Saturday, May 15, 2010

King James

What's next, LeBron?

That's the question that seems to be on the minds of NBA fans who aren't paying close attention to the final four playoff teams. Those fans, meanwhile, are keeping an ear open for news about the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James is a free agent, and the reigning most valuable player in the league. He can take off for any team with salary cap room in the league, or he can stay right in his hometown area of Cleveland with the Cavaliers.

James is quite a story. He came straight out of high school in 2003 and in a moment of serendipity was drafted by the nearby Cavs. He's grown into a great player in the past seven years, and Cleveland has tried to surround him with a worthy supporting case in order to make a run at a championship. The Cavs had never had a title-worthy cast before, and it figured to be a while before they did again if James left.

You have to wonder about how the team has gone about putting together that cast. This past year the big part of the puzzle was supposed to be Shaquille O'Neal, a formerly dominant big man. But now at the age of 38, and looking like someone who has been giving his personal chef a few too many orders, Shaq has seemed like a bad fit.

It's been like that for years. The Cavs have tried adding a variety of players, but they never seemed to be able to attract a deep roster. Part of the reason was that they were usually pretty good to very good once James arrived, and they never seemed to get too lucky when it came to their draft choices. But trades and signings did change much either.

James certainly has given the Cavs plenty of time, and he has shown a lot of loyalty toward northeast Ohio. So he could be justified for walking away and trying someone else.

And that will be a fascinating decision, since the money will be roughing the same -- a lot -- no matter where he goes. Chicago would seem to have the best chance at winning with James around. New Jersey offers an interesting opportunity, plus the New York market. Miami has Dwayne Wade and potentially Pat Riley. The Knicks have, well, New York.

We shall see. In the meantime, Cleveland's fans will feel a little anger, and a little disappointment for not capitalizing on a reasonably big window to grab the championship that has eluded the city since 1964.

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