Posted on: July 7, 2010 3:24 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 4:40 pm

Signs pointing in the direction of NYC for LeBron

Let's take a small whirl around the churning LeBron rumor mill, shall we?

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley tweeted at about 2:00 p.m. ET :

Breaking News!!! My sources tell me Lebron will announce that he will be goin to the NY Knicks tomorrow on ESPN.. This is serious.. WOW!!!! So there's that. Chad Ochocinco also tweeted a little before that a "hint" telling where LeBron was headed:

#OCNNBREAKINGNEWS *Empire State of Mind* *wink* *wink*only the smart folk will put this together and figure out what i am talking about #6 I think I can put that all together there, Ocho. Also, Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reported that LeBron is leaning New York . Earlier he wrote, "With a televised decision coming tomorrow night on ESPN, sources today continue to indicate that LeBron James is leaning toward New York." Newsday reported the location of LeBron's announcement will come from Greenwich, CT and as Brian Windhorst tweeted , though the location doesn't specifically mean anything, the whole thing still smells a little funny.

So there's more than one thing out there hinting that LeBron is leaning towards New York. But for whatever reason, it's just hard to imagine a guy planning a one-hour special just to rip the heart out of his hometown team. Doesn't that seem a little cruel? Or is that just me? LeBron is all about marketing himself and while this special certainly will have people talking, it just seems like bad PR to devastate your hometown. Now to do this TV thing and stay, well, that's good stuff. He's a hero.

So of course you start wondering if these rumors have been planted by LeBron's PR folks to stir up interest. I realize it's a little crazy to start looking at this as JFK II: The Free Agency Files, but I don't think I'd put it past anybody. If they'll go so far as to plan a one-hour announcement, I don't think it would be far-fetched to hype it up a bit. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News tweeted that the Knicks feel like it's Cleveland . So I guess in the end, nobody knows anything and we'll just have to wait until tomorrow. NBA free agency: A mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.

-Royce Young
Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:59 pm

Wade to Heat fans: "I'm back."

There are going to be heartbroken fans in free agency. It's part of the process. There are Knick fans who love David Lee, Jazz fans that love Carlos Boozer, even Milwaukee fans who love Luke Ridnour. Really. and Lee and Boozer may return to their home, just as LeBron James may come back to the loving arms of Cleveland. But someone is going to get hurt. It's part of sports.

It will not be Heat fans.

Dwyane Wade is coming back. And lost in the throes of glee that he's brining Chris Bosh (and possibly LeBron James?) with him is that Wade didn't abandon the team that drafted him (unlike Bosh...sorry Toronto). Wade was drafted by the Heat out of Marquette and immediately put the Heat on the map. They had been just years removed from playoff contention but had never made the Finals. Wade changed all that. And the first player to take you to the promised land is always special. Wade said all along that his heart was in Miami. Today he put his money where his mouth is.

Then he took to YouTube to share his decision with the fans. It's yet another example of how 2010 is the year of the athlete controlling the message :

-Matt Moore
Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:11 pm

Bulls have moved on from the Big 3

Looks like Chicago, along with New Jersey and the Clippers, will be the big losers from this monstrous free agency period.

With Chris Bosh headed to Miami to join Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James apparently having narrowed his choices down between Cleveland and the Heat, the Bulls no longer look to be in contention to sign a free-agent. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter that the Bulls have moved on from the Big 3 and will "turn their attention" towards other lesser free agents like Carlos Boozer and David Lee among others, as well as pursue trades.

It's going to be a disappointing year for Bulls fans who will wonder what could have been. Dwyane Wade said in an interview on ESPN's SportCenter that he thought heavily about Chicago and that it was a "very difficult " decision. But now the Bulls are moving on with the prospect of only adding a second-tier player to their roster. Granted, the Bulls are a team on the rise having made the playoffs the past two years with a new coach in Tom Thibodeau. But they could have been a favorite to win the title. They moved salary, cleared space specifically to land both James and another max free agent and they will miss on all of them. That's a pretty crushing blow to a franchise that legitimately seemed in the front of the pack going into last weekend.

There were signs, of course. Rumors that the Bulls had moved up their Saturday meeting with James to try and get him to commit to a deal before the end of the day. A risky proposition, and if the rumors were true, one that may have cost them. Bulls management has long thought to be too brusque, too bullish, and may not have put their best foot forward, even with a great market, the lure of playing in Jordan's town, and the best assembled roster of any of the suitors for the Big 3's services.

