In Part I of this, I looked at what each team (that will have $) has to offer to this summer’s free agent crop. In this section, I’mna go from the team to the player and try to understand a bit more what they want. You may think, “Duh, what they want is to win and make buckets o’ money.” However, the truth is that, while none of theses guys are selfish, a lot of the determination comes down to ego. I’d initially assumed that if the Knicks could free up enough cap space (which they now have) that they’d have a shot at getting any two big names, like LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Then I read this article in mid-February on ESPN.com about interviewing Bosh:
Bosh revealed that he’s not necessarily interested in playing anywhere that he’s not the clear-cut franchise player.
“That’s a good question,” Bosh said when asked by ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher if he’s bothered by the widespread perception that he’s determined to follow either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade by signing on with one of the teams they choose starting July 1.
“It’s funny you say that, because I was thinking about it. I was just looking at what people say and it’s like, ‘Chris is going to go here and play with him or this, this and that.’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I feel like I should be built around. And maybe that’s just my ego talking, but I feel that I’m a very good player in this league and I’m only going to get better. So … maybe we should be getting somebody [in Toronto].”
I think for Knick fans, and heck bball fans in general, we assume that surely any great bball player should loooove to play with another great one. It’s why to many people it always seemed so odd that Shaq and Kobe Bryant couldn’t just get along in LA and go out and win a bushel full o’ trophies. And even though I used the word “ego,” I don’t think it’s actually about being egotistical. Not to go all army on y’all, but I think it’s about wanting to be all you can be. Kobe knew he could win championships with Shaq, but he wanted to see if he could win one as the centerpiece. Is that so bad? I mean we all knew he had that potential, so it ain’t like if someone like Jamal Crawford wanted to see if he could win a trophy as the lead man.
Thus, in a sense, I think it’s almost noble that Bosh wants to see if he can win a championship as the main component. I believe I linked to an article in the first part where a writer suggested that Bosh, James & Dwayne Wade should go for a bit less than the max so they could all come together, but what would that prove? That a stacked team can win some championships? Y’know, it’s like the original Dream Team had a great time playing together for once and whupping everyone’s butt in the 1992 Olympics, but did they feel like this was a basketball challenge that they overcame? It was an amazing experience for them, but probably more due to national pride and the awe of the brilliance of the Olympics.
Okay, enough explanation. Now let’s boldly go where no man has gone before… into the psyches of bball’s stars. Oh, and for those who forgot, the main franchises who’ll be in the game are: the Knicks, Heat, Nets, Bulls & Clippers. Also, of course all the franchises that currently have these stars can re-sign them too because you’re allowed to go over the cap to keep your own players. In other words, if Cleveland loses LBJ, they can’t go after one of the other guys on this list. Here we go:
Chris Bosh – Since we’ve talked about him, we’ll start with him. His goal as he stated is to be the centerpiece, so we can rule out him playing with LeBron or Wade (which would also likely mean eliminating Miami too). However, that doesn’t mean he won’t play with another good player. I imagine he’d feel okay going with just about any other star, like joining Derick Rose in Chicago, Brook Lopez&Devin Harris in New Jersey, or maybe signing with Joe Johnson in NY. He just doesn’t want to be the clear second-in-command. Only the big two would definitely eclipse him, so he still has a ton of options. My guess is he stays with Toronto, with his secondary possibilities being a tie between NJ, Chicago & NY (assuming we get another good player too).
Dwayne Wade – Wade not only has already won a championship, he’s proven to himself and the world that he can be the main ingredient that brings that trophy home (‘cuz he even though Shaq was at his side, we all saw that Wade pretty much carried that whole team). He’s also since experienced what it’s like to be unable to get out of the first round, to get swept in that first round, and even to just miss the playoffs completely. He wants to have a legit shot at winning it all every year and would gladly play with LeBron even if he had to become option #2 (as proof, see how willing he was to come off the bench for the Redeem Team in the last Olympics). In other words, New Jersey shouldn’t even bothering calling. And neither should New York unless we have some other serious deals in hand. He’s gonna try his hardest to get someone great to come to Miami. If that doesn’t work, probably the Bulls are the next best bet (if the Clippers were owned by anyone else but Donald Sterling then they might even be at the top of the list. As it is, there’s no way Wade will, or should, have faith in Sterling to continually keep top talent around him).
