It wasn’t supposed have the same circus atmosphere this time around. Not after what happened in 2010, with The Decision, the Miami welcome celebration after, and the eventual fallout. Nonetheless, here we are again in 2014, LeBron James has yet to re-sign with the Heat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in play.
Last night, the LeBron to Cleveland rumors hit overdrive. With everyone searching for Dan Gilbert‘s plane, and his agent apparently pushing the Cavs to open up cap space to accommodate LeBron should he choose to return, there is enough out there to lend credence to the fact LeBron is considering a return home.
For the longest time, I’ve avoided discussing the LeBron-to-Cleveland scenario because it always seemed far-fetched, more wishful thinking than anything rooted in reality. Now there are signs, whispers, and possibilities. The scathing letter Gilbert wrote about his franchise player bolted to Miami is no longer on the team’s official site. A meeting between Gilbert and LeBron is not out of the realm of possibility.
All of these things are true, but there’s also danger for Cleveland fans here, the same fans who were heartbroken in 2010 when their hometown star went on national television and embarrassed them. The truth is, with Pat Riley seemingly unable to make the roster upgrades necessary to convince LeBron to return, the King is considering his options. One of them is Cleveland. They have Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins for the long-term, and any team adding LeBron, especially in the Eastern Conference, immediately vaults to the very top.
For Cleveland fans, it’s possible only the conclusion to this whole thing matters. That LeBron is considering them is not enough. The mindset is almost either: he’s coming home or he’s betrayed us once again. It’s not the right mindset to have. There’s a middle here. LeBron is, like any other free agent, considering his options. That Cleveland has presented itself makes it a bit complicated in this case. The fact that LeBron is the best player in the world still at the height of his powers raises the stakes even higher.
Of course, in the world of day-to-day media reporting, it’s very easy to believe the last thing you’ve read. In the past 24 hours, it seems all signs are pointing LeBron to Cleveland. This is, of course, not the case. If you need a Miami perspective, read this piece from Dan Le Batard. It outlines the confidence Heat management has of the situation. It gives a measured take to the situation.
The decision is not just going to impact LeBron. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade has been waiting idly as well despite very different situations. Wade opted out of his contract and left approximately $40 million over two years on the table. Given his long-standing relationship with Riley and the Heat franchise, with or without LeBron, it’s hard to envision him not getting a long-term deal with the Heat.
Of course, there’s this:
Awkward part of this: has anyone tried to sign Wade? Like, anyone at all?
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) July 7, 2014
We know LeBron wants the max, with Wade and Bosh taking a bit of a pay-cut to leave room for upgrades. With this current collective bargaining agreement, it’s very difficult to build around a max player and two near-max players, and — on top of it — have that max player demand significant roster upgrades around him.
Riley has scoured the market in the past week but the only commitment he’s secured is from Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. The Heat will upgrade at the fringes, but if LeBron decides to return, he’s doing so because he believes he can win another title with Wade and Bosh.
In the Heat, LeBron can see success in the present. In the Cavs, he can see a return home and a possibility to win now and in the future. With all the information leaking out, some have asked LeBron to address the rumors:
No one knows better than LeBron how this is playing in Cleveland. If he isn't seriously considering the Cavs, he has to make that known.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 7, 2014
Except it’s not that simple. LeBron is in the middle of a decision-making process, and if that process includes Cleveland, he could end up not choosing them. It would be okay. Of course, I sit here and say that, knowing full well things have already gone too far down the road of speculation; a return to Miami would be another crushing blow for the city of Cleveland.
For Cavaliers fans, if LeBron does choose to return to Miami instead, don’t let the media noise of the past few days turn your expectations into bitterness or vile towards LeBron. Consider the roster moves that have been made in the past four seasons, the draft picks that could have panned out, and so forth.
If LeBron feels like the best basketball decision for him is to return to Cleveland, he will do so. There’s a chance he might. There’s a chance that’s true. If he doesn’t, and he decides to return and make another run with the Big Three, it’s not an indictment on the city or the fans, but a matter of which basketball team has the most talent to help the best player in the world win another title next year.
What do you think?
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