Quite a bit of attention is being devoted to the proposed meeting between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Joe Johnson and (depending on who you listen to) Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire.
For me, it's a little bit like a science fiction movie.
David Stern, the emperor, is fining everything that breathes. The protagonists are gathering forces against the evil empire (owners) planning to lock them out in 2011.
The interesting thing here is the possibility of an attack that the evil empire didn't see coming.
Everyone assumes that the players will be discussing which teams they will each be signing with. I suppose that's as likely a possibility as any. Whatever happens, their decisions and discussions may determine the fate of the NBA.
Imagine the potential ramifications if these players are choosing the team (not teams), they will sign with. Together.
Your gut reaction should be something along the lines of, "No team can afford that." And I agree. No team would be able to sign four max contract players under the salary cap.
But let's say a team had a lot of cap space and was able to find three or four players willing to divide that space amongst themselves in the interests of playing together for the championship.
But in this year's free agent class, there are no real franchise point guards available. The teams the free agents sign with will either have to build through the draft or have a sub-par front court.
Then again, I can think of a team with a fairly talented starting point guard, role players and cap space to make this sort of union work. Oh yeah, and the resources to afford all of this.
That's right, the New Jersey Nets.
Also, keep in mind that the Nets have a coaching vacancy. Phil Jackson hasn't ruled out that opening, although it's more likely he's trying to pressure the Lakers out of a pay cut.
So imagine this starting five: Devin Harris, Dwyane Wade/Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire/Brook Lopez.
Isn't this an instant championship contender?
The Nets also have a solid starting center in Brook Lopez, so you could swap him in for Stoudemire and take the three biggest free agents. If you couldn't get Wade to take a pay cut, you could sign Johnson instead. Still an elite lineup.
Let's take a look at the bench (assuming the team includes Stoudemire). Coming off the bench you have a young core of Lopez, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Yi Jianlan.
The Nets are instantly transformed from a team of two really good players and a bunch of role players, to an elite team with a really good, possibly elite, bench.
Oh, and they have the No. 3 pick in the draft. So they could bring in Derek Favors instead of Bosh and save some money there.
The key to my theory here is getting three of the max free agents to sign together.
In keeping with this hypothetical scenario, let's say the Nets are also able to land Phil Jackson with a contract offer he can't refuse. Who better to manage this level of star players (and egos) than the man who got the most out of Michael Jordan or the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal tandem?
I don't even know whether this possibility will come up during the James-Wade conference. I have a sneaking suspicion it will and, faced with the potential for multiple championships in the foreseeable future, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that James and Wade could team up.
What the players would sacrifice in salary they could make up for in endorsements. I'm also certain that Mikhail Prokhorov, a man with the business sense that leads to billions of dollars of net worth, could find a few ways to help make his players' sacrifice worthwhile.
For instance, how many players are currently sponsored by Russian companies? I would assume Andrei Kirilenko, and maybe a couple of lower-tier Russian players. But I think we could safely call that market untapped.
For me, it comes down to a question not of compatibility, but rather a question of whether these max-contract free agents would be willing to split up the available cap money for the glory of a dynastic championship run.
Or whether the preference is to take the money and run.
I'm not saying the Nets are the team to pull this off. But given the alternatives, I think the Nets are one of the more intriguing options.
I'm not saying any of this will transpire. In an NBA where millionaires live from paycheck-to-paycheck, it is difficult to envision a situation in which players forgo the maximum amount of money available.
But I think that, since they played together on the USA Men's Olympic Basketball team, these players know what they can accomplish together with an elite coach. And they know what they can do with little to no help on otherwise mediocre rosters (with the exception of Stoudemire, who isn't even the best player on his team).
Just the notion of two of these free agents signing together (usually James-Wade, James-Bosh or Wade-Bosh) is enough to get the talking heads going. Just imagine how it could be with three or four signing together.
I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
(Credit for the photo leading this article goes to Richard Giles.)