playing the Spurs again? Can they add enough depth to even have a chance?

Part-time NBA player Dwayne Wade would need to opt out and be willing to take part-time NBA player money. After seeing his fellow shooting guard brethren Kobe Bryant get a $48.5 Million contract extension, I don’t think Wade will be willing to shed any salary.

Chris Bosh would also have to opt out, which I think he would be willing to do. Chris Bosh has accepted his role on the Heat and would be willing to sacrifice money for more championship rings. I could see Bosh taking an extension in the $10-12 million per season range for Riley’s “retooling” efforts.

Would Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James be willing to take significant pay cuts to create a “Big Four” in Miami? Keep in mind that the Lakers have tried out a “Big Four” twice in the last 10 years, (Bryant, Howard, Gasol, Nash) and (O’Neal, Bryant, Malone, Peyton). Both times the results could be described as “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

The Heat would also need to replace starting point guard Mario Chalmers, as his ineffectiveness in the Finals is one of the main reasons the Heat got pummeled. The only other point guard on the Heat’s roster is Norris Cole, who I am not sure if ready for a starting role. Though if the other starting four is James, Anthony, Wade, Bosh, Norris Cole should average at least six assists per game.

Ray Allen, who recently vacationed with LeBron James, will play where James plays. If Carmelo decides to stay in New York, or go play for another contender like Chicago, Houston or Dallas, the Heat could look to “retool” by adding other veterans. Kyle Lowry’s name has been tied to the Heat, and he would certainly be an upgrade over Chalmers or Cole. Maybe Pau Gasol jumps ship for $8 million for a chance at more championships. The Heat were starting Rashard Lewis, who hardly even played last year, in this year’s Finals.

The “retooling” potential in Miami is there, but even a “retooled” Heat doesn’t become the best long term fit for James. As LeBron approaches closer to age 30, he needs to take a page from the Spurs playbook and surround himself with young legs. Kawhi Leonard was the Finals MVP, but Tim Duncan got his fifth ring.

The Cleveland Cavaliers boast a young talented core with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and last years #1 pick Anthony Bennett. Add Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to that and in 5 years that could be a legitimate title contender in it self. Now imagine if these young players played alongside the best player in the world how quickly their games would improve.

The Cavaliers have the assests to make trades to cater to LeBron James, if he wanted more proven talent there. Kevin Love is still in play for the Cavaliers, if they are willing to part with the #1 pick. The Cavaliers could potentially sign James and Anthony if they are really set on teaming up in 2014-15. Moving Jarrett Jack’s contract would help and I am sure Anderson Varejao would be willing to take a paycut.

I legitimately believe that LeBron James wants to come back to Cleveland. The first words out of his mouth when winning his first NBA championship were “I made a very hard decision leaving Cleveland.” It seemed to me as if he knew that first championship would have been sweeter back in Ohio.

LeBron wears a bracelet with “I PROMISE” written across it. Obviously a PR move for his LeBron James Family Foundation, but could this bracelet have deeper meaning? Could it be an allusion the failed championship he promised to Cleveland ohh so many years ago?

1abLeBron James doesn’t like being a villian. The backlash from “The Decision” has weighed heavily on his conscience and his image has been in damage control ever since. A potential return to Cleveland could help restore James to the “prodigal son” of the NBA he was in his younger years. Aside from all that, Cleveland does look like a viable option for long term sucess for James. Imagine a 37 year old James, winning his 7th championship while Kyrie Irving or Anthony Bennett hoists the Finals MVP trophy. I’m 60/40 on it, LeBron James is coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I just hope they bring back those blue jerseys and Boobie Gibson too.

John Bojarski: 

#the countdown is real?

It’s more real now, at least.

Conventional wisdom (the speculative kind capitalized on by sports columnists) seems to suggest that LeBron will stick with Miami if the declining Wade and Bosh resign, which apparently is likely. The Riley factor also is important. A towering figure (helped by his hair) like that has a huge effect, and he at least used to hold James in the palm of his hand. It seems he doesn’t hold quite the sway on him anymore.

