Storyline: LeBron James Free Agency

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The best the Cavs can hope for is that James can find it within himself to pull the team out of this hole, complete an eighth consecutive trip to the Finals and then fail to find the free-agent options as appealing as he may have hoped. “He’s not going to the Lakers, because they know they can get Kawhi [Leonard] next summer,” the agent said. “If I’m the Sixers, I have to think about what it means to bring in LeBron and take the ball out of Ben Simmons’ hands. Simmons is useless when he’s not controlling the ball. Is LeBron going to give up the ball?”

Paul Pierce was on the phone talking about his 2010 Celtics and the second-round series against Cleveland. He seemed to take particular joy in the video of LeBron James walking off the court in the Garden and removing his jersey on the way to the dressing room — the prelude to a departure for Miami two months later. “We could be seeing history repeat itself,” Pierce said through laughter. “That’s the funny part about it, because if Boston beats them, we all know he’s gone. He may be gone anyway.”

The answer, at least the top target, is clear as day, with James expected by all to decline his player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and enter free agency. Brown can’t admit that LeBron’s the top target, at least not by name, but he still sort of did. “I’m not here to tell names,” Brown said on the topic, before acknowledging that the answer is an easy one to arrive at. “To me, the answer becomes clear.” After a long, somewhat awkward pause before the next question, Brown continued. “It’s true though, right? I mean, like, we don’t have to turn this into calculus. It’s quite clear.”

Tomer Azarly: Brian Windhorst on LeBron James’ future with #Cavs – “Let’s say they get lucky and hop up to number 3. I’m not sure that LeBron is that excited about, you know, playing with Luka Doncic even if that draft pick may end up setting the franchise in a great position in 2 or 3 years.” Windhorst, continued, on LeBron James’ free agency – “I think the #Cavs greatest situation is that there is no other great situation and that may end up keeping LeBron put.”

But Lopez may well have walked into the most exciting period for the team he was traded to, the LA Lakers, since the showtime era which starred Magic Johnson, if the efforts of the owners to get superstar LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George to the Lakers materialise. “It’s a very exciting possibility,” said Lopez, adding: “Obviously they are two supremely talented players and they have both changed the face of the teams and it is definitely going to be an interesting off season when it happens.”

During a Sunday appearance on FOX Sports Radio’s “Chris and Caron,” Bryant cautioned against splitting up the club’s young core in favor of a more expedient return to title contention via free agency, with the likes of LeBron James and Paul George in L.A.’s crosshairs. “If you want to be a dynasty or a team that has longevity, those things take time, and generally are grown from within,” Bryant said (h/t Silver Screen and Roll’s Christian Rivas for the transcription). “You slap a couple All-Stars together, you can maybe win two of three, but eventually players get traded. But if you build a team organically, that dynasty team tends to stay together longer.”
4 weeks ago via ESPN

Coming off a 34-point loss in Game 6 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round series against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, LeBron James said his focus is on how a Game 7 loss Sunday could end his season, not how it could be his last game ever playing for the Cavs. “No. No,” James said when a reporter asked if he would ponder how his 11-year tenure in Cleveland could be coming to an end should the Cavs lose and James choose another team after opting out of the final year of his contract this summer. “The thought of, ‘If we don’t play well it will be my last game of the year,’ that will probably hit my mind, but I haven’t thought about that.”

I will continue to trumpet the belief that James would be making a huge mistake to leave the Eastern Conference that he has dominated for years by joining the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Lakers and potentially complicating his annual path to the championship round. But the Cavaliers suddenly look so rickety again that I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Walton’s improvement and maturation as a coach throughout the season has seemingly flown under the radar, however, as he has made significant strides in the handling of his players. Channing Frye has witnessed this first hand since being traded. He was asked whether James would want to play for Walton and eventually opened up after some initial trepidation. “Am I allowed to talk about that?” Frye asked aloud before continuing. “I’m going to say this, I think any superstar would like to play for Luke. I think he’s a players’ coach. I think when you talk about the continuity with the president, owner, GM, a lot of guys are looking for that.

