The shadow of LeBron James, speaking through his agent because he can’t officially talk about his moves yet, has convinced the Cleveland front office to clear enough space to offer him a max-level contract. We’ve heard that LeBron might/could/should head back to the Cavaliers since 2010, when he took his talents elsewhere.
The last time we saw James there was in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, when the Boston Celtics sent the Cavs home with a pair of decisive victories. Game 5 is now “The Quit Game” in the official LeBron lexicon, and that match left little doubt outside of the 216 that James was headed to greener pastures, although the popular opinion at the time was that he’d head to Madison Square Garden.
It bears reiterating that this is all coming from Rich Paul, the president of Klutch Sports. The moves that Cleveland would have to make in order to clear space are uncertain, outside of a Jarrett Jack trade, and the fate of No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins muddies the waters even more. That said, when Miami’s been reduced to signing Josh McRoberts and the ghost of Danny Granger, a homecoming starts to look more tenable.
Miami’s Big Three needed more help than they had last season, and it’s tempting to think that a team featuring James and Kyrie Irving might be more impressive than a similar squad to the 2014 Heat. Particularly if Chris Bosh ends up signing the $88 million dollar contract that he’s been reportedly offered by Houston.
Watching the Miami Heat micro-dynasty crumble in one fell swoop is appealing, and James’ return to Cleveland can represent one of the great “coming home” story lines that sports stories are made of, and now that LeBron’s personal legacy is secured, he has nothing to lose. He’s got his ring, which was obviously the reason behind leaving Ohio in the first place. Going back like the prodigal son and alleviating the area’s notorious absence of championships? It has a certain appeal.
Assuming that the Cavaliers hold on to Anderson Varejao, they’d be rolling with a starting five featuring Irving, James, Varejao, and, uh, not a lot else worth mentioning, especially if Luol Deng winds up somewhere else and Cleveland is forced to move Dion Waiters as part of a trade in order to create cap space. (While Waiters is on a rookie deal, he’s one of the few assets Cleveland has when they go to move someone like Jarrett Jack, and the same goes for Tristan Thompson). The biggest difference there, between the two hypothetical rosters, is that this Cleveland team is significantly younger than anything Miami could field.
That’d provide a nice bedrock for James to slowly retire into — think of the way Tim Duncan has aged gracefully into the relative background of the San Antonio Spurs landscape, and you’ll get a good idea of what could happen to the next 10 years of Cavaliers basketball. That won’t happen in Miami, and if the Big Three do stay intact after this offseason is said and done, we expect them to wind up like the same Boston Celtics squad that wound up giving James all the incentive he needed to leave in the first place.