As we already know, we’ve got a cavalcade of stars available for the taking in 2010
LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Amare are the headliners. But Joe Johnson, Michael Redd, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Josh Howard are all young studs as well. Or if it’s veteran leadership you are looking for, there’s Allen, Turkoglu, Nash, and Dirk to choose from.
As we also already know, there are a heaping handful of teams that are doing anything and everything they can to land at least one of these superstars. As of this being published, the Bulls, Pistons, Pacers, Nets, Knicks, Rockets, Grizzlies, T-Wolves, Thunder, and Kings all will have enough money in 2010 to give a max contract to an NBA player. In a few instances (shockingly including the Detroit Pistons), there is enough money to give two max deals.
For at least half of the aforementioned teams, the mission is simple. Land at least one superstar and make a serious championship run.
But a stunning hitch has developed in these plans.
In a revenge of the underdogs type of scenario; the current homes of the NBA’s elite are doing everything they can to convince their stars that their current home may also be their shot at the brightest future.
This story obviously begins with soon to be global icon, LeBron James. Half of the New York media is already printing pictures of the King in a Knicks’ uniform; but the Cavs seem to have different plans.
It started with the acquisition of Mo Williams, who turned out to be the perfect compliment to LeBron’s style of play. The emphasis on Williams has created great looks for other non-LeBron Cavs as well. West, the big Z, and Varejao have all upped their scoring numbers. Most importantly, the team scoring is drastically more balanced.
So it started with Mo; but it may not end there; The Cavs have been in serious talks with the Heat about nabbing Marion.
So the question now becomes the following: if it is all about championships, and your current team can give you exactly the same amount of money, and your current team is making a legitimate effort to be better than your future team, is it worth leaving?
Now, I know what you’re thinking…What about the other perks? What about the endorsement deals that guarantee LeBron more money if he goes to a bigger city?
Well, if I’m judging by Nike’s earlier marketing tactics, they will give LeBron as much money as he wants. Why??? Simple: because he is LeBron James. Plus it’s not like we are talking about Nike; the same company that cut all ties with Kobe during the rape trial (a keen PR move), and then gave him some serious financial makeup sex after the charges were dropped and he was back to being on top of the NBA.
For everyone that thinks it is about the location riders in a contract, re-trace history, and see that it is PPG that gets you $$$.
This isn’t just about LeBron and the Cavs though. Other teams with the potentially departing superstar dilemma seem to be looking in the same playbook.
The Miami Heat are making Dwyane Wade pretty comfortable. And the prospect of Marion leaving may even make this team better, because it gives D-Wade and company a nice little bit of spending money on a new teammate. It also doesn’t hurt to have two great rookies already getting used to starting roles.
The Hawks could have Joe Johnson for life. New management and great young talent have made it pretty clear and Atlanta basketball is tired of the losing stigma surrounding their team.
If we are judging by the last few seasons, the Phoenix Suns have no issue pulling the trigger on any trade at any time. If the Phoenix offense can find it’s swagger, even if it takes a few more trades, it may be enough to keep Amare, who will far and away get a max deal for his incredible athleticism and much improved shooting.
The real wildcard in this situation is the NBA’s lone Canadian franchise. Although I personally love Canada and would love to raise a family in some of its provinces, I can’t help but get the feeling that Chris Bosh may want out. That hasn’t stopped the Raptors from surrounding him with talent. Anything is possible. And Toronto, especially with the acquisition of O’Neal is certainly following the blueprint.
The unbelievably deep free agent talent pool in 2010 will certainly send most customers home happy. But especially with the way that the incumbent teams are trying to hold onto their own talent, the new suitors better make sure they have a plan B, and maybe even a plan H.
There is an incredible chance that by 2010, a number of teams that currently have the big free agents will have significantly better teams than a number of the teams suiting their players.
Money may not even matter. And if it’s not about money, it is about winning. LeBron James actually said it best in a recent interview before playing against the Knicks. When asked if all of these free agency talks were a distraction he replied with the following gem…
“It’s a distraction for them. Not for us. We’re good.”