Losing Wade doubly hurts as his divorce settlement gave even more reason for him to sign with the hometown Bulls. But this is where they are, and they have to go forward.

Boozer and Lee are both good options, though Lee is likely a better value and does more of what they need without Boozer's considerable baggage. They're not elite, but they could help the Bulls to be a better team. At this point, the future of the Bulls will rest squarely on Derrick Rose's shoulders. The team can add other free agents to help out (a significant offer for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow would be a great start), but at the end of the day, Rose will have to ascend to superstardom in order for the Bulls to contend. This is especially taxing considering how the East is now shaping up, with the Celtics making at least one more run, Orlando with a strong core, the Cavaliers possibly returning most of their 60+ win team, and Miami coming on as a contender for the title.

The Bulls may have been the frontrunners at one point, and had a legit shot at returning to the top of the NBA empire. Now they're just another franchise trying to add pieces, fighting for their stake of the middle ground behind the elite, populated by the players they just missed out on.

-Matt Moore

Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:58 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:17 pm

Durant just does it different, in a good way

They finished one and two in the MVP voting last season. They finished one and two in scoring. They’re two of the game’s biggest stars, captains of their teams and the faces of their franchises. Yet, I don’t know if Kevin Durant and LeBron James could really be much more different.

One plans a one-hour TV special to tell people where he's going. The other quietly announces it on Twitter . Guess which one did which.

No lights. No cameras. No fanfare. Just a simple, humble announcement and a thank you. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the way LeBron is going about this, but there’s certainly something refreshing in the way KD did.

I even love the fact that Durant had a typo in his tweet. It was genuine and we know it came from him. Some PR specialist didn’t type that for him. He wrote it himself, and wrote it from the heart. Later, Durant followed up with this tweet :

First time i cried n a while..Seat Pleasant we #outchea , RIp Chucky, we doin wat we dreamed about..i swear i love all my bros!! yessir!!!

Seat Pleasant, Md. is his hometown. Chucky is for his AAU coach Charles Craig who was killed at the age of 35, which is the reason KD wears No. 35. Talk about keeping it all in perspective.

And not only that, but KD pledged his commitment to the Thunder by not insisting on a fourth-year opt-out clause. Most players take the opt-out. Heck, that’s what LeBron is using right now to play this free agency game. But Durant felt compelled to show loyalty to the Thunder because they showed it to him when they arrived on his door a minute after the negotiation period began.

Read that again. Durant chose not to put a clause in his contract that would likely have made him more money down the road, because he wanted to show appreciation to his franchise. Are we still talking about professional sports here? I mean, this is almost unprecedented. But that’s the thing, KD is different .

This is the guy that chose Nike over Adidas even though Adidas offered more money because he’d always worn Nike’s growing up and he said they just fit better. We’re talking about a guy that used to work the scorer’s table at UT during intramural games . We’re talking about a guy that attends his team’s draft in New York City just to show support. We talking about a guy that watches from the bench at summer league. Summer. League. Yesterday, OKC capped a 10-2 run to take the lead against Charlotte. The first off the bench giving high fives? Kevin Durant. We're talking about that kind of guy.

I just can’t help but find it slightly ironic that on a day LeBron tries to grab everyone’s attention with a one-hour television special , Kevin Durant completely upstages him by humbly announcing his extension with a typo on Twitter. Similar ability, different in personality I suppose.

You can try your darndest to win folks over with brilliant marketing and PR, but most times, genuine just wins out. KD didn’t expect this kind of reaction. It’s just who he is. And here’s to hoping, for the sake of sports fans everywhere that are tired of egos and greed, that KD never changes.

-Royce Young

Posted on: July 7, 2010 12:55 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:57 pm

Details on "The Decision"

Yes, that's what LeBron's one-hour free agency special is called. The Decision. It sounds like a bad John Grisham novel or something.

The special airs at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN Radio. Stuart Scott will host and Michael Wilbon and Jon Barry will serve as analysts. Freelance reporter Jim Gray will conduct the first interview with LeBron after he announces his intentions.

As noted in the release , proceeds from “The Decision” will be donated to Boys & Girls Club of America in support of James’ vision to construct basketball courts for youth across the country. The program will be co-presented by University of Phoenix and Bing. Vitamin Water and McDonald’s will also sponsor the program with Nike and Sprite also making contributions. LeBron and his marketing company, LRMR Marketing, were responsible for securing the sponsors for the event.

