LeBron James is a powerful figure.
So powerful, in fact, that he is basically holding the entire NBA offseason in something of a purgatory as he decides where to take his talents next. There are a number of different scenarios that could play out with other free agents that are directly tied to James’ impending decision, and for now fans and front offices alike simply have to wait.
Since we are waiting anyway, let’s dig into some of the latest rumors around the Association.
Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio was following the James drama along with the rest of basketball fans everywhere. One difference, though, is that he’s got sources:
James will meet with Miami Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
A source told FOX Sports Ohio that Wade and Chris Bosh, who's also a free agent after four years in Miami, will not attend the James-Riley meeting.
The race for James is being framed as a battle between a homecoming with the Cleveland Cavaliers and a return to the Miami Heat, even though teams like the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers were floated around earlier in the offseason.
It is certainly interesting that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won’t be in attendance at the meeting, but any speculation about what that means would be just that—speculation. Rumors have run rampant, though, and ESPN’s Marc Stein had to shoot one in particular down Tuesday evening:
Been strongly advised by source close to situation to dismiss Twitter suggestions that Nike bought billboards in CLE for LeBron announcement— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 9, 2014
Doesn't mean LeBron can't wind up in Cleveland, of course, but source insists today's billboard story is purely a Twitter tale— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 9, 2014
Regardless of where James goes, the entire landscape of the NBA will change. The Eastern Conference is so watered down that whatever team lands James will (assuming he stays in the East) likely be seen as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, to return to the NBA Finals.
Whether that run to basketball’s brightest stage will be with his old friends in Miami or someone else remains to be seen.
Pau Gasol Heading to Chicago?
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times provided an update on what seems like a frustrated Chicago Bulls front office:
The patience of the Bulls’ front office continued to be tested Tuesday, with free agent Carmelo Anthony’s indecision still seemingly keeping them from pursuing a Plan B.
According to a source, the Bulls feel that if Anthony goes elsewhere, they are one of the leading candidates to land free-agent big man Pau Gasol — unless Anthony happens to choose the Los Angeles Lakers, which could start the dominos falling and convince Gasol to re-sign with the Lakers.
Like so many other aspects in this offseason, the Bulls’ backup plans are being held hostage by the indecision of the biggest stars. A source close to the situation commented on it, via Cowley: “It’s frustrating for [the front office], but it’s free agency.”
The offensively challenged club would love to add Carmelo Anthony as an elite scorer who could complement the stout defense, but if it doesn’t happen, Pau Gasol would be a solid consolation prize.
Gasol would likely be a starter on an NBA-title contender if he chose Chicago. Yes, Taj Gibson may be the better player at this point in his career, but he thrived coming off the bench and playing a critical role in the fourth quarter last year.
A core of Derrick Rose, Gibson, Gasol and Joakim Noah may be missing an elite scorer like Anthony at forward, but it is good enough to make a run at the Eastern Conference crown if Rose stays healthy.
Jordan Crawford on the Way out?
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! provided an update on free agent Jordan Crawford and the Golden State Warriors:
Due to their guard logjam & payroll, Warriors are willing to help their free agent guard Jordan Crawford with sign and trade, a source said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 9, 2014
Warriors free agent guard Jordan Crawford is receiving interest from Bulls, Mavs, Lakers, Knicks & Nets, the source said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 9, 2014
Crawford is definitely a Plan B type of free agent in this class that includes James, Anthony, Gasol and more, but there are only a couple of teams that can actually land the superstars. That leaves the rest of the league—and those who struck out on the big fish in particular—looking for solid players like Crawford to fill out the roster.
Crawford averaged 11 points, 3.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds a night for the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics last season. He can hit the three and stretch the defense and could serve as a spark plug on a contender who provides instant offense off the bench when the game bogs down.
Teams like the Bulls, who are rumored to be interested, could definitely use Crawford’s offense.
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