We all know by now that LeBron James opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat on June 24.
Does that mean he will be leaving the franchise after making four straight NBA finals appearances? Probably not.
What we can take from the news of James opting out is that he is a free agent again for the first time since “The Decision,” on July 8, 2010.
James, much like he did during the summer of 2010, will be recruited by several teams. Among the teams that will try to woo the former MVP include the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls.
Believe it or not, James’ former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, may also be in the mix to bring Akron’s favorite son back to Ohio.
It is safe to say that the South Beach franchise is still the frontrunner for James’ services. Something to keep an eye on during the off-season will be the actions taken by fellow members of the Big Three, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
If Bosh and Wade followed the actions of James and opt out of their contract, it may provide the hint that the trio is on the same page and a set for a return.
Why would the three stars opting out mean they are sticking around?
If the three players were to opt out, it would provide some room for the three players to come back on new deals while allowing the team to have some wiggle room to sign other free agents.
If Bosh or Wade did not opt out of their contract, we may be seeing the end of the Big Three. It will be a big sign that the three players are not on the same page or have decided on the split.
Aside from the talk of the Big Three, a return to Miami is still a strong option because of what happened the last time he left a team. LeBron has appeared to be in good standing as far as his image is concerned, but how big of a hit would it take once again if he were to join his third NBA team.
After everything that went down in the summer of 2010, I find it weird that the fans that once burned their favorite LeBron jersey after “The Decision,” could once again be cheering for him again.
LeBron loves his hometown of Akron, Ohio, but is that love strong enough to bring him back.
The bigger question here would be if LeBron is willing to play for a team still owned by Dan Gilbert?
Verbal haymakers were thrown by Gilbert after LeBron decided to leave Cleveland and it is unlikely they could ever be on the same page again.
If Gilbert and James could look beyond what happened in the past and find some common ground, James would return to a young Cleveland roster. Since James’ departure in 2010, the franchise has won the NBA Draft Lottery three times, which has given the Cavs the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft each time.
While the team is still unproven overall, having a point guard like Kyrie Irving on the roster could make for a good dance partner for James to have in the future.
Aside from LeBron, Carmelo Anthony is the other top free agent during the off-season after opting out of his contract with the New York Knicks.
The Bulls may make a push to not get just one, but both of the top free agents on the roster for the upcoming season.
Whether Anthony is on the roster or not, James would have a great cast to play with, led by Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.
While the Bulls have been in the mix as a top team in the Eastern Conference, the addition of James would likely get the franchise over the hump and likely the team to beat.
The only question here would be if LeBron is willing to look past the expectations and legacy left there by Michael Jordan.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS:
Yes sports fans, the Clippers. If James is ready to make a title run with a different team, we cannot rule out the Clippers.
If he wanted to join the Clippers, despite whatever it would take to get him there, one thing is for sure… Chris Paul will be there.
Paul and James have been teammates on Team USA, godparents to each other’s kids, and a member of each other’s weddings. It’s safe to say they will have a talk about LeBron’s future this off-season.
James would also be playing for Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers, who is one of the coaches LeBron respects in the league.
LeBron would also be a part of a team moving on from the recent Donald Sterling situation that had been created over the last few months. It is also a situation James had been outspoken about, even during the NBA playoffs this past season.
With former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer winning the bid to be the Clippers’ potential new owner, it would be a big splash for Ballmer and the franchise to bring in James.
Over the last season or two, when the Rockets have wanted to bring in a big name player they have done it.
With a talented roster led by James Harden and Dwight Howard, the addition of LeBron could cause a problem for everyone in the league other than Houston.
Looking at the age of players on the Heat during the 2013-2014 season, LeBron was in the middle of the pack playing with a team that included at least eight players older than him. All eight of those players are in their 30s.
Based off the Rockets roster in the same season, LeBron would be the third oldest player in Houston at the age of 29. The oldest player on the roster is Francisco Garcia at the age of 33.
All ages aside, a new Big Three in the Western Conference, James, Howard and Harden, would likely make them the team to beat.
When it is all set and done, I do not expect to see LeBron play in the Western Conference. With a number of tough teams making a run for a playoff spot in the West, if James wants to secure his best opportunity to make it to the NBA Finals several more times he is better off staying in the Eastern Conference.
With that alone, it is possible that James may return to the Heat, sign up for a run with the Bulls, or return to the Cavaliers where his professional career started.
With all the hype that this off-season may bring, we all may be fooled as LeBron remains in South Beach.
— James H. Williams ✏️ (@JHWreporter) June 25, 2014