According to a source close to the situation (and even closer to insanity), LeBron James and his dreamy, free-agent co-stars have agreed to play for an NBA expansion franchise located on Mars and granted $100 million in start-up cap space.
These orbiting playmates will work in a Southwest Airlines-sponsored arena that has no assigned seating.
Don’t be surprised if this breaking news is upon us in a matter of minutes. But while I’ve been waiting for someone to unleash such a preposterous revelation, my mind keeps drifting to one person who truly deserves to be part of The Summer of LeBron.
So, where is Frodo Baggins when we need him? That’s right, free-agency fans, the “Lord of the Rings” point guard with the comb-over feet may be the only character who can handle the frenetic and alleged developments in the chase to break the King James relocation (or not) story.
Most of the hullabaloo has been generated by the smash-mouth quest for an NBA championship ring. Why has this occurred? Well, in our interpretation of athletic achievement, you’re nothing without a legacy to stand on. In case you’ve missed the last few decades, the sporting public considers title-free legacies to be hopelessly flawed.
This can seem sensationally unfair (hello, Charles Barkley), but also checks in as somewhat understandable.
Anyway, our prevailing ring fetish has the potential to blister the NBA landscape in ways similar to how Frodo’s burden-associated ring affected Middle Earth. In the battle to have the story first, we’ve heard of summit meetings that probably require transporter rooms to make them a logistical reality. We’ve been informed that Chris Bosh, for example, has decided to go here just minutes after being assured a deal has been massaged to put him over there.
When it all actually does happen, the map of the NBA may not look very familiar. The blame or credit will go to the LeBron James Fault. OK, while LeBron actually is at fault (more on that opinion later), the fault just referred to is much like the geographical issues that have threatened to turn Yuma, Ariz. into a seaside resort.
As we all have been made aware, the potential of LeBron leavin’ Cleveland offers enough seismic gusto (registering at $44 million on the Richer Scale in Miami) to turn the league upside down.
Let’s begin with the Cavaliers, who have employed The King for seven seasons that would be considered quite successful unless you believe not winning a championship pushes 60-plus wins into the toilet. Akron-raised LeBron, who has inspired many witnesses to insist he loves Cleveland, has become at least the second-best player in the world.
But that’s not enough. That’s also fine. It also should be noted that winning one or two titles won’t be enough, either. To satisfy a legacy that has to either approach or even eclipse that of Michael Jordan and (now) Kobe Bryant, The King must win, oh, eight titles.
Hey, we all love a winner. However, I feel it’s a bit cheesy to seek a harmonic convergence of Team USA cronies for the sake of building a legacy on top of several O’Brien trophies. Can you really be considered the greatest ever (and if you think that’s not the goal, you’re nuts) if you need two more in-their-prime superstars on board to get it done?
Maybe LeBron will have the guts to stay in Cleveland and do enough to make those around him better enough to win a title. Yeah, I understand the differences in the regular season and playoffs and am quite aware that most championship teams have another superstar-caliber player riding shotgun. But aren’t they close enough for a 26-year-old LeBron to haul the Cavs above their current station? Could more work on that mid-range jumper (and a few less in-game attempts from beyond the arc) be sufficient upgrade for a Cavaliers championship?
Should the craving for grabbing trump the challenge in lifting an entire organization and city to claim it? I say no.
If LeBron’s answer is yes and he leaves, we’ll have a far more compelling story when he lands in another city. The speculation will be a narcotic that, like you, I won’t be able to avoid. The Miami franchise might return to relevance. Or the Chicago Bulls may move the national needle again. The New York Knicks’ two-year prostitution of their won-loss record would not be in vain if The King chooses Gotham. A Russian billionaire will bring glory to Newark. The L.A. Clippers … uh, I don’t have anything for them.
