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Count me among those who thought Lebron James leaving the Miami Heat this offseason as a virtual long shot.
But after wading through the initial smokescreens that often is the initial landscape of NBA free agency, I’m changing my tune on what will be the outcome of the best basketball player on Earth’s free agency odyssey.
Make no mistake about it, Lebron James’ chances of leaving the Miami Heat are growing every day and again, James is taking his time while a majority of teams that believe they are in the hunt for the superstar remain in a holding pattern.
The truth is, Lebron should take all the time he needs and frankly, the caliber of player James is warrants that window of time. What team is really going to argue with Lebron on timetables?
According to multiple reports Lebron James’ agent has met face-to-face with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, all of whom have made their pitch to the multiple-time MVP and NBA champion’s representative.
The assumed logic was that if the Miami Heat failed to, per James’ request, add more talent to the roster around James then James would start exploring his other options.
So where do we stand?
The Miami Heat have already missed on Kyle Lowry, who was their top pick in free agency and a signing that would have followed with the Big 3 all resigning. But Lowry opted to stay in Toronto and apparently it was between the Raptors and the Houston Rockets.
Luol Deng has been courted by the Heat too and even flew down for a visit with Pat Riley, but Deng’s representatives have made it public that Deng is not willing to take much of a drop off a $10m salary. Per sources, it seems as though Deng and the Atlanta Hawks are inching closer to a contract.
There was a reported phone call between Riley and Pau Gasol that seemed more exploratory than anything. Again, it seems Gasol isn’t open to taking the type of discount that the Heat would require from him to join their squad. All reports regarding Gasol have mentioned the Lakers, Knicks and perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder as his realistic options.
So the Miami Heat are void of the upgraded roster that was a requirement of James himself and sit in the same position they were in when the Big 3 opted out.
Now the other teams look more appealing. If you were to believe the social media scuttlebutt than the Cavaliers are already pouncing.
And according to various sources it’s really down to 3 teams right now, possibly 4, that will be able to pitch Lebron James face-to-face, thus making his first initial cut.
Those teams are the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns with the Los Angeles Lakers in the distance.
If history is a factor in predicting future behavior than it has to be assumed that James values the factors he valued during his “Decision” a few years ago. Roster talent.
Roster talent is what brought Lebron James to South Beach in the first place and will likely be a determining factor this time around.
The Heat haven’t made any major upgrades, or to put it more bluntly, have whiffed on doing so. While Josh McRoberts is a nice complimentary player, Danny Granger isn’t the player he was in Indy.
Big time players don’t want to make the financial sacrifices necessary to align with the Big 3 in Miami.
The Lakers are a step above the Heat, but not by much. Taking the roster in present state it’s not a better situation than what James would be stepping into in Miami, in fact it’s worse. Unless the Lakers land Carmelo Anthony what would be the huge pitch for Lebron? Playing for a storied franchise? Perhaps. Playing in a big market like Los Angeles? Lebron is his own worldwide brand, his geographical location won’t hinder that.
This leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns.
The Cavs have the emotional edge and prove James the chance at doing something truly special in his career, an extra shine on the trophies in the trophy case. The perfect ending to the story. They have a young, talent rich roster that is seemingly on the verge of making that leap, but is that enough? Can Lebron really work with owner Dan Gilbert again?
The Suns have the edge in roster talent, draft pick assets, financial stability, front office and a training staff that is tops in the NBA. I’m not suggesting they’re the team, i’m suggesting they have the strongest pitch when comparing apples to apples.
This week will be a long, constantly evolving chapter in the storyline that is and has been the “Decision 2″
Buckle up for the ride