Former Knick and current Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith was even more direct when told about and shown a photo of the billboard on Sunday, not mincing words when asked if he believes there’s any chance LeBron winds up with the Knicks as a free agent this summer. “Nah, don’t think so. Can’t see it (happening),” Smith told the Daily News with a laugh after the Cavs worked out at Basketball City at Pier 36 on South Street. “But that’s cool, though, man. A lot of cities have tried that already with (a billboard). But we’ll see what happens.”

If the rumor mill is to be believed, LeBron James is entering his final regular-season games and prepping for his last playoff run as a Cavalier. But James isn’t thinking that way in the run up to the Cavs’ last two games — both against the Knicks — and the playoffs that start next weekend. “I don’t think like that,” James told cleveland.com, after the Cavs practiced Sunday in New York. “I’m too much of a guy that’s stuck in the moment. I don’t do too much of that.”
2 months ago via SLAM

Is there an actual chance LeBron goes to the 76ers? CJ McCollum: “He’s always (been) calculated about his decision-making process going back to his youth. Ben [Simmons] is his young guy. Ben is a member of Klutch Sports, so that also could play a factor. Philly is in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has been fond of the Eastern Conference throughout his career on what seems to be his EZ-Pass to the Finals. I think it’s a bigger possibility than people think. I’m not sure if they have the space financially for that. Obviously, they have a lot of guys on rookie deals right now. But they would need to get some more shooters in there if they do want to bring Bron in.”

LeBron James says he hasn’t seen the latest billboard, the one in the Akron area recruiting him to remain with the Cavaliers by showing ruby red Nike sneakers with the tagline “LeBron, there’s no place like home.” You be the judge if that’s true. ” I haven’t seen it, but, like I said before, it’s very flattering,” James said Friday, when asked for his thoughts on the “billboards,” without any explanation that they carried the familiar Wizard of Oz theme. “It’s just, I don’t know, it’s very humbling. I know my hometown, so, I already know there’s no place like Akron, that’s for sure.”

Indeed, as he has shown in trying to carry a chemistry- and health-challenged Cavs team to a fourth straight Finals appearance, LeBron James is a franchise-changer, but is he the right target for this Lakers franchise? “I don’t think he’s the best fit with Lonzo [Ball],” one Eastern Conference executive said. “I think James would stunt his growth. Ball is talented enough to play off the ball and make it work, but he’s best with the ball in his hands. With him wanting to secure his first payday, I don’t think he’ll be too happy deferring to James. You know his pop won’t.”

Even if the Lakers bring in Paul George along with James, can a group of players barely old enough to legally order alcohol, without one game of NBA postseason experience, give enough support to win 16 contests through June? None of the answers is easy, and while the obvious play would be to try for James, the Lakers need to seriously consider how long LeBron James will be LeBron James. “He has two or three years left at an elite level,” an NBA agent said, a sentiment echoed by the Western Conference executive. The executive from the East, however, didn’t agree: “He’ll be LBJ for however long he wants. He’s a freak. I’m confident he can dominate for another five to six years.”
2 months ago via ESPN

“I’ve still got too much work to do here,” James said, speaking about the Cavaliers’ season, which has 18 games remaining before the playoffs. “One thing about me and my career, you probably don’t know, you haven’t been around me, that I handle my business accordingly, and when that time comes, I’ll take care of that. But right now, my job right now is to get these guys prepared for the Clippers tonight and then how we can continue to get better going down the stretch.”

