Now that LeBron James is keeping quiet about free agency, speculation is all we've got. It may seem a stretch to consider LeBron signing with the Orlando Magic, but is it really such an absurd notion?
Surely winning is important to "King James," that's something that is almost a guaranteed with the reigning Eastern Conference champs. That is not going to be the case with the New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets, two teams in disarray.
Certainly LeBron would like a legitimate running mate, not someone like Mo Williams or a 37-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant had Shaq (in his prime). Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The duo of LeBron James and Dwight Howard would be the best one-two punch in NBA history.
If it's the media spotlight James is after, Orlando, though a fairly small market, has got it covered. During Shaq's stay in the O-town, he released rap albums (not that they were good), starred in movies (ok, not so good either), and was the top pitchman for Reebok.
Considering the alternatives, playing for the Magic could be quite tempting. The problem would be making the move happen. Let's start with the finances involved.
The Orlando Magic salary is maxed out thanks to the giant Rashard Lewis contract along with paying high-profile names like Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, and Jameer Nelson.
Signing Marcin Gortat to an extension in the offseason forced Orlando into luxury tax territory, leaving little to no room for any free-agent moves.
Bringing in LeBron James' max contract is simply not going to happen without major changes. More probable would be a trade involving Carter or Lewis and (maybe) Gortat.
For this to happen, LeBron would have to make it clear to the Cavaliers that he would not, under any circumstances, be returning to Cleveland for the 2010-11 season. In that situation, the Cavs would likely make a move to get some compensation for losing their superstar.
This looks like a huge longshot and something drastic would have to transpire in Cleveland for James to write them off. After all, Ohio is his home state and the Cavs are trying (with questionable results) to build a solid franchise around him.
LeBron James would have everything he wants in Orlando.
In Dwight Howard, James has a superstar-caliber player he can grow old with. Jameer Nelson is a point guard that doesn't need the ball on every offensive possession. If Vince Carter is moved to make cap room for James, they may be able to retain Rashard Lewis, who can shoot the lights out.
In addition to the big names, LeBron would be on, arguably, the deepest team in the league, giving him help off the bench. An enormous weight would be lifted off his shoulders as he wouldn't be the only player teams worried about.
With the Magic, LeBron get's a coach provides something that his current, Mike Brown, doesn't provide, intensity. Sure, Brown won Coach of the Year last season, but that was likely because he just let LeBron run his team.
Stan Van Gundy is an excellent coach that has had success with big name players. In Miami, Van Gundy was able to balance a star in decline (Shaq) and a star being born (Dwayne Wade). Shaq has since turned on Van Gundy calling him a "master of panic".
Mike Brown has proven that a laid back, hands-off approach is not bringing the championships to LeBron and the Cavs. Maybe a frantic, Ron Jeremy look-alike is just what the doctor ordered.
Orlando GM Otis Smith is dedicated to winning a title, no doubt about it. The NBA is all about your window, the window of opportunity. With a guy like Dwight Howard and a strong supporting cast, Smith recognized that window.
After making it to the NBA Finals last season, Smith wasn't going to let that window close. To make up for parting ways with Hedo Turkoglu, Otis Smith went out and traded for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.
If there is a chance that the Orlando Magic could acquire LeBron James and open that window even more, there is no doubt the Otis Smith is going to do what it takes to take full advantage.
Style of Play
The Magic provide a perfect fit for a player like LeBron James. With a blend of perimeter scoring and dominant frontcourt play, James can play the style of ball he desires in Cleveland.
James has never had near the amount of scoring options Orlando would surround him with. With the opportunity for assists and open shot of his own, LeBron could become the most complete player to ever play.
The conflict for opponents would be impossible to overcome. You can't double-team LeBron James and Dwight Howard. If double teams aren't an option, there is not a team in the league that could keep up with the dynamic duo.
Aside from the extracurricular activities that Shaq indulged in while playing for the Magic, he found another advantage to playing in Orlando, location. After leaving town for Los Angeles, O'Neal kept his Florida home.
LeBron James surely could welcome the change in climate from the dismal Cleveland. The Sunshine State is the perfect spot for some much needed relaxation.
Another notable perk to life in Florida is the lack of state tax. With the possibility of taking less money to play for a contender, it's nice to know that the state will keep their hands out of his pocket.
Ok, as great as a move to Orlando might look on paper, it's highly improbable. The stars would have to align and Otis Smith would be the busiest executive of the year.
Maybe LeBron would value the possibility of winning multiple NBA titles over a maximum contract. Maybe he could rely on Nike and other sponsors to make him a very rich man, regardless of his NBA deal. Maybe the Magic would pull every string possible to bring the "Chosen One" to Orlando.
Those are all very big maybes , and nowhere near likelys . We've got a long way to go before July 1, when the free agency period begins. A lot of things will happen and a lot will change.
In the end, the likelihood of LeBron James landing with the Orlando Magic is not great. At best, the chance of a move like this taking place is somewhere around 15 percent. The probability, however, of a championship for this team, with LeBron, is roughly 99.9 percent or better.