It could happen. I didn’t say it will, or that it’s probable or even that there’s a decent chance. I simply said it could occur.
We are talking, of course, about LeBron James returning to the Cavaliers.
Over the next four weeks or so, those of you who are sick and tired of hearing about James are going to get — if it’s possible — even more sick and tired of hearing about him. My advice to you is to go live in a cave for a bit, because it’s only going to get worse.
Those of you who devour every word about James are going to hear and read a ton of them. My advice to you is to take virtually all of them with a grain of salt because, right now, no one really knows what James is going to do, including, probably, James himself.
One day you’ll hear about James’ kids already being enrolled in school in Northeast Ohio.
The next you’ll hear about James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opting out of their contracts, then taking pay cuts so Carmelo Anthony can join them in Miami.
The day after that you’ll hear about James joining Anthony in New York, or James joining Derrick Rose in Chicago, or Houston general manager and Highland High graduate Daryl Morey pulling off a blockbuster deal that will bring Six to the Rockets.
Mixed in all that, you will hear a lot about James possibly returning to the Cavs, whose chances, while still not great, certainly weren’t hurt by the Heat’s immense struggles against San Antonio in the NBA Finals.
When all is said and done, I think James will elect not to opt out of his contract with the Heat this summer — or opt out and re-sign a one-year deal with a couple player options added on — in order to give Miami a chance to upgrade its roster.
Make no mistake, the Heat needs to add some more talent. Anyone who watched the Spurs destroy Miami in the finals knows that, including James.
Wade is far from the player he once was, Bosh is a third option, Ray Allen is aging, Shane Battier is retiring, Chris Anderson will opt out of his deal and become a free agent and Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis are ordinary NBA players, at best.
This is not intended to take anything away from the talented, team-oriented, professional Spurs, but the Heat could — again, I said could — have lost to three or four clubs in the West Conference playoffs this year.
For that reason alone, I don’t see James opting out and signing with anyone in the West. The road to the finals is just too difficult out there.
Miami, though, is still the best team in the East. That’s not saying much given the current state of the conference, but in order to win a third championship, James first has to reach the finals for a sixth time. Staying in the East is the best way to do that.
James is no dummy. He knows this very well. Yet he also knows he needs more help in Miami, and I’m sure he and Pat Riley will have numerous discussions regarding how to go about getting it.
In Miami’s favor are the following:
• James and his family love the area (or at least that’s what he’s said and what I’ve heard and read);
• The Heat has reached four NBA Finals in James’ four seasons;
• Florida has no state income tax;
• James will make more money playing for the Heat than for anyone else;
• Wade and Bosh, while no longer superstars, are still pretty good;
• Riley has a proven track record;
• There aren’t many other viable options.
The latter is the primary reason I believe James will ultimately decide to let this play out for another season.
Chicago is probably intriguing because it has some solid pieces and Rose might actually stay upright for an entire season, but James has never played with a ball-dominating point guard and I’m not sure he wants to start now.
The Knicks have Phil Jackson, maybe Anthony, some decent veteran players and the fact they play in New York City to offer, but they’d have to do some major wheeling and dealing to sign James, who might look at the roster and conclude it’s still not good enough to win a title.
That, by default, leaves the Cavs, who can offer the following:
• Cleveland is a 40-minute car ride from James’ native Akron;
• Returning would be an opportunity to atone for “The Decision”;
• There are some very talented young players in Kyrie Irving (another ball-dominating point guard) and Dion Waiters (a ball-dominating shooting guard) and a decent one in power forward Tristan Thompson, though the latter two are who I always picture when general manager David Griffin talks about his team needing a “better fit”;
• There’s a floor-spacing center in Spencer Hawes — if he re-signs as a free agent — and a hard-working one in the oft-injured Anderson Varejao;
• Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be added in the NBA Draft;
• There is plenty of salary cap space to sign James and make other needed changes.
If you spin all that correctly and ignore the negative aspects I’ve already touched upon, it can look pretty enticing.
But will it be enough, especially when you consider “The Letter” written by owner Dan Gilbert, Griffin’s unproven track record, Irving’s seeming desire to be “The Man” and Cleveland’s complete and utter failure to achieve any type of success in James’ four-year absence?
That’s not even mentioning the fact the team will soon have its third head coach in as many seasons, that a number of the Cavs’ key pieces don’t appear to have very high basketball IQs and that James wants to win now, not in a year or two.
How will it all end? My opinion counts no more than the next guy’s — or gal’s — but, like I said, I think James will ultimately stay in Miami for at least another season, almost by default.
But until that happens, there remains a chance James could — could! — return to Cleveland.
Some people would love that; others don’t want to ever see him in a Cavs uniform again.
Some people will willingly read and listen to every word on the subject for the next month; others will totally shut down.
It’s a polarizing issue, but it isn’t going away.
And you know what else? If my hunch is correct, that James will stay in Miami for another season, we’ll be dealing with the same thing this time next year.