But it goes beyond that. Clarkson said when he was a player for the Lakers, his teammates used to talk about James coming there as a free agent, which he could be free to do this summer if he opts out of his contract with the Cavs. “I wouldn’t say like management and the coaches or nobody, but in the locker room people talk when they see what’s going on,” Clarkson said, after the Cavs beat the Denver Nuggets 113-108. “That’s probably the only thing, people talk in the locker room.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Emrani says he has paid to put up four billboards around Los Angeles trying to recruit James to join the Lakers in free agency in response to previous billboards erected in Cleveland and Pennsylvania trying to convince James to join the Sixers and remain with the Cavaliers, respectively. As the Cavaliers make their only trip of the regular season to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Friday and the Lakers on Sunday, Emrani wants James to know he’s wanted in purple and gold. The Lakers have the ability to create as much as $70 million in cap space to pursue two max free agent stars like James and Oklahoma City’s Paul George this summer.
3 months ago via ESPN

Richard Jefferson: “He’s a Cav and everyone here knows 1,000 percent that he’s 100 percent committed to whatever game or team he’s on. He’ll address it with his family when the season is over. I don’t know, no one knows, people can guess, everyone wants to now throw these shots in the dark. ‘Oh he’s going to go here, he’s going to do this. He played junior high hockey with this person so maybe he’ll go play in Minnesota.’ Shut up. No one knows. No one knows.”

There’s been some growing “LeBron to Philly” buzz for four reasons: the Sixers have enough cap space and trade assets to accommodate LeBron and the likes of, say, PAUL GEORGE; Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are two of the league’s best under-25 blue-chippers (young legs!); Klutch represents Simmons (hmmmmm); and NBA insiders have been gossiping about an increasingly cozy Philly–LeBron’s circle connection since November. You want a quality narrative? What about this one:

“He’s not [coming back to Miami]. But the fact when ESPN polled 48 players about what they thought might happen with LeBron that they even mentioned the Heat shows that, at worst, the Heat remain relevant in players’ consciousness,” Winderman wrote. “Basically, the NBA players polled still consider the Heat a desirable landing spot. And that is a good thing. But I cannot fathom, as you pointed out, the Heat having enough on their roster to attract such a level of free agent. There was a time when I thought Hassan Whiteside could have been such a lure, but with his role minimized, I don’t see that as the case anymore.”

Possibly damaging the Lakers’ “King James” dreams is the franchise playing its own role in making the Cavaliers’ roster more attractive. The Lakers recently traded two of their young talents to Cleveland – easy-scoring guard Jordan Clarkson and high-flying forward Larry Nance Jr. Cleveland acquired a veteran point guard in George Hill who complements James well with his 3-point shooting, ability to be effective without the ball and defense, and also added a talented, athletic and young scorer in Rodney Hood, who could start for a lot of teams.

The new-look Cavaliers sans an injured Kevin Love are 2-0 since the moves and fun to watch again. The Lakers have the ability to sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that ability until 2019. Trading ex-Clippers star Blake Griffin just months after he signed a five-year contract has to be curious to a prospective free agent as well.“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

“It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for it. I hope everybody had a great weekend. I know I did. I know my family did. So it was a great weekend.” A necessary disclosure for all those Lakers fans who want so badly for James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to come their way in free agency: This, much like the many alleged James-to-LA bread crumbs that have come before, means nothing. Yet with the Lakers fans’ dreams so tantalizingly close this weekend – James and fellow free-agent-to-be Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder in their city and their building and playing on the same team – it’s more than enough to help them hold onto that hope for the next few months.

The house-cleaning in Cleveland was all for nothing — because LeBron James is leaving the Cavs to sign with the Lakers in the off-season … at least, that’s what LaVar Ball believes. The Big Baller was at his pop-up shop in L.A. when we asked about the possibility of Bron coming out West to play with Lonzo when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. LaVar is not only convinced it’s going to happen — he tells TMZ Sports, “Lonzo is gonna make HIM a better player!”
3 months ago via ESPN

If the Cavs were hedging before, this was seen by some as a more elaborate hedge, where they can improve this year and send the message to James that they’re supporting him but still lay the foundation for change. Otherwise, executives said, it’s hard to fathom the team spending this much money. But multiple Cavs executives reinforced that is not the plan, that Gilbert continues to offer unwavering support and is focused on winning more than on the team’s bottom line. The Cavs have added salary with midseason moves in each of the past four seasons. The past three seasons, the Cavs reached the Finals. The actions speak quite loudly.

