Wall believes Calipari will stay at Kentucky

Former Kentucky star and likely No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft John Wall does not believe his college coach, John Calipari, will leave for another job.
Despite his denials, rumors have surfaced that Calipari may have an interest in the Bulls’ head coaching vacancy. But Wall doesn’t see it happening.
“Coach Cal is a guy that a lot of people want,” said Wall. “It is what it is. His dream was to coach at the University of Kentucky and he got that opportunity. I feel strongly that he is going to stay there.”
Wall spoke very highly of Calipari, who he spent one season with in Lexington.
“He’s like a father figure,” said Wall. “He is just like a father and he takes care of us like we’re his sons. He’s going to push you to make sure he gets the best out of you and make you the best player. He prepares you for the next level and he does a great job of it.”
In terms of that next level, Wall met with members of the Wizards staff on Thursday night. Among the topics of discussion included his character and the kind of leadership he would bring to the organization.  Wall said Washington has given him no assurances that he will be their selection on June 24.
“That’s what I’m waiting for,” said Wall. “It’s up in the air.”
The likely top pick in the draft confirmed he also has or will meet with the other top 5-6 teams in the draft while in Chicago.
John Wall meets the media at the NBA Draft Combine (05.21.10):

Evan Turner meets the media at the NBA Draft Combine (05.21.10):

Advertisements

Great Wall of Washington likely soon a reality

While it probably wasn’t all that necessary, former Kentucky guard John Wall made his case to be the top pick in the 2010 NBA Draft on June 24 when speaking at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago on Thursday.

“I’m a competitive person,” said Wall. “I want to win and I’m not selfish. I’ll try to help my organization win. The teams with the Number 1 and 2 picks had losing records last year. I’m trying to help the organizations change and make them into a winning program.”

Wall will obviously visit the Washington Wizards, who scored the top pick despite having only a 10.3 percent chance, and didn’t rule out working out for the Philadelphia Sixers, who own the second pick. But he made no mistake about it—he wants to go No. 1.

“That’s a goal,” said Wall. “Everybody growing up as a kid wants to be the No. 1 pick. If it doesn’t happen that way, I’ll be cool. I get to play in the NBA and that’s my dream come true, no matter what pick I am.”

Wall, a self-described scoring point guard all his life, doesn’t shy away from the inevitable comparisons to the stellar point guards before him who also played for John Calipari, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.

“Everybody tries to compare me to Derrick and we do play similar with our speed. He’s just a little stronger,” said Wall. “That’s a great comparison, but I want to start a legacy of my own. It’s not downplaying Derrick Rose. He’s a great player and an All-Star. Why wouldn’t you want to be compared to a guy like that?”

Wall said he has spoken with Rose for advice and that the two have a good relationship. He later acknowledged he’s relied on another NBA star for help besides Rose—free agent to be and leaue MVP LeBron James.

“I talked to him and LeBron during my season,” said Wall. “They both had a lot of hype coming into the league.”

When asked about the advice Rose imparted, Wall said, “You just have to work hard. You can’t let it get to your head. People are going to say certain things, some of it is going to be positive and some will be negative. Whatever is negative, you just have to build on whatever they say to work on.”

The Wizards reportedly sold approximately 400 new season tickets the day after beating the odds to winning the lottery. Wall likened going to the Wizards—or Sixers, for that matter—to when he arrived in Lexington tasked with restoring glory to the program and winning a national championship.  That’s a lot to put on a 19-year old’s shoulders, but Wall said he’s ready.

“There’s no pressure,” he said.  “You can’t let it get to you. You’ve just got to stay humble and work hard.”

John Wall meets the media at the NBA Draft Combine—Parts I & II (05.20.10):

Evan Turner believes he could be draft’s top pick

Over 50 prospects for this summer’s NBA Draft are in Chicago this week for the 2010 NBA Draft Combine. Workouts are being held at Attack Athletics on the city’s West Side and are closed to the media, but players are being made available at a downtown hotel.

Thursday morning’s first group was headlined by former Ohio State star and consensus national player of the year Evan Turner, expected to be a top three selection on June 24.

