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What LeBron Should Do
Let’s not talk up a storm that’s not even on the radar. Sure, Houston has their eyes set on free agent LeBron James. So does Los Angeles—both teams. And Chicago. And Cleveland (cue the snorts).
They all have their pitches written out, ready to sell their devised plan to James as he returns from vacation with his family. Here’s their one collective problem: not even Billy Mays could’ve sold LeBron an idea to leave Miami.
The pledge of “not five, not six, not seven” he made when he arrived, the pressure that inevitably came with it, the once-in-30-years conference success (they’re the first team to reach four consecutive finals since the 1981-85 Lakers), the back-to-back titles, the constant rebuilding routine every summer under the great Pat Riley as GM, the time it took to mesh together championship-caliber camaraderie—it’s all too much to turn away from.
Pulling James from that situation of sacrifice-contributed bliss for the shallow idea of converging a hypothetical, inexperienced group of talent, be it in Houston, LA, or Chicago, is simply incomprehensible in this instance. Not happening. Not at age 29, not with his past, and certainly not with Miami’s future in the hands of Riley, someone of whom James holds full trust in.
Pulling him from South Beach would be like pulling a hurricane from South Beach. Enticing him into coming to Texas would be like pulling the hurricane around Florida, over to Texas’ Gulf Coast; LeBron’s obligation holding him down at home greatly outweighs his own 250 pounds in these kinds of things. And it certainly outweighs the idea of joining forces with Carmelo Anthony in Chicago, as the Bulls claimed they were going to try to cast their hook at.
Anthony has already alluded that he wants to stay home in New York, but let’s pause and consider this much talked-about Chicago option for a moment. Anthony has only made it past the first round twice in his 13-year career. He’s a guy that needs the ball in his hands. He has absolutely no movement without the ball, only scores on one-on-one junk in a stagnant offense, and plays no defense whatsoever. Derrick Rose would be back, but to have Anthony AND James there, it would take major pay cuts, which seems unimaginable with Anthony. Boozer would be gone, Anthony would have to start at power forward, and the obscure lineup wouldn’t be anything he, Rose, or James would be used to playing around.
The same goes for Houston with offensive-minded James Harden resembling a more slashing type of Anthony, with Dwight Howard having a similar pick-and-roll post play of Chicago’s Joakim Noah, but no point guard. An expensive Jeremy Lin is expected to be dealt away this summer anyway. Nothing of this is to say the Chicago or Houston ideas couldn’t work if other pieces were added. Anthony could limit himself to nothing but a knockdown three-point shooter he was in USA’s dominant Olympic team in 2012, but even then, consistently sticking him or James at the post position can be detrimental defensively.
What James has come to learn to play with these last four years is a ton of ball screens from pick-and-pop post shooters—SHOOTERS—like Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. James thrives off of picking his options, his post and spot-up shooters around him, off of screens he receives at the top of the key.
And guess what. Neither the Bulls, Rockets, nor Clippers have consistent pick-and-pop post shooters; Boozer’s the exceptions in Chicago, but again, he’d be gone if any colossal moves went down.
The Heat’s chemistry, as untouchably talented as it has been, took almost two full years to perfect. At this stage in James’ career, he’s in full-fledged championship acquisition mode. He doesn’t have years to waste in an attempt to recreate what he’s already had. The NBA will be hard-pressed to find a team as successful as the Miami Heat in this four-year stretch for decades.
At the end of the day, the real reason that James, Bosh, and Dwyane Wade opted out of their contracts and became free agents this past week isn’t for any of the reasons Chicago and Houston are hoping. In James’ case, he is finally demanding the max contract he deserves. For the past four years of his contract, he’s been the ninth-highest paid player in the league, at just under $19.1 million per year, which is shockingly low for the league’s best player.
He wants to rightfully exercise his qualifications of being a max-contract player, and obviously Miami will be willing to meet those demands. The max contract demand limits a lot of team from seeking after James in an attempt to offer a superstar-crowded team. Again, just another reason James has openly showed that he’s not interested in reforming a team elsewhere, all without having to specify anything.
As for Wade and Bosh, they reportedly will plan to take pay cuts to overly compensate for the extra few million James plans to receive. Wade plans to accept a four-year deal, starting at $12 million, while Bosh plans on a five-year, starting at $11 million.
Though not able to officially go through until July 10th, Riley has already begun planning tweaks to the roster. Plans have failed with Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and Washington center Marcin Gortat, who both had mutual interest with Miami but decided to re-sign with their team.
Due to Wade and Bosh’s generosity—and presumably some discussions with James—Riley plans to have much more money to go after those types of free agents that they’ve expressed interest for.
Those could very possibly be the necessary tweaks needed to get over the hump when they play in the Finals again next year. Like how I said “when”? Not many teams can guarantee something like that. In fact, with the insanely competitive West, I think the Heat are the only team that can, and that’s BEFORE any free agent pickups.
Among that novel-long list of reasons, that has to be the biggest reason LeBron stays put.