We are a year and change away from what could be one of the most exciting spectacles in sports history. What makes it so interesting is that it won't be played on hardwood, grass, or ice.
This monumental event will be taking place over the phone lines, in face-to-face conversations, and behind closed doors.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm talking about the possible free agent class of 2010, and more specifically, LeBron James.
We all hear about it, we all think about it, and we all can't wait for the results.
With such a surplus of available talent and teams doing everything in their power to have money to spend, the NBA might have its own version of musical chairs by the time October 2010 rolls around.
We hear about the "Coaching Carousels" of college football, but rarely do we get to see something of that magnitude when it comes to superstar players.
Here's the list of guys that may be available:
Unrestricted Free Agents: Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Larry Hughes, Rafer Alston, and Shaquille O'Neal.
Restricted Free Agents: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Tyrus Thomas, Carl Landry, Luis Scola, Jordan Farmar, Rudy Gay, Randy Foye, and Andrea Bargnani.
Players with Options: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, John Salmons, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, TJ Ford, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojakovic.
With that stated, many of those players might sign extensions or decline their options and remain with their current teams. As of right now, though, these guys can all potentially switch (or attempt to, in the cases of the restricted guys) alliances during what's sure to be a frantic summer.
But even with so much possibly going on, the attention will surely be on one thing: What will LeBron do?
Will he sign an extension beforehand, remaining with Cleveland? Will he opt out and re-sign? Will he opt out and look to go elsewhere?
Or will he decline his option, wait another year to become a free agent, and force teams to freeze their spending for another year?
Most evidence indicates that he'll opt out and at least explore his options, whether he plans on re-signing or switching jerseys.
So where would he want to go if he no longer fancies his home state?
The Brooklyn Nets used to be everyone's favorite possibility, but with the move on hold, it seems like it's no longer a real possibility.
People say LeBron is made to play in New York, in the basketball Mecca known as Madison Square Garden. Then there is everybody else, hoping he sees something in their team that makes them unique and desirable.
Well, I'm going to be looking at one of those "other teams"—The Miami Heat—and I'm going to describe to you why it really does make sense.
It's all about the money, and Miami will have it. If Wade opts out, as expected, Miami could have no players under contract if they chose to do so. And for those of you who aren't so great at math, having no salaries on the books means you have the most money to spend.
With that said, Miami will have players under contract in 2010. Miami has team options on Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook, and James Jones that summer. Most likely, Miami will pick up three of those, releasing Jones and his remaining $15 million.
That will leave Miami with three young (20, 22, and 21 respectively), very talented (all making impacts in less than four years experience combined) players who come at the low price of just under $8 million in total.
In comparison, the Knicks will probably have four players under contract: Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler at a total of $23.5 million. Miami has better talent and more cap room.
We're also assuming Wade will also be on the Heat's payroll. He has stated his desire to remain in Miami and has even discussed signing an extension this summer. If that were to happen, he'd keep his $17 million contract in 2010, which would bring Miami's total to around $25 million. If he declines and they resign him, that number would be closer to $30 million.
While it isn't the "Media Capital of the World," it's definitely not San Antonio. And as LeBron has already proven, he's going to get a ridiculous amount of attention regardless of where his home is.
South Beach is considered a "place to be" by most. Beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, beautiful women, and a happening nightlife.
Add in the fact that he won't have to pay income taxes for over half of his games (they pay taxes in every state they play in), and what's not to love about going to Miami?
LeBron and Wade are supposedly very good friends. People made a big deal about LeBron's relationship with Jay-Z enticing him to play with the Nets. But he wouldn't see Jay-Z every day or get to play with him on the court. So wouldn't his relationship with Wade be one more reason to come to Miami instead of going to Brooklyn?
The question comes into play on whether or not Wade and LeBron would mesh. By their styles of play, I think they most likely would. While they both dominate the ball, they both don't mind playing off of it.
It's just that they are asked to do so much by their teams because of their tremendous abilities. I'm sure if you asked each of them if they would rather score 50 points and have zero assists or have zero points and 25 assists (both in winning efforts), they wouldn't hesitate to say 25 assists.
They like seeing their teammates thrive because it means they don't have to carry such a burden. Sharing that burden with somebody of equal (or near equal) caliber would relieve them of a ton of stress and would also contribute to prolonging their careers.
This is a big one. Both LeBron and Wade are very aware of what makes a great player legendary. They know it isn't points scored or All-Star Game selections. Legends are made over that two week span every June. Rings will be the tell-all in how they are looked at in the aftermath of their careers.
Karl Malone was great, but could you imagine how we'd perceive him today if he won those two series against the Bulls? Top three ever? Yeah, it makes that big of a difference.
So the question is: Would Miami be a long time contender? LeBron and Wade would create one of the greatest tandems ever seen in the league's history.
Beasley isn't quite as good as advertised coming into the season, but he's a finesse player, and that takes a longer time to develop.
Chalmers is the kind of guy you see playing point on championship squads all the time. He's a guy who'll play tenacious defense and has already proven to get better when the games get tougher (we've all seen the NCAA Championship shot).
And then there's Cook, a pure shooter coming off the bench. He hit a slide recently, but was extremely deadly during the first 50 games of the season. Oh yeah, and he's the reigning three-pointer champ.
That's a great foundation. Miami will still have money to spend on a couple of role players to fill out the roster.
Add a center who can rebound, a decent backup point, an OK forward and you've got yourself one hell of a team.
So there it is folks, my rationalizing in hopes of landing the best player in the league. Of course, all of this is moot if Cleveland wins a title over the next year, because I highly doubt he'd leave a situation like that.
I'm not one to wish ill will on anyone (besides the Lakers, maybe), but I'm hoping the Cavs don't come through, giving him incentive to see just how good he can have it with Wade in Miami.