Turner, a Chicago area native, said he thinks it’s possible he could be the top pick and will visit the Washington Wizards for an individual workout.

“I did a lot of work this year, thinking about all the adversity I came back from,” said Turner, when asked to make his case to go No. 1. “I’m mature now, and not to be arrogant or cocky, but I won every player of the year award. That puts some inner confidence in me. I think I can help a team.”

However, Turner said, he wouldn’t be all that disappointed not to be the draft’s first pick.

“At the end of the day, it’s basketball. When you wake up and play basketball, it’s a good day,” he stated.

If Turner does “fall” to Philadelphia, owners of the second pick, the Sixers should benefit greatly from his versatility. The 6-7, 210-pounder who left Ohio State after his junior season is capable of playing the point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions.

His offseason workouts have included making—not taking—550 shots a day. Turner acknowledges that his outside shot is probably the element of his game that needs the most work.

“It needs to be more consistent,” he said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever be a guy who lives or dies by the three. I like to penetrate, work around the mid-range level, get teammates involved, and put pressure on the defense.”

Listen to audio from Turner, John Wall, Derrick Favors and several others from this year’s prospects at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

John Wall (PG, 6-4, 185) meets the media at the NBA Draft Combine—Parts I & II (05.20.10):

Evan Turner (SG, 6-7, 205) meets the media at the NBA Draft Combine (05.20.10):

Oklahoma State product James Anderson (SG, 6-6, 195) talks about his recent workout with the Bulls (05.20.10):

Kansas product Xavier Henry (SG, 6-7, 220) discusses his schedule as of late and why he feels his game compares best to Joe Johnson (05.20.10):

Butler product Gordon Haywood (SF, 6-8, 200) talks about making the transition to the NBA and his team’s remarkable run to the NCAA championship game (05.20.10):

Fresno State product Paul George (SF, 6-8, 185) talks about the challenge of competition and gives a self-scouting report at the NBA Draft Combine (05.20.10):

Georgia Tech product Derrick Favors (PF, 6-9, 215) on which aspects of his game he thinks will translate the best in the pro game and how he might fit in with the Nets (05.20.10):

Draft Lottery result raises more free agent questions

What do you suppose LeBron James said Tuesday when he watched the NBA Draft Lottery and saw the No. 1 pick, expected to be Kentucky guard John Wall, go to the Washington Wizards and the 70-loss New Jersey Nets fall to No. 3?