LeBron James – Okay, this is really what everyone came here for, isn’t it? The endless speculation is ‘cuz he’s kinda kept his cards close to the vest and seems to say conflicting things at various times. Thus it’s really hard to get into his head. For fans, we see that he’s a once-in-a-century genetic freak who has a shot at being the best ever. Like some say if Kobe wins a couple more rings to tie or best Jordan’s six then we can have legit debates as to whether the Black Mamba is better than Jordan was. But that’s all they’d be: debates. LeBron has a shot at being so good that there won’t be a conversation, just a head nod, yup clearly the best ever. And like it or not, that involves rings. So us fans, we’d love for him to team up with another top player and start collecting trophies. But that’s the fan’s mindset, not LeBron’s. He needs to prove to himself that he can win just one championship first. You may think, c’mon, he’s the King, he knows how great he is. Maybe. But remember that when the Cavs made it to the NBA Finals a few years ago, they got miserably swept by the Spurs. Last year they had the best record and everyone assumed they’d whup the Orlando Magic who became a surprise number three in the Eastern Conference race. No such luck.
I also think that as a home-town boy, he’d really, really like to win a championship for Cleveland. People assume that if he wins a trophy this year that he’ll stay, but I wonder if the opposite could be true. If he wins, he could leave Cleveland as not quite Public Enemy #1 ‘cuz he gave ‘em more than they ever hoped to get. I think if they DO win it this year, the more important question will be how hard was it to get there? Say they scrape and claw and only barely edge out a victory in not just the Finals but also the Eastern Conference Finals. If LeBron wants to win as many rings as possible, he’s gotta look at what’s around him. His centers, Shaq & Big Z, have been rapidly getting older and worse the last few years, and they’re sure to make a big drop next season too. Newcomer Antawn Jamison is probably still near his peak despite being 33, but he’s more likely to go downhill than even just stay the same. Out of the youth (Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, and JJ Hickson), Hickson is the only one with real potential to improve as the rest have already pretty much plateaued. So basically it’ll come down to: can JJ improve enough to match the big declines from the centers and the upcoming decline of Jamison? Meaning if I’m LeBron, unless my team easily floats to the championship, I’d seriously think about leaving.
And if he wants to really have a shot at winning tons of rings, he’s gotta look at Miami. The question is if he doesn’t win a ring this year, does he then worry about the possibility of being almost a second fiddle to Wade? After all, the Heat are Wade’s team. He’s been the hometown hero. As transcendent as LeBron is, he’d likely be co-star at best there (versus if they both came to NYC –knock on wood– the King would clearly be top dawg to the crowd). And would it bother LeBron (and possibly hurt his historical standing) if he’d never won a championship on his own, while Wade had? If so, maybe the Knicks and Bulls would have a chance at him as both have young and upcoming players (yes, the Bulls have more pieces, but with the Knicks being able to sign another player this summer plus another $11 million stud the next summer, they’ve got a fairly appealing future). In a world devoid of evil, he should go to the Clippers ‘cuz they’re strong at every position except, luckily enough, his spot of small forward. But again, Sterling is too big a question mark for LeBron to risk his legacy. Lastly, the Nets have such a stink of loserdom on them that the only way the King considers them is if they land #1 draft pick John Wall. But even then it’s doubtful. He may only sign a three-year deal to keep teams on their feet, and if so, two of those three years would have LBJ playing in New Jersey (assuming there are no hitches as to how long it takes to move to Brooklyn).
Other Free Agents – This has gotten too long, so this will now apparently be a three-part article. At least. Look for the next chapter some time next week.
Topics: Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison, Black Mamba, Brook Lopez, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Cleveland Cavaliers, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Donald Sterling, Dream Team, Dwayne Wade, J.J. Hickson, Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, John Wall, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Michael Jordan, Mo Williams, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Olympics, Orlando Magic, Redeem Team, Ric Bucher, San Antonio Spurs, Shaq, Toronto Raptors, Zydrunas Ilgauskas