Free Agency Myths & Irrelevancies

ESPN The Magazine Presents Summer Fun 2006 - Inside

Shhh, LeBron and Wade are on their way to the mythical Superstar Free Agency Summit. There's even a secret handshake to get in the door. (source: Yardbarker.com)

With LeBron-frenzy-ation reaching new heights as we approach hunting seasonfree agency’s opening day, lots of incorrect info is being bandied about.  And I won’t stand for poor bandying.  Thus I sit here writing about what’s a Myth or Irrelevant.

1. Bosh’s List Of 5 TeamsMyth

Yes, yes, I know even I reported it, but it turns out it’s bogus.  The claim was that his agent submitted the list of the 5 teams Bosh was interested in playing for next season.  Now it’s come out that his agent has debunked this story.  Which makes sense.  Would someone really wanna limit their options like that this early on?  Shouldn’t you wait and hear what offers you get?  Maybe say Orlando pops out of the woodwork, with the ability to do a sign-and-trade involving Rashard Lewis?  Bosh and Dwight Howard are supposedly somewhat close, and after playing with the defensively inept Bargnani, it’s gotta look pretty appealing to team-up with Superman.  I mean, yes, I completely made this up, but the point is it’s just good business to wait and see what options are out there before you start closing any doors.

2. Free-Agent Powerhouse Summit With Dwayne Wade, LeBron, Bosh, Joe Johnson, A’m’a’r’e, and Matt BarnesMyth

No, the Matt Barnes bit I threw in at the end isn’t what makes it a myth, it’s the summit concept.  These guys plan to talk/text/twitter constantly, but they ain’t gonna all meet up in some room and figure out the future of NBA basketball as we know it.  Wade’s comments about “sitting down and talking” to other players somehow got construed as meaning that all these guys who live in different parts of the country and have insanely busy schedules would all be meeting in a conference room in Poughkeepsie to hash things out.  He simply meant that they’d all be talking and staying in touch, a statement that they’ve all made before.  And I guess he also meant that he likes to sit when he chats on the phone.  There is no summit planned, nor is there any plan to set one up down the road.

3. LeBron Says Cleveland Has The EdgeIrrelevant

Wanting a story, the sports world blew up LeBron’s statement (from his upcoming Larry King interview) that Cleveland has an edge.  However, when shown the quote in context, it was prompted by King, not The King.  Larry threw LeBrony a softball he had to hit right back: “Do you at all lean toward the place you know best?  Do they have an edge going in…?”  What’s ‘Bron ‘Bron gonna say?  “No, I’m giving them the same preference as any other team out there.”  Even if he’s 100% sure he wants to leave, he’d be lynched if he said that.  If LeBron does choose to leave, he doesn’t want his hometown to hate him.  That might not be possible, but he’s certainly not dumb enough to smack them directly in the face.

4. The Fact LeBron Hasn’t Said He’s Staying Means He’s GoingMyth

Rob Parker wrote an article today for ESPN New York espousing that popular belief, but it’s simply not true.  It makes good business sense for LeBron to test the market and put some pressure on the Cavs.  If he’d signed a 5-year deal with Cleveland, would they still have tried to swing for the fences by trading for Antawn Jamison like they did?  I’m betting no.  Chances are that they’re still looking for ways to upgrade (like trying to sign-and-trade Jamison for Bosh as I’ve suggested) in order to convince James to stay.  By contrast, Dwayne Wade’s said he’ll likely stay in Miami, so the Heat have waited until this summer to upgrade their talent.  Maybe things’ll work out best for Wade, but in the meantime for the last few years he’s had to deal with playing on a .500 team during his prime.  If the Heat had won 15 more games last year, maybe Wade takes home the MVP trophy instead of LeBron.  And maybe they would’ve had a shot at winning another championship.  In the end, maybe Miami signs Bosh and comes out ahead in the long run, but short-term, the last few years LeBron had a shot at winning a ring while Wade didn’t.  That’s a pretty powerful reason to dangle the possibility of leaving town even if you don’t plan on going.

Separately, and this isn’t under Myth or Irrelevancy ‘cuz it’s conjecture on my part, but I don’t agree with many people’s assumption that LeBron’s already decided what he’s gonna do.  Sure, he may have established strong preferences in his head, but he’s a smart businessman, and as I said with Bosh, he’ll wait to see what the offers are out there.  We all know financially all teams will offer the max, but what’s the rest of their pitch?  Do they have a real vision going forward?  He knows what he can bring to them, but what can they bring to him?  For instance, the Nets’ new Russian katrillionaire owner could have unique ideas as to how to globally market LeBron.  Maybe the Clippers’ Donald Sterling can convince LeBron that if he came to LA, the notoriously cheap owner would be willing to spend on supporting players for once.  You gotta listen to all these pitches.  That, and not believe Sterling.

5. Players Will Make $30 Million More If They Stay With Their Current TeamPartial Myth & Partial Irrelevancy

I’ve addressed this before, but it’s worth repeating.  Players can indeed sign a contract for about $30 million more if they stay with their current team, but the misleading thing is you’re measuring six-year contracts against 5-year contracts.  Like, making up #s, $100 million over 5 years versus $130 million over 6.  Assuming a player doesn’t retire, they’ll get a new contract/extension for that sixth year.  If they’re still a stud they’ll still get the max, so maybe something like $22 million, which’d mean really only a $8 million difference.  A bunch of money for all of us regular folks, sure, but a much smaller chunk to possibly pass up if you’re a superstar in the NBA.  Plus, if one were to go from a small market (say, oh, I dunno, Cleveland), to a big one (randomly let’s pick, um, how’sabout New York?), the possible increased marketing revenues would likely more than make up the difference.

However, it is a bit of a crap shoot, ‘cuz if you get injured or your abilities diminish, you don’t have that guaranteed last year.  If like TMac or Jermaine O’Neal had signed deals for one year less, there’s no way they would’ve gotten anywhere near the max they both got paid this season.  As proof, witness how little poor Allen Iverson was offered by the Grizz (& later the Sixers).  For players like Wade and Bosh who’re both more injury-prone and slightly older than LeBron, it probably makes good business sense to ensure they tie down as much money as possible now.  For a 25-year-old LeBron, who’s built like a brick house and has barely missed any games due to injuries throughout his career, it’s likely less of an issue.

The thing that makes it a partial irrelevancy is that the history of Superstars leaving their team has tended to be through sign-and-trades, even when they join a team on the free market.  Yes, you can get $30 million if you stay with your current team, but it’s not as huge a factor ‘cuz you can work out a sign-and-trade with your new team so you get the same contract.  When Orlando “stole” Grant Hill, deemed the next Michael Jordan at the time, they used a sign-and-trade that netted Detroit a little-kn0wn center named Ben Wallace, ironically leaving them the winner in this free agent signing.  A team like Toronto won’t take back just junk for Bosh, but if it’s a choice between losing him for nothing or possibly getting back say Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, they’ll have to strongly consider it.

Tags: Allen Iverson Amare Stoudemire Ben Wallace Chicago Bulls Chris Bosh Cleveland Cavaliers Detroit Pistons Dwayne Wade Dwight Howard Grant Hill Jermaine O'Neal Joe Johnson Larry King LeBron James Luol Deng Miami Heat New Jersey Nets Rob Parker Toronto Raptors Tracy McGrady

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