I assume he said he wasn’t going to any franchise with that kind of luck and would probably sign with the Bulls, because while John Paxson was going to the bathroom back home two years ago, the Bulls got the No. 1 pick and Derrick Rose in the lottery.
Now that’s the kind of lucky franchise anyone would want to be with.
Of course, you know for the next two months we have to consider what LeBron would have said and done almost any time of day and night.
I heard he looks marvelous.
I, for one, now wear my WWLD—What Would LeBron Do—bracelet, thinking constantly WCIDTGL—What Can I Do To Get LeBron.
In any case, if you’re keeping score, it probably was a good night for the Bulls, as the Nets have been considered one of the contenders for prize free agent James. The theory was they’d get Wall and then be able to do a sign-and-trade of Devin Harris for another free agent, perhaps Joe Johnson.
Now if the Nets have to keep Harris, as there are no other top point guards in the draft, they don’t have much to trade. They’ll still get a good player in the draft, probably George Tech forward Derrick Favors and, nevertheless, have potentially a formidable roster with Harris and Brook Lopez. But it figures not to be quite as attractive assuming Wall is all he is supposed to be.
Does scoring the top pick put the Wizards in the mix for James, as they have cap room to spend on almost two max free agents?
Unlikely, since the Washington roster was stripped down after the suspension and subsequent jailing of Gilbert Arenas on a gun charge.
However, Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld says nothing has changed and they still expect Arenas with the team next season, it would seem more vital than ever for Washington to try to move Arenas.
He has the big contract averaging about $20 million per season for the next four years, which is a disaster. But I can see two potential suitors, the Knicks and Heat.
Both desperately need a point guard, and there’s a strong chance even the normally knuckleheaded Arenas will come back from his arrest much more stable. He’s only 28 and has been an All-Star.
I can see the Knicks making a move and then still having enough money to add two maximum contract free agent. You figure the Wizards would do about anything to get out from under that contract and allow Wall to grow with a new team without the shadow and controversy of Arenas hanging over them, which it surely would be every day.
Arenas is an actor and extrovert and could thrive in New York.
I could see the Wizards taking maybe Eddy Curry with a year left and Danilo Gallinari. Then you present to James Arenas at point and maybe Chris Bosh to come along. That’s three stars and you fill in with minimum guys, and New York always can come up with a few veterans in that range. So maybe the Knicks become bigger competition.
Perhaps even the Heat are a possibility. They, also, don’t have a point guard. To get out from under Arenas, you could see Washington taking on Michael Beasley and some of the old, bad deals the Heat have, like James Jones, and maybe throwing in a short term sign and trade for Udonis Haslem to equalize the money. So then you have Arenas, Dwyane Wade, you add James and you still have money for a mid level type free agent or even better.
You know Pat Riley thinks big and he’s going to gamble aggressively to secure James.
So what about the Bulls?
Could they take on Arenas?
I’d doubt it, though you could easily work it out financially for Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. But I don’t see the Bulls wanting a ball control Arenas in the backcourt with Rose, especially since Arenas is one of the poorest defenders in the NBA. I’d rather keep Deng and Hinrich, especially because the Bulls have a point guard, and a better one than Arenas ever has been. And that gives the Bulls perhaps the deepest roster of any of the teams potentially pursuing James.
So how does the draft go?
I’d assume the Wizards take Wall. Though some GMs mention Evan Turner or even Derrick Favors, you never pass the consensus No. 1. It’s too risky and will always cost you your job.
My guess given their roster is the 76ers at No. 2 take Ohio State’s Evan Turner to pair in the backcourt with Jrue Holiday, their young point guard the 76ers like. It would give them a potentially exciting young backcourt to grow with and with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young could return to being the quicker and more successful team they were a year ago.
The Nets fall to No. 3, essentially wasting a season of 70 losses, underlying the basic inequity of the lottery as the Wizards and 76ers moved up.
You figure the Nets go with a big guy in Favors or DeMarcus Cousins to support Lopez.
Then comes the Timberwolves and Kings, who were the losers in falling back, the Timberwolves from second poorest record and Kings from third. Golden State also falls back two spots from fourth to sixth.
The Bulls have the No. 17 pick. They fell back two spots from No. 15 under the terms of the John Salmons deal as the Bucks were given the option to swap draft picks. With the Bulls making the playoffs, it ended up as a negligible change. And no one from the bottom moved up to the top, so if the Bulls had missed the playoffs they would have been at the bottom of the lottery, maybe four picks higher in a draft in which most GMs say after the top seven or eight it’s a crapshoot among the next 20 picks.
Though I wonder what LeBron would say?

Cavs out of playoffs; LeBron headed to Bulls?

Stupid time officially began about seven minutes after the Cavs were knocked out of playoffs Thursday in losing 94-85 to the Boston Celtics to fall four games to two in the Eastern semifinals.

Chad Ford of ESPN reported he’d heard from three league general managers who said they now believe James will leave the Cavs as a result of the series loss and said James would be coming to the Bulls and will be coached by John Calipari.

Of course, there were no actual names mentioned from these sources who may or may not know.

Among the actual people, former Mavs coach Avery Johnson, doing the pregame and postgame for ESPN, said he believed James would be going to the Nets. I took this to mean Johnson would like to be Nets coach.

Johnson’s postgame partner, former player Jamal Mashburn, said he believed James would be staying with the Cavs, though Mashburn was told he had to pick a team other than the Cavs—clearly ESPN as well as Joakim Noah is tired of Cleveland—for James to go to and he also guessed New Jersey.

ESPN national NBA writer Chris Broussard said he believed James would be signing with the Bulls, maybe with Phil Jackson as coach.

No report yet on whether Michael Jordan would come out of retirement for this, as he isn’t quite 50 yet. But, hey, it still wasn’t time for the real late SportsCenter…

Whew! I’m tired already. This is going to go on for the next two months since free agency begins July 1 and then teams have a week until they are permitted to sign a player.