But where’s the free agency fun in that? Miami has too many stars (falling stars, sure) to begin with, and with rumors about Carmelo going ’round, the deck is stacked.

LeBron going back home to Cleveland? OK, sure. It would be great to have regular meetings of the minds between him and Johnathan Football. This with a number one draft pick and Kyrie creates saliva for the fans.

I’ve also heard discussions about King James moving to the Bulls for a chance at working with the newly revitalized Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodobadibadeau, a killer coach for sure.

From a personal standpoint, I love the Clippers rumors. And not just because Bron do some real damage with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. One, with all of the Donald Sterling fallout and the continued hard feelings from the original The Decision, this has a chance at being the biggest circus it possibly could be. Two, the new Clips owner is former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Dude’s crazy.

Steve Orbanek:

So, here we are. Is everyone ready for a wild ride?

I am stuck on a word that John Bojarski just mentioned. “Conventional wisdom.” Indeed, conventional wisdom would suggest that LeBron would stay put in Miami, but conventional wisdom would also suggest he would never have had his agent leak this news on June 24, 2014, which is days before he actually had to make a decision.

That point there is sticking with me. Why now? He has no reason to, except unless he’s attempting to send a message.

James’ decision to opt out came out two days before the 2014 NBA Draft, and that’s interesting. It’s also hard to believe it’s a coincidence.

The thing that makes this so difficult is that I think every Cleveland fan is hesitant to really embrace this idea. That’s not because they don’t want it either. However, LeBron is like that old lover, who left us all scorned. Our hearts never really heal, but we warn ourselves to stay strong and not give in.

Sorry, I’m giving in.

This is it. I firmly believe this signals that the LeBron indeed wants to head back to Cleveland. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio has already reported that LeBron remembers the promise of bringing a title to Cleveland. As my colleague Samuel Chapman noted, perhaps his wrist bracelet has more meaning than we know.

Secondly, Brian Windhorst of ESPN is reporting the Cavaliers are already working behind the scenes to figure out a way to create a cap space, so they could potentially add LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. David Griffin realizes the urgency of the situation here. He’s not going to waste time preparing for these types of maneuvers if it’s not at least somewhat plausible.

Regardless, even if it’s not Cleveland, I can’t see LeBron returning to Miami, and that’s for two reasons.

For one, Dwayne Wade’s cranky knees have equated to him becoming an adequate basketball player. Sure, Wade could opt out and accept lower money. However, do you realize how much lower it would be? The shooting guard is set to make over $40 million the next two years. Could you really see him opting out and sacrificing potentially $20 million. I can’t see him being worth much more than $10 million a season in Miami or anywhere for that matter.

Also, this further proves that LeBron will do what’s best for himself and his conquest for NBA Titles, regardless of who he steps over in the process. That was true in 2010, and that’s true now. Chris Bosh previously stated that he thought LeBron would opt in. However, LeBron essentially stated today that he cares little about Bosh, their friendship, or his opinion.

Rather LeBron has two basic needs: winning championships and expanding his brand.

Believe it or not, a return to Cleveland could be might be just what it takes to satisfy both those needs.

Jim Pete: 

In 2010, I was consumed by LeBron James and his “decision.”

I won’t let it happen again.

Today, LeBron James opted out of his contract, and I let myself get caught in the wave of discussion. Like my fellow #EHC scribes, I pondered the “message” that was sent by LeBron by opting out a full week before he had to, and two days before the NBA draft.

Was he sending a message to teams that had the ability to sign him that they needed to do whatever they could to prove their worth? Was he letting the Cavs know that he was indeed coming home?

You see the treacherous path.

I’m going to be honest. I have no freakin’ clue what “message” LeBron James was sending. I don’t know if he was, or, truthfully, I don’t much care.

LeBron James is now the best free agent available. General manager David Griffin should, of course, call LeBron’s camp to gauge his interest in returning home. That’s what good GM’s do.