While there have been some reports that ran counter to the idea, LeBron James potentially signing with the Golden State Warriors this offseason remains a legitimate possibility. If LeBron wants it and the Warriors want it, who exactly is going to stop it? And during an appearance on First Take, TNT analyst and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal said that if he were LeBron, joining the defending champs is exactly what he would do.

Dwyane Wade Wade says unlike in 2010, LeBron James is on his own this time. Having recruited James and Chris Bosh to join the Miami Heat that offseason, Wade told ESPN he has no similar intentions this summer when James again will be a free agent. Having told NBA TV that South Florida will be his last NBA stop, Wade, 36, told former South Florida radio host Jorge Sedano during an interview at AmericanAirlines Arena that he is steering clear of James’ decision process.

“No. No, I don’t have anything to do with it, none of that,” Wade said of his partner during Heat runs to the NBA Finals from 2011-14, a stretch that produced championships in 2012 and ’13. “One thing I know is he makes his own decisions. So when we get to that point, hopefully he takes a good look at the place he’s at and gives that real consideration, and then goes from there. “It’s his decision and I don’t want nothing to do with it at all.”

The feeling among executives around the league is that James will choose between bolting for the Lakers and sticking with the Cavaliers next summer. The Lakers would offer him what he is looking for down the stretch of his career — a good place to move his family, a ready-made winning situation (if he could bring another top-tier star with him) and an opportunity to be connected with the entertainment industry. From a lifestyle standpoint, LA would be hard to beat.

Before the deadline, the entire future of the Cavs was latched to LeBron James’ 2018 free-agency decision. The moves they made, though, allow them to stay afloat as a franchise no matter what James does — and that could make James more likely to stay. “I would have said it was a 50-50 proposition that he would go back to Cleveland this summer before all of this, even a week ago,” one league executive told Sporting News. “I think this moves it more in the Cavs’ favor. They’re younger and deeper. If the lifestyle is all the same to him, and I don’t know that it is, I’d think he would stay in Cleveland.

LeBron James would reportedly meet with the Warriors if they clear max space next summer. But LeBron also called that rumor “nonsense.” Hawks general manager and former Golden State assistant general manager Travis Schlenk, via CBS Atlanta: “I would be really, really surprised if LeBron went to Golden State. The one thing I will say about Mr. James: He is the master at using the media to get whatever story he wants out there. He’s perfected the art of the social-media game. I think that those things were probably leaked by them, by Mr. James and his camp. I don’t see a universe where that happens. It would be interesting to see. It would be interesting to see what he’d be like with the rest of those guys, with his playmaking ability and obviously with the shooting that Golden State has.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Before getting out of the arena and safely onto a plane away from Saturday night’s mess, Paul offered a warning. He’s one of James’ closest friends and he admits he’s biased. But he’s also one of the smartest men in the NBA and someone who has tried to chase a championship for years and failed. “You’ve got LeBron James over there in that locker room. You know what I mean? What else the man need to do?” Paul said. “Don’t take it for granted, man, don’t take it for granted.”
4 months ago via ESPN

It’s dangerous in the NBA to overreact; it gets people fired and it costs people wins, respect and money. The season is long, and that makes it forgiving, which is why anyone who has much experience preaches patience. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are out of time. It’s preposterous to say that in February for a team with a history of turning things around and doing it when they have to. However, they are in a preposterous situation. They aren’t just looking at losing this season, but they are looking at losing LeBron James. If tomorrow were the beginning of free agency, there’s a good chance that would be the case.
4 months ago via ESPN

The Cavs’ players do not trust each other. It appears as if some of them don’t like each other. Two of them — Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye — were told they’d probably get traded two weeks ago but then weren’t. Their coach has been hesitant to shake up the lineup as he has failed to motivate his veteran team. Tyronn Lue’s performance has been questioned in recent weeks. His fidelity to playing certain lineups while abandoning others that previously were highly successful is so mystifying that it has launched conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, he is not at the center of the storm. This is all a whirlwind around LeBron James vs. the Cavs’ front office, which is to say it’s about James vs. owner Dan Gilbert.
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May 23, 2018 | 2:29 pm EDT Update