James said after the game he “has no plans.”

He said, “We’ll see what happens.”

James acknowledged the Cavs are “committed to winning,” but added, he has “given myself options.”

How dare he be vague when so many people actually know what he’s doing? Who is he to say he doesn’t know?

It’s gotta be the Bulls, right? James already has said he’ll change his number next season to No. 6 because he didn’t feel anyone should wear No. 23. Yes, the Bulls can keep Jordan’s number retired.

Though James is friends with entertainer Jay-Z, a part owner of the Nets, who are now owned by one of the world’s richest, and supposedly to be the most generous to his basketball players.

But there’s the Knicks, the only team that can give a full free agent contract to James and whomever James wants to bring with him, even if it’s Ilgauskas. The owner of a famous New York strip club was quoted last week offering James free lap dances for life. I’m not fully sure how that works under the salary cap. I don’t know if James ever does that sort of thing, but I’m quite sure they wouldn’t be that expensive for him, anyway. I’m not saying, mind you, he engages in such behavior, whatever it is since I’m not familiar with the term.

There’s the Clippers and L.A. and the movie industry, which is where LeBron’s spending this summer making a movie. Of course, there’s the sign and trade possibility with the Lakers to play with Kobe. Can’t the NBA get this straight? Wasn’t this supposed to be a Kobe/LeBron Finals? And three second round sweeps. If the NBA manipulates these matchups they do a poor job.

The instant ESPN poll had 31 percent saying he’d go to New York, 27 percent say remaining in Cleveland and 24 percent for Chicago. Another 18 percent were said to be leaning to Warren Buffet’s basement.

Pat Riley allegedly has ordered LeBron to come to Miami because, well, he’s Pat Riley! OK, enough.

The Heat, meanwhile, already has set up a website inviting fans to urge Wade to remain in Miami. But there’s also a fan web site up now asking James to come to Chicago.

David Letterman has been running a segment of reasons for LeBron James to come to New York, though so far they’ve included being hit by a speeding taxi and being able to watch a foul mouthed TV anchor cursing on the air.

I’ve checked. No websites yet of anyone asking for free agent Shaq.

This is big, seriously.

This is the back-to-back MVP, a player whom some believe could one day be considered the games greatest not only being upset again in the playoffs, but threatening the geography of the NBA with James a free agent who may leave the Cavs.

And we know, as James would say, here’s a guy who has won at every level but college and the NBA.

It was not only a stunning, unexpected result after the Cavs led the league in wins for the second straight season. But it was shocking to see the way the Cavs gave up at the end, not even trying to foul to extend the game after Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Rajon Rondo were gagging free throws down the stretch. Make them earn it! Heck, everyone does that even in the regular season.

I know Cavs players looked toward the bench at that time, though the mistake probably was not looking at the real coach, James.

There are going to be major ramifications from this series even if James elects to remain in Cleveland. No King Abdicates headlines quite yet.

It seems likely coach Mike Brown will be out. That would be a year after winning coach of the year and after winning at least 60 games in consecutive seasons. And they felt sorry for Vinny Del Negro. No coach ever has lost his job after such a run, though Alex Hannum resigned after a pair of 60-plus win seasons. James did say afterward he thought there could have been some better adjustments.

It was another unusual series for Brown as he stayed with the ineffective O’Neal for long stretches, failed to play smaller and quicker with players like J.J. Hickson to take advantage of getting James out in the open court, where he is unstoppable, and seemed more like a Rube Goldberg mad scientist trying different and odd combinations with Daniel Gibson appearing from nowhere, and never figuring out what to do with Antawn Jamison.

As I wrote during the Bulls series with the Cavs, if James really wanted to win—and I guess GMs in New York, New Jersey, Miami and L.A. would differ—he’d join the Bulls.

Yes, this appears on the Bulls’ site, but I’d say the majority of my mail about free agents favors Dwyane Wade over LeBron. Fans seem to personally like Wade more, though I know any team would take James first. He’s the best and he fits with anyone and everyone. And he sure can dance.

