LeBron James' list of suitors just got one team longer—in theory anyway. And get this: James isn't the only big-name target.
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that, "Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make – a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender – the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports."
The Arizona Republic's Paul Coro actually noted Phoenix's interest in James back in April, but the possibility of pairing him with Anthony is news, and an improbable eventuality at that.
The Suns understand as much.
Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.
Nevertheless, the Suns are serious about this. They aren't letting probabilities get in the way of exploring every option—even the most valuable of them all.
Coro cited league sources confirming Wojnarwoski's report on Sunday: "Suns leadership – managing partner Robert Sarver, president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Ryan McDonough – are trying to get a meeting with James to make their pitch of a James-Anthony or James-Bosh pairing in Phoenix."
As crazy as this all might sound, this story has legs.
Whether it has a chance is another matter altogether.
Let's start with some basic parameters. The chances of James leaving Miami in the first place—for Phoenix or elsewhere—remain relatively slim. At the moment, he's given no indication he wants to be anywhere other than the team with which he went to the NBA Finals four straight times.
At the moment, he hasn't even lined up any meetings with prospective suitors.
"A person with knowledge of James' situation said he has yet to determine a possible schedule and location for free agent visits," reports USA Today's Sam Amick. "Officials from several teams hoping to court James confirmed as much, indicating that no direction has been given about when and where they may get James' ear."
When, where—perhaps even if.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, "After agreeing to all opt out of their contracts together, Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been discussing financial terms of new contracts among each other, sources told ESPN.com."
That doesn't sound like a disaffected trio looking for greener pastures (which, incidentally, would have to be really green). It sounds like a core that's committed to recruiting some additional help.
As Windhorst and Shelburne note, "The talks between the three players is the strongest indication yet that James plans to re-sign with the Heat after he becomes a free agent on Tuesday."
So Phoenix isn't the only team facing long odds. Any team that isn't Miami—including the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks—is probably barking up the wrong tree when it comes to James.
There are a few reasons for that.
First, James understands the value of chemistry better than ever. He knows he's already found a successful core with which to play. He's built a bond with one of the league's best coaches. He's forged connectivity with his fellow stars, and together they now have a wealth of corporate knowledge on which to rely.
You don't forfeit that kind of foundation easily.
Second, LeBron's legacy is at stake here. Save a forgivable return to Cleveland, any other Decision that involved a change of scenery would be met with robust criticism. James would be perceived as a mercenary, pure and simple.
Third, Pat Riley. He built the original Big Three, and there's little doubt he can retool so long as he has the resources to do so. That's why James, Wade and Bosh are (reportedly) discussing contractual terms with one another. This is about letting Riley do his work, something he's been hamstrung from doing on account of the massive deals formerly belonging to the Big Three.
Finally, Wade and Bosh are proven talent. The notion that Wade is on his last legs was roundly refuted in the conference finals when he averaged an efficient 19.8 points per contest.
A popular myth holds that Wade suddenly "looked his age" during the NBA Finals, but that just might have had something to do with San Antonio's team defense (which was led on the perimeter by the very capable Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green).
Meanwhile, Bosh has continued to evolve his game and now has a reliable three-point shot at his disposal. There were times during the postseason when the 30-year-old disappeared—namely, early on against the Indiana Pacers—but there were other times in which he was indispensable.
After scoring a combined 27 points through the first three games of those conference finals, Bosh scored a combined 70 points in Games 4, 5 and 6.
Some seem to think James might be better off alongside different superstars, perhaps Anthony. But they forget that superstars' production tends to diminish when paired with other superstars. There are only so many shots to go around.
Wade and Bosh could easily post far superior numbers were they the focal points on teams of their own.
But they chose to give up numbers for wins. To the untrained eye, the results can be mistaken for career declines. But James knows better. He knows Wade and Bosh continue to play at extremely high levels. He knows he'd be hard-pressed to find better partners in this league.
In Phoenix or anywhere else.
As for Anthony's role in all of this, it's a pretty safe bet that his interest in Phoenix would—at best—hinge on James joining him there. So this discussion may be a non-starter for the 30-year-old.
The allure of playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah—and under head coach Tom Thibodeau—may be too strong for Anthony to resist. And if that doesn't work out, the chance to play with James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston reasons to be pretty attractive, as well.
As much as the Suns have to offer in terms of youth and cap space, other teams are much closer to being established winners. That won't be lost on James or Anthony, both of whom are first and foremost looking to win championships.
Phoenix is wise to aim high and perform its due diligence with the kind of talent that's out there. But it would be even wiser to have a backup plan.
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