There should be no games.

There should be no meetings of multiple teams.

It should be a phone call.

David Griffin: “LeBron, hi, this is David Griffin, the GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers. We’re very interested in your services next year, and can offer you a contract as good as anyone. We have a good young team, and if you sign, with your help, we could likely attract another big-time free agent this year or next. We can also develop Dion Waiters and this year’s #1 pick around you, and create a team that can run off several championships as you head into the second half of your career.”

I don’t care about comic sans and letters.

Like so many have told me since 2010, it’s just basketball…

Dan Gilbert was fired up, and he reacted in a matter that befits the fifth graders that I teach.

He’s human…so be it.

LeBron also made mistakes in 2010…so be it.

What that taught me, and hopefully, what that taught the Cavaliers, is that there are certain ways to do things, and certain ways you don’t.

The Cavs need to build their team. They have assets, and like them or not, Kyrie and Dion and Bennett and Thompson and a first pick could be something special with the right coach. I’m sure of it. David Blatt is the right coach. Tyronn Lue is the right assistant. There will be room for a free agent or two.

Create that team culture that has eluded most teams over the past ten or so years in an era of big-name players.

How do the Cavs truly handle it right this year? They should act like they are one of five or six teams that can offer LeBron a chance at NBA glory,  and that it’s HIS honor to join this team, not the other way around. Perhaps that’s shortsighted of me. Perhaps pandering to players is the way to go.

Tell that to San Antonio.

4 replies »

  1. I also have the feeling that LeBron wants to come back to Cleveland, but I felt the same way in 2010, so I don’t trust that feeling any more. I’m fairly certain he comes back at some point, I just don’t know if this is it. I certainly hope so.

    In terms of the Cavs, even if we don’t land LeBron I think we can still have a solid team this year with the existing crew and an added first round pick. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Cavs underachieved last year, and maybe part of that was Kyrie’s disdain for Mike Brown.

    I do find it interesting that the Lakers are going to try to land LeBron and are reportedly looking at Byron Scott as a finalist. Didn’t we sign Byron as a last ditch appeal to LeBron back in 2010? Wondering if LeBron hinted at wanted to play for Scott, but then was persuaded to leave anyway by Pat Riley. Interesting all around, I think.

  2. Yep. Although I still maintain that Byron Scott should not have been fired by the Cavaliers… Was always a fan.

    That said, I could see myself becoming an even bigger fan of David Blatt. And I agree, regardless of what happens with LeBron, I see a much improved team. Let’s say they keep the pick, re-sign Hawes, and then draft Andrew Wiggins. That team alone has to be a close to a .500 squad. Then in the ensuing years, you’ll be looking at a 50-plus win club potentially, especially in the East.

    Anyway you look at it, the future is bright for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just crossing my fingers that Wiggins is the pick.

  3. I don’t think the Lakers with their supporting cast of Robert Sacre and “Swaggy P” are a viable option for LeBron James. I don’t think any team in the Western Conference is really, not even the Houston Rockets. If LeBron James goes to any team in the Eastern Conference, they are the hands on favorites to go to the NBA Finals next year. The Chicago Bulls are essentially the same team they were for years ago, except Derrick Rose hasn’t played in two years. If the Bulls weren’t good enough four years ago, why would LeBron go to Chicago to play in Jordan’s shadow now? The Knicks are a dark horse just because of Phil Jackson, but I think next summer when Bargnani and Stoudamire’s contracts are off the books is a better time for LeBron to go to the Big Apple.

    With this opt out, it really does feel like staying in Miami vs. going back to Cleveland to me.

  4. I completely agree about Wiggins. I’ve been surprised by the front office in the past when Chris Grant was running the show, but I’m hoping they hold court and take Wiggins. He seems, to me, to be a much better fit for our team as constructed. And if LeBron does come back, Wiggins is the perfect candidate for reducing his minutes during the regular season, which I heard was a thing LeBron was looking for.

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