But Cleveland without LBJ would be a wreck beyond basketball. Bars and restaurants near Quicken Loans Arena would suffer. Who would want to order the Boobie Gibson Tuna Melt? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, caught in the middle of this civic gut punch, might abandon its standards and induct Yanni. Cavs fans would kneel and face Secaucus, N.J., hoping their team receives the ping-pong-ball connection that yields Harrison Barnes in the next draft.
Sure, the Cavaliers could attempt to start over and eventually create some cap space, but who of significance would want to play for them and their collection of fine role players? Would Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao threaten to hold their own summit meeting? Maybe Allen Iverson would show up.
Nah, it would be chaos in Cleveland, just like Middle Earth.
Make no mistake about it, James could produce storms of volcanic ash all over the place.
If The King lands in Miami with buddy Dwyane Wade and Bosh (or Carlos Boozer or Joe Johnson and so on), the potential for scoreboard domination would resonate in Orlando, where Coach Stan Van Gundy is thiiiis close to losing his mind … kind of like Smeagol.
Aligning James and another star with Derrick Rose and Joaquim Noah in Chicago might bring MJ out of retirement (I hope I’m kidding).
For the record, this Ring Construction Project has other prospective participants.
Johnson, who deserves much of the blame for the Atlanta Hawks’ improvement, is poised to leave for a more ring-friendly situation. I don’t think Joe’s worth a maximum contract, but if the Hawks were to give him one, it would be worth more than a max deal bestowed by another team.
That’s how important the ring seems to be and why Frodo’s agent has been contacted.
But looming tribulation that’s not affiliated with James (or a ring) also could occur in Phoenix, where — despite reports of good-faith negotiating — Amar’e Stoudemire’s has opted out of the final year of his dandy contract. Amar’e’s interest in landing an extension of more than three seasons could leave Steve Nash running screen-roll with Earl Clark. In turn, the Suns’ love affair with the city of Phoenix would be as smokin’ hot as an episode of “Real Housewives of Green Bay.”
The aforementioned Boozer, who could end up on one of these star-stuffed rosters, may require for more money than the Utah Jazz (another top-notch franchise with great fan support) will cough up to keep him. Well, Carlos also might be interested in a ring of his own, but reported flirtations with the Knicks and Nets suggest this summer is not without money-related storylines.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the Knicks and Nets, two teams with lovely cap space and — according to reports tied to sources close to someone — seemingly little chance to land LeBron and/or the most talented of his pals. After two years of unloading contracts, the Knicks could end up paying max money for, let’s see, Johnson and Stoudemire? They could join Coach Mike D’Antoni in a Suns reunion party that Nash would be unable to attend.
The Nets might have to grab rebounding ace David Lee, who would be an ex-Knick on the cusp of landing a big contract without D’Antoni’s system to attain the max-justifying stat lines.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are expected to re-sign opt-out small forward Paul Pierce. But Pierce, who said bye-bye to the $21.5 million on the last year of his deal, is hoping to get similar yearly loot for multiple seasons (Boston, for example, could go four years and $96 million) before a new, less player-friendly collective bargaining agreement is hammered down after the coming season.
Will the Cs, who still could be the class of the Eastern Conference, want to pay The Truth that caliber of loot when he’s 36 years old? The same issue is being dealt with in Dallas, where the Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban are expected to bring back opt-out superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Cuban also is threatening to swap most everyone else in a sign-and-trade strategy designed to bring LeBron to Texas from Cleveland. The King’s business manager is named Maverick, but the Cavs reportedly are not interested in helping LeBron find happiness in a sign-and-trade manner.
With an eye to avoiding such a mess next summer, the Denver Nuggets are open to dealing Carmelo Anthony this summer if the star forward does not sign an extension one year before he can scram.
It’s all crazy enough to make a guy like Frodo hand over the ring to Ron Artest and call it a day.
But maybe, just maybe, LeBron puts more faith in his fellow Cavaliers and gives Cleveland another whirl.
Then he and his teammates can determine if “The Return of the King” has a certain ring to it.
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