Maverick Carter, CEO of LRMR, said in the release: "LeBron has a longstanding commitment to giving back to the community and has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs in cities across the country. With the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we decided to make this announcement on national television and donate the proceeds to Boys & Girls Clubs. We very much appreciate the cooperation and generosity of our sponsors.”

-Royce Young

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:51 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 11:54 am

Is the Triple Superstar team becoming reality?

About  an hour ago, Ken Berger reported that the Miami Heat, having locked up Chris Bosh as their power forward of the future next to Dwyane Wade, have turned their attentions to LeBron James in an attempt to create what can only be termed a "superteam." The prospect of the three playing together in Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, Timbuktu or the moon is the kind of concept that leaves every other general manager in the league waking up nights in a cold sweat. And according to the sources in KB's story, the push is hard.

Now, Chad Ford of reports via Twitter that a conference call was held this morning between Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and James. The call had been previously reported by several outlets. But the key is that Ford reports the three discussed the exact scenario Berger laid out. If Wade and Bosh were able to make a successful pitch, when combined with Pat Riley showing James his ring during their meeting to drive the point home, then it's actually possible.

You know.

LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. Together. (Along with Mario Chalmers or Michael Beasley, depending on who winds up in a sign-and-trade, but let's try and ignore them for now.)

The idea is terrifying. It would realign the NBA for the next five years. The Heat could literally drag 10 guys off the D-League and contend very seriously for a championship. (I can even give you names.) The Lakers and possibly the Celtics would be the only teams with a core built to overpower them, provided the three trying to play together wasn't an outright disaster. They would create matchup problems every single time down the floor and the marketing possibilities are endless. With Bosh as a low-post passer and scorer, Wade running the system and James doing everything he does, it would be the most terrifying combination of talent we've seen since the heydays of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers dynasties of the 80's.

There's a lot that would need to happen and the possibility is still remote of it occurring. Financially, logistically, practically, the chances of this occurring are not high. But there's been significant movement in the past 24 hours to suggest the conversation is on the table and being heavily considered by all parties involved.

For James, it would require a massive step down from the lofty porch of being the one-and-only top dog. He would be coming to a situation where one or all of the Big 3 are going to take a pay cut, and it may end up being him based on Wade and Bosh getting their deals done first. It would also mean going into a town where Wade is King, heavily involved in the community at both a service and business level, embedded in all marketing extensions of the Heat. But it wouldn't take long for revisions to take place to start pushing the three as an independent entity, capable of individual deals and combination partnerships and sponsorships that might dwarf anything James could get on his own, no matter the zip code. People love winners, and by all accounts, that team would win a lot .

It's a shattering concept that could shape the fact of the league for years to come. It's still a remote possibility, with Cleveland firmly the front-runner to bring the King back home. However, if I'm a rival GM in this league, I'm praying to whatever deity I subscribe to that this doesn't happen.

A Triple-Superstar Heat team?

That would be the biggest bang of all in a free agency period full of them.

-Matt Moore

Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:08 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:00 pm

Kevin Durant to sign five-year extension with OKC

Wouldn't you know it, right after Matt Moore writes about athletes controlling their own messages and announcements , Kevin Durant goes and alerts the world via Twitter of his extension. KD tweeted at about 9:40 a.m. CT :

"Exstension for 5 more years wit the #Thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal ."

And it didn't even take a one-hour special to do it.

Obviously Durant can't officially sign with Oklahoma City until July 8, and terms are not available right now, but I'm sure this was for nothing less than the maximum amount. (UPDATE : Reports are five years, $85 million.) Durant is the youngest scoring champ in NBA history, finished second in last season's MVP voting, led the youngest team in the league to 50 wins, scored 25 points or more in 29 consecutive games (only second to Michael Jordan in the modern era), nearly went 50-40-90 in percentages and is an all around swell person. Yeah, this was kind of a no-brainer.

Durant has been adamant about wanting to stay with the Thunder since last summer. Many questioned it, but as most should know by now, KD is an honest guy that's not out blowing smoke. He's not into playing games or using the media. He wanted to stay with the Thunder and he signed a long-term extension to prove it.

