As it should be, The King is in control.
July 11, when LeBron James returned to Cleveland, was just the beginning. He was the top domino that allowed jesters in his court to finally find new homes, but his Decision II also ensured he'd still be the dominant force influencing the league.
After all, James put ink to paper on just a two-year agreement with a player option on the final year, as if to say loud and clear that he'll split town without hesitation if decisions made by Dan Gilbert and the front office are not to his liking (enthusiasts will point to the cash on a new television deal, but let's be realists here).
In other words, the rumblings that veterans want to join the team and that the front office is willing to somewhat blow things up in order to bring on Kevin Love are very much James' doing.
Let's peek at the latest from the rumor mill, primarily highlighted by the Cavaliers' quest to appease a King.
Ray Allen's Decision
Was there truly any doubt that Ray Allen would return for a 19th season once James landed in Cleveland?
Probably not, although there isn't a soul on the globe who can blame the 39-yer-old guard for taking his sweet time weighing his options, especially with a journey to Cleveland likely only paying him a veteran minimum.
According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Allen's decision is all but final:
NBA source tells Globe that Ray Allen is leaning toward returning for 19th season and joining LeBron James with #cavaliers— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) July 24, 2014
All that truly stands in the way of fans watching one of the greatest shooters of all time yet again next season is his health, which is something he'll have examined before making his decision final, as ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst illustrates:
Ray Allen told Sina in China he planned to return Thurs. & get MRIs on his legs before making future decision. Numerous teams interested.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 23, 2014
Barring a drastic issue, Allen will be back on an NBA court next season.
A year ago, he hardly looked like a player drafted in 1996, and his numbers the past few seasons show he can still be a quality piece off the bench in any situation:
In Cleveland, Allen would likely see in the neighborhood of 20 minutes per game while acting as the primary backup at shooting guard, although it's a position that is a bit crowded thanks to Dion Waiters, Mike Miller, James Jones and rookie Joe Harris.
Regardless, Allen's wealth of experience and accuracy from downtown would see him get the most playing time of the four.
Omri Casspi on the Wire
The right journeyman addition can be the key piece in any championship run, a notion the San Antonio Spurs would advise fans to not scoff at.
This is not to suggest that Omri Casspi is that proverbial piece, but he's a quality addition to the market after his new team, the New Orleans Pelicans, handed him his walking papers, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
New Orleans, as expected, has released newly acquired forward Omri Casspi, who will find new team in free agency if he clears waivers— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 23, 2014
There is one minor issue with Stein's report—it is hard to see the 26-year-old guard clearing waivers.
Stein later confirmed with sources that Sacramento would like to snag Casspi off the wire rather than tinker with the market at all:
Omri Casspi has already publicly expressed interest in returning to Kings and word is Sacramento is planning to put in a waiver claim on him— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 23, 2014
Claiming Casspi off waivers would enable Kings to secure his rights without messing with free agency ... IF they are only team to claim him— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 23, 2014
For his part, Casspi has made it abundantly clear he would love a return tour with the Kings, the franchise he spent the first two years of his career with, as captured by Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:
Couldn’t they use a stretch forward who can hit a three and loves to run? I think I could help, and it would be fun to play with Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, J.T. (Jason Thompson) I still have a lot of friends there. I would love to come back and fulfill my path. But now I have to concentrate on the national team, and maybe, I can get some of this pressure off my chest.
The No. 22 pick in the 2009 draft has plenty to offer off the bench, and really, his best years as a pro thus far came on the West Coast:
If Sacramento is the only team to put in a bid, or the team with the worst record last season is among those that do, Casspi will provide critical depth at small forward behind Rudy Gay. He'd compete for playing time with Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy, further reinforcing a developing, young roster.
The Third Wheel in a Kevin Love Deal
Sooner or later, some franchise is going to make the decision to be "that team."
That team being the one that elects to draw the ire of the globe by being the third wheel in a transaction that helps Cleveland obtain Love from Minnesota. Sure, that team can look through rose-colored glasses by gaining positive pieces in the process, but the impact on the league will still create animosity.
That team sounds like it will turn out to be the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News provides the scoop:
Sources told Sporting News that Philadelphia and Denver, again, are interested in participating in whatever deal happens for Love. Denver has interest in acquiring Love themselves, while the Sixers would like to facilitate a trade by including forward Thaddeus Young.
Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico offered further insight as to the line of thinking in Philadelphia:
On top of all that, there are league-wide whispers of a third team perhaps getting involved in a potential Cavs-Wolves deal, whispers of the 76ers possessing a strong interest in Cavs guard Dion Waiters, whispers of another major transaction on the way. Yeah. Unreal.
Unreal indeed, but who can really blame the folks in charge of the 76ers?
Should the 76ers ship away Thaddeus Young?
Thaddeus Young is an incredible talent at the age of 26 who's one season removed from averaging 17.9 points and six rebounds. Plus, he comes with an early-termination option next season, per Spotrac. But he's an odd fit now that Philadelphia has Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid down low for the foreseeable future.
Better yet, Dion Waiters fits the high-upside youth movement the 76ers have carefully crafted the past few years, with a theoretically huge payoff in a few years' time. Waiters' development trajectory perfectly aligns, to say the least.
Perhaps it makes too much sense to come to fruition. But monitor the City of Brotherly Love closely, just in case.