The plot is beginning to take shape and the end game of the 2010 free agency situation is starting to come into focus. The question everyone wants to know is, will we be happy or will we be devastated?
This morning we might have some more clues to consider. ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are indeed teaming up in Miami. Yes, this is the same Chris Broussard who reported that Wade, Bosh, and LeBron met in Miami (which has since been refuted) and who reported that the Raptors would do a sign and trade with Cleveland if Bosh was on board. He reported that he thought Bosh would eventually warm up to playing in Cleveland before reporting that Bosh was never going to agree to Cleveland. So take it for what it’s worth.
The important thing to consider is whether or not LeBron follows them to Miami. It’s certainly possible, but it just doesn’t feel like that is where this story is headed. I feel like whatever LeBron does, he’s going to want to carve out his own legacy. I could spend an hour convincing myself in either direction, but I’m just not sold on the idea of LeBron wanting to be a part of that triangle in Miami. I could certainly be wrong about this, but with Bosh and Wade going to Miami, I feel better than ever about LeBron’s odds of returning to Cleveland.
The main reason is that Bosh and Wade being together in Miami doesn’t dramatically shift the balance of power in the East. The Heat still have a lot of work to do to fill out their roster, and Bosh and Wade alone with a bunch of mid level and vet min players isn’t going to make them automatically better than Cleveland, Boston, or Orlando. The Cavaliers have been on the brink the past 2 seasons, and nothing that has happened to threaten the Cavs place with LeBron. Amare doesn’t make the Knicks better than the Cavs, I don’t feel there’s anyone left who makes the Bulls automatically better than Cleveland, and same with the Nets.
Finally, there’s this business about the ESPN special. Many will scoff at this and LeBron is taking an absolute beating from a PR standpoint over this. The question I have, though, is why? With the exception of the Larry King interview, LeBron has remained completely silent throughout this process. Any talk of this whole thing being about stroking his ego and building his hype has been completely unfair.
I’m as guilty of it as anyone, as I’ve written some harsh things about this process over the summer. But the reality is that it was more about my own exhaustion over the ubiquitous media coverage than it was about LeBron himself. We have seen more direct quotes from Wade, Bosh, and Amare this summer than we have from LeBron. The problems we have are our own self righteousness and our desperate need for LeBron to do everything the exact same way we think we would if we were in his shoes.
If LeBron wants to finally take an hour to discuss this process with the media, I feel he’s earned that right. Throw on top of that the fact that he’s raising money for charity for this, and it’s really not that bad of a situation at all. It’s more than a little unprecedented, sure, but then again, LeBron has always been one to do things his own way and to carve out his own unique path through life.
But what does this announcement say about what LeBron’s decision will ultimately be? I’m not sure. It’s easy to say that LeBron wouldn’t dare call a public press conference just to rip our hearts to shreds in public, but as I just pointed out, LeBron’s mind works differently than that. He’s going to do things his own way. I do think that if he has half a soul he wouldn’t do this to Cleveland and I do feel good about the decision, but I still can’t escape this small nagging feeling in the back of my mind that he might end up picking New Jersey.
In my heart I still feel Cleveland is where LeBron wants to play and where he will choose to sign, but it bothers me a little how patient New Jersey is being with LeBron. While the Knicks panicked and threw $100 million at Amare, and Wade and Bosh scrambled to put pressure on LeBron to join either of them in any city but Cleveland, it’s been New Jersey who has calmly, quietly, and confidently stood their ground and just waited for LeBron to come to them. Mikhail Prokhorov has expressed confidence that LeBron is coming to the Nets, and the conspiracy theorist in me is bothered by the fact that if LeBron is confiding in anyone other than Maverick Carter on this, it just might be Jay-Z, who in turn would have given Prokhorov the reason for his confidence.
Then there’s the fact that Bosh not agreeing to come to Cleveland gives LeBron a convenient out clause. Now he can say to Cleveland, ‘Hey, I tried to get Bosh to come and then I would have stayed, but Bosh wouldn’t come, so I had to go to the best team for me. Hate Bosh, not me’. Far fetched, perhaps, but us Cleveland sports fans have learned to expect the worst throughout the years.
Perhaps that’s the biggest issue with this whole thing. We just can’t allow ourselves to be confident about this. We’ve been burned too many times in the past and so we just expect that we’re going to get bad news when LeBron announces his decision. LeBron has never in his career given any indication of a desire to leave the Cavs. Sure, he’s asked for roster upgrades in the past, but he has never shown a desire to actually leave. Throughout this process LeBron has never said anything that would indicate he’s leaning toward leaving. He has tried to recruit Chris Bosh to come to Cleveland. Cleveland is his home and he knows the Cavaliers will continue to work endlessly to pull off trades and signings to build a Championship around him here where he can cement his legacy for eternity. And yet, we can’t let ourselves feel good about it.
I don’t know what he’s going to do, and I want so desperately to believe. I want to have confidence in what the Cavaliers have already given him and what they will continue to offer in the future for him. I just can’t allow myself to go all in on this. The pain is too real and so I will continue to keep myself at a distance from this. I’m not angry about the way he’s handled this and I’m not praising it. It just is what it is. Some fans have turned their anger over their expectations of LeBron leaving into vitriolic hatred toward LeBron and his process. Who am I to blame them? We’ve all seen this story play itself out before and we never come out happy.
Even yesterday as news of the Bosh sign and trade broke, I told myself that it was too good to be true and there’s just no way something this good to happen to a Cleveland sports team. I was right about that. I hate that LeBron staying feels the same way. It’s almost too good to be true. Some have said that being a Cleveland sports fan is like being a sadist, but I don’t think that’s true at all. We don’t love the misery and pain. We’re desperate for it to end and for someone to show us some validation and support and approval.
How we ultimately feel about LeBron will almost certainly be tied to what his decision is. A lot of our angst held toward him will be washed away in a wave of relief should he announce he’s staying. If he’s leaving, the anger and hostility will be multiplied to an entirely new level. The overriding factor in all of this, though, is that nobody knows what is about to happen. Bosh and Wade reportedly feel like they have a real chance of getting LeBron to join them in Miami. The Nets are confident. The Cavaliers feel confident. Only one of them is going to be right, though. For the sake of all of us, for our sanity and for our passion and for our outlook on life, may it please be the Cavaliers who are the ones with the reason to be confident.
(Update: Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports a source has told him that it is down to Cleveland and Miami. For what it’s worth…)
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)