Also, as Marc Stein reports, KD's agent Aaron Goodwin said Durant didn't insist on an opt-out clause after the fourth year because he wanted to "respond to OKC's proactive offer with the fullest possible commitment." How's that for outstanding? Not only does Durant announce this in the most humble way possible, but he commits as much as he can to his franchise out of respect of their offer. KD is just a different breed of superstar man. 

The big question has been answered for the Thunder. The centerpiece is there for the next five years. Sam Presti is a great general manager, but this one didn't take a lot of genius to pull off. But now the focus turns to Jeff Green and his contract situation. Durant is in place, now where will the other long-term pieces fall around him?

-Royce Young

Posted on: July 7, 2010 10:35 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 11:02 am

If Bosh goes Heat, what does LeBron do?

If the numerous reports out there are accurat e, and they've been confirmed by just about every major outlet on the planet, then Chris Bosh is joining Dwyane Wade on South Beach for one heck of a party. But as the tango starts up in Miami (it takes two, you see), we're going to have to turn our attention almost immediately back to where our eyes have been glued all along.

What does LeBron James do now?

With both of the significant power forward options off the market assuming Bosh is a done deal, James' decision becomes somehow simpler and more complicated. Our own Ken Berger reports that he's a near-lock to announce he's returning to Cleveland tomorrow during his one-hour ego boost. But James has to be taking a good long look at his options before committing to anything.

LeBron was expected to be the catalyst, but instead Joe Johnson recommitted to the Hawks first, then Amar'e Stoudemire didn't wait for James to decide where he was headed before jumping into the center of MSG. Now Bosh is teamed with Wade. James may want to return to Cleveland, to stay home, to be the hero, but he's got to look at a roster that won 120 games plus over the past two years and still didn't make the Finals and get a little nauseous thinking of having to compete with Orlando, Boston, and now Miami and whatever the Knicks pull off (if anything). Which means James' camp has to be exploring his options, which right now are thus:

Take less money to join Wade and Bosh in Miami. Wade and Bosh are almost definitely assured the max deals (Wade from Miami, Bosh in a sign-and-trade). So it's natural for them to take those deals which means James capitalizes on his enormous celebrity and forms a super-team the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades in the NBA thanks to the salary cap. He guarantees himself multiple rings but also sacrifices home court advantage in terms of market and under the circumstances, looks like the third wheel. James is no third wheel. As important as winning is to James, not giving up his leverage in his attempt to become a global icon is more important, and going to Miami would mean sacrificing stock in that. Still, the allure of a super team has to weigh heavily, especially when combined with the beach and tax situation in Miami.

Head to New York to join Amar'e.
James comes into the world's biggest market as the difference maker alongside Amar'e Stoudemire. All of a sudden New York is the free-agent destination and the team can fill out the roster with quality players while working towards the future. Still, the core roster behind Stoudemire is as shaky as it is in Miami, only without the All-Star duo and only Amar'e instead. The money would be amazing, but the basketball might suffer. It would be an incredible risk, but one with a huge payout.

Head to Chicago with Rose and Noah.
The Bulls have the most ready team to compete over the next decade and with James they would elevate to a whole other level. Noah provides strength low and Rose is one of the most up and coming point guards in the league. He would have his name next to Michael Jordan, for better or worse, and operate in a major market. The team would be ready to contend and could likely snag Carlos Boozer or David Lee to help with low-position scoring. For whatever reason, the Bulls have slipped out of most talks.

Stay home.
The option most are predicting, and have from the start. Our own Ken Berger reports that's the most likely scenario . But James is looking at Antawn Jamison, who did not deliver last season in any way, shape, or form, and Mo Williams as his running partners while the rest of the league gets younger, the Heat become a powerhouse, Boston maintains, Orlando maintains, and the Lakers still rule the roost. But Cleveland is home, and James may feel that his presence will always generate the ability for teams to improve. Maybe the Cavs can pull a rabbit out of a hat. What's strange is the most likely scenario also seems like the most risky. The Cavs are a lock to not be terrible in the future. But they're also a heavy favorite to be not be considered a true contender unless significant changes happen.

Wade and Bosh may force James to reconsider his decision, either way. The options are largely the same as they've ever been, but the pieces have now moved into place. In a little over 24 hours, James will have to publicly declare what's most important to him , with the whole world watching.

-Matt Moore

(Graphic: Roland Liwag)
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