We open the week with the genius of LeBron James, according to Tom Ziller. I agree, but don't think LBJ's flirtation with 2010 is over. Far from it. Even Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who coaxed the extension talk out of LeBron, realizes this is just another piece of the puzzle. B-Win offered these two key observations: 1. LeBron remains in love with being the center of attention with regard to his impending free agency; and 2. "There are many, many more twists and turns to come."
A lot can happen between now and this summer, when LeBron has the opportunity to sign another three-year extension. If he chooses, he can continue signing three-year extensions until the cows come home, constantly motivating the Cavs' front office to put championship-caliber talent around him. It's a viable option, until you consider this: If LeBron were to sign a three-year extension in '09, he would need to sign his next deal under whatever rules are negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement; the current one expires in 2011. As we've pointed out numerous times here, any of these top-tier potential free agents would be wise to sign a long-term deal under the current rules -- either with their current teams or new ones. There is a growing feeling among ownership that salaries have to be scaled back under the next agreement, and the cratering economy has only reinforced the notion. Although attendance is holding steady league-wide, the NBA Players Association is carefully monitoring what it expects will be flat-to-declining revenues over the next two seasons. If revenue slips more than expected, the pool of money available for player salaries will shrink.
This is one of many issues LeBron will consider this summer when he decides whether to sign another short-term extension. And it is one of many issues he will consider on June 30, 2010 if he doesn't extend. So all of the teams that have aggressively begun clearing cap space haven't done it for naught. SLAM Online says LeBron is just playin' us. In The New York Times, Howard Beck writes that there are plenty of reasons to get under the cap, and they're not all named LeBron.
Another key aspect LeBron will consider: Do the Cavs use some of their generous cap space to sign a top-tier running mate for LeBron -- Carlos Boozer in '09 or Chris Bosh in '10? Ah, so many story lines, so many delicious angles for LeBron to consider and exploit as he holds the entire NBA in the palm of his hand.
Here's the rest of your Morning Shoot:
* Yes, it's time to include Orlando (21-6) in the discussion of elite teams. The Magic have toppled the Spurs and Lakers back-to-back, and a win over Golden State (hah!) Monday night would equal the best 28-game start in franchise history. Right at the heart of Orlando's recent success has been point guard Jameer Nelson. I've always said Orlando would be scary with a real point guard, and evidently Nelson has started to become one of those. Meanwhile, the Magic kind of like the fact that nobody is noticing them.
* Bright Side of the Sun looks at the point guards auditioning for Phoenix on Monday, and hints there could be another audition if a "veteran point guard gets bought out." Oh, dear.
* BallerBlogger says the Cavs have what it takes to win a title.
* Patrick Ewing Jr., now coming off the bench for the D-League's Reno BigHorns, was scoreless (0-for-6 FGs) with three rebounds on Sunday.