And we’re back! After a three week hiatus to welcome my new baby boy, I’m back to business. Let’s begin with the talk of the sports world; the NBA free agent frenzy (sorry FIFA World Cup).
July 1, 2010 marks the beginning of the biggest free agent bonanza the NBA (or any professional league for that matter) has ever seen. I’m a Sixers fan, so regardless of who goes where, my team will still suck. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the final destinations to be determined.
Let’s be real though, this free agent period is all about two players; Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. Yes, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Dirk Nowitzki are all impact players, but Bosh will follow either D-Wade or LeBron (most likely LeBron), Pierce and Dirk are beyond their primes, and Amare and Joe Johnson are amazing NBA talents with no defensive genes. So really, Wade and James are the big rocks thrown in the jar first and everyone else is one of the smaller rocks dropped around them.
From where we stand right now (36 hours until 7/1), the Bulls and Heat are the frontrunners to land the most prized talent in this free agent pool. The most prevalent rumor is that all three max contract players – Wade, LeBron, Bosh – will be joining forces in Miami. The common response is “game over,” as in, “no one else will sniff an NBA title for the next five to eight years.”
If all three unite in Miami they will undoubtedly become the most talented team in the league. Having two of the top five players in the league would also make them extremely difficult to eliminate in a seven game series come playoff time. The only real detriment here is the depth. Many have already noted that the Heat would have a tough time rounding out their roster with anything more than NBA journeyman or undrafted rookies. Others have argued that solid NBA role players will gladly take pay reductions to play with LeBron and Wade. I tend to agree with the latter for two reasons. First, who wouldn’t want to join that team? Neither player is a notorious jerk or lousy teammate, Miami is a nice place, and there’s no personal income tax (so I hear). Secondly, a perceived lack of depth wouldn’t matter too much. Bosh, LeBron and Wade are all in their physical primes. They can put up big minutes all season long; although I highly doubt that will be the case. With as bad as the Eastern Conference is, claiming home court throughout the playoffs won’t be too difficult.
With that said, there is one issue. As great a team as Bosh, James, and Wade would make, how long could they sustain that greatest? I would argue not long. Sure, they’ll probably win a title, maybe even two, but superstars don’t normally last together. Both Wade and LeBron want to be the go-to-guy. As ESPN’s Bill Simmons argues, there can only be one alpha dog on any basketball team. Who will claim that role for the Heat? Will it be Wade because he’s been in Miami his entire career? Or will it be James because he’s the “Chosen One”? What happens if Wade thinks it’s his team and LeBron tries to pry it away or vice versa? Those who argue against these possibilities because the two played together harmoniously in the 2008 Summer Olympics are ignorant. Both players were there for one common goal and more importantly, for a definite length of time. Coming off the bench for a month to help his team win a gold medal was an easy decision for Wade. Deferring to another superstar for 9 months a year for the next half decade is a completely different story. Thus, I’m not convinced they can make it beyond a title or two. After one title egos will start to grow, the desire to be great subsides and selfishness kicks in. Selfishness leads to disruption and disruption leads to confrontation about team leadership and before you know it, you’re the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers.
So where do I want LeBron and Wade to end up? So glad you asked. Here are the top 3 scenarios of how I would like to see the 2010 free agent market – as it pertains to LeBron and Wade – play out (in reverse order):
LeBron James goes to New York and makes basketball in the Big Apple relevant again for the first time since Patrick Ewing’s flat top. I’m not a Knicks fan. In fact, I hate them, but sports are always more exciting when there’s a big market team that we all love to root against. I can’t root against the Knicks right now. Doing so would be like hoping a second grader gets beat up at recess. If LeBron goes to New York and brings one of the other elite free agents with him, the Knicks immediately become contenders in the Eastern Conference and I can once again root against New York with all the disdain I once held for Ewing and John Starks. As a Sixers fan, what more could one ask? (Well, in addition to my team making some sort of progress after a half decade of stagnancy/regression.)
All three (Bosh, LeBron, Wade) ending up in Miami could also qualify here. It wouldn’t necessarily make the Eastern Conference very competitive, but it would be fascinating to see how LeBron and Wade progress or digress together over the years.
LeBron James goes to Chicago along with elite free agent forward X and Chris Bosh and “pretty stinkin’ good” free agent X join Dwyane Wade in Miami. As previously mentioned, it’s likely that Bosh will follow LeBron. However, Bosh is the best power forward available and the Heat need front court talent. For my own enjoyment, I want Bosh with Wade in Miami. I love this scenario because LeBron joins a very young team in Chicago with an already talented nucleus and the free agent additions in Miami would hopefully provide Wade with an equally talented group. This would make the Eastern Conference Finals one of the most exciting series in all of sports for the next handful of years. Raise your hand if you wouldn’t want to see LeBron James and Dwyane Wade go head to head in a seven game series once a year for the right to advance to the NBA Finals. Anyone? Anyone? I didn’t think so. (I also secretly love this scenario because I personally think Wade is the better player and I’d get a kick out of seeing him outduel LeBron in a seven game series on an annual basis. By the way, I just added “LeBron” and “Dwyane” to my Microsoft Word dictionary. THAT’S how big of a deal they are.)
This is by far my favorite scenario and unfortunately, also the most unrealistic. Ok, it’s virtually impossible. Imagine this: LeBron, Bosh, and Wade all have a gentlemen’s agreement to take less money and join forces in Miami. However, right before it all becomes official, LeBron begins to have doubts about sharing the spotlight with Wade and secretly considers going to Chicago. Wade finds out and makes a preemptive strike and signs with the Bulls. (Very, very, very unlikely because Wade publicly insulted the Bulls front office, but allow me to continue.) LeBron is obviously furious and signs with the next best thing; a young and talented nucleus in New Jersey. Because neither the Bulls nor the Nets can sign two max contract players, Bosh is left out in the cold and signs with team X (back to obscurity, Mr. Bosh). Wade returns to his hometown of Chicago. LeBron ultimately ends up in Brooklyn. The NBA has two of its most marketable players in two of its biggest markets. Even better, LeBron finally starts taking the game more seriously simply to beat Wade, and Wade is always locked in knowing LeBron is gunning for him. (How motivated would LeBron be? Imagine him going toe to toe with Delonte West – who allegedly slept with LeBron’s mom – for a seven game series every year, only Wade doesn’t suck and doesn’t have West’s creepy facial hair.) What’s more (and this is my favorite part), the NBA has two super-duper stars that no longer like each other. No more friendly handshakes before big games. No more kissy face quotes about one another to the media. No sir. I’m all for peace and friendship but I think we need a little animosity in the NBA. Due to their feud, the Nets and Bulls evolve as the most heated rivalry in the league, and LeBron and Wade fuel the fires. Every spring we’re treated to an Eastern Conference Final between two amazing players that don’t get along. Dual triple doubles, insults through the media, and legendary performances as LeBron and Wade go title for title over the next half decade? Yes please! Will it happen? No, but tell me that wouldn’t be the most amazing outcome of NBA Free Agent Bonanza 2010? You can’t.