Forget positions. He can play anywhere, and probably one of the bigger issues with the Cavs is he has monopolized the ball too much. That took Mo Williams, for instance, out of games, and I thought the first half Thursday for the Cavs was better because Williams plays better with the ball. When James took over more after halftime, Williams became more a standstill player, which is when he’s not at his best.

Though James controls the ball a lot and has the mentality of a point guard, he would be better off playing with Derrick Rose.

James is such a threat that he should play in a faster, more open game, which suits Rose, because as James goes up court he’ll take the defense with him and make it easier on his point guard. It was an issue the Bulls had early with Michael Jordan. Doug Collins always tried to get Jordan to run out ahead of the ball, but Jordan resisted because he liked to have the ball in his hands and didn’t trust his teammates.

Once Scottie Pippen gained trust with Jordan and could handle the ball, Jordan attacked more without the ball and it led to Bulls titles.

So, James would do well to play with a ballhandler like Rose.

By the way, for those who whined all season about letting go of Ben Gordon and trading John Salmons, this was why. No, the Bulls may not get James. But they are now in the conversation. If they’d have kept either Gordon or Salmons they wouldn’t be. And how could they justify that?

Though the perfect scenario would be to get the Cavs to agree to a sign-and-trade for James, say Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and a No. 1 pick, for example, and then have salary cap money left to attract another free agent like Chris Bosh, David Lee or Joe Johnson.

That’s also why the Bulls seem to have the edge over, say, the Knicks, who have few sign-and-trade assets to offer. The Nets are much better equipped with a high draft pick and Devin Harris. It’s hard to see James going somewhere without a sign and trade, which would mean a lesser contract. Of course, James could go for three years with an opt out after two, which he could do with the Cavs to give them one more shot.

Of course, the sign-and-trade route opens the field to a team like the Lakers with Andrew Bynum and others to pair James with Bryant. You can be sure there will be other offers, though would the Cavs be the franchise that agreed to trade LeBron James? Almost better to let him walk.

James did acknowledge some issue with his elbow after the Game 6 loss, though there seemed more all of a sudden a level of dysfunction within the Cavs as their emotions and enthusiasm almost disappeared. We may be hearing something was amiss eventually.

As for Boston winning, you’ve now got to consider Celts top assistant Tom Thibodeau for at least an interview for the coaching job. The Celtics defense was terrific in this series, and without Kevin Garnett being great. What Boston had is what so many teams don’t and which troubled the Bulls this season, one system of play to fall back on when things went wrong or under pressure.

LeBron also needs to be coached. He clearly has run things in Cleveland, as everyone around the NBA knows, but that doesn’t seem to be working out. You don’t want to hire someone who is his friend or whom he chooses, but someone he can respect for his knowledge of the game and ability to put him in position to succeed, a strong figure.

This just in: James was heard listening to “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago. Does anyone need anymore proof than that he’s coming to the Bulls?

Will Game 6 determine if LeBron leaves the Cavs?

It’s been a miserable second round of the NBA playoffs, with three of the four series being sweeps. However, that should at least finally prove the NBA isn’t manipulating the games for ratings and TV and seventh games.

But the one series that is left may be about to produce one of the most significant games of the last decade.

That’s Thursday in Boston when the Cavaliers, the NBA’s winningest team the last two seasons, try to avoid playoff elimination, trailing 3-2. But that’s just part of the story, as the Cleveland future of star LeBron James perhaps depends on the result, as well as the competitive landscape of the NBA given James’ free agency.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had declared this season “all in” last fall, and even Gilbert, reminiscent of the Mavericks meltdown in the 2006 Finals, came out after Tuesday’s devastating home loss and demanded more from the team.

That game sent shockwaves around the NBA, given the confusing apparent disinterest exhibited by James, and left the league buzzing Wednesday about what could produce such a cavalier effort from James in such a crucial situation.

It raised doubts of James’ place in basketball history in this instant analysis world just a few weeks after getting his second straight MVP award when he was being called maybe the greatest player ever to play the game.

If the Cavs win Thursday, James could return to that accolade. This is not an era for perspective.

But coaches, GMs and former players I talked with since agreed all the great ones have had bad games, but you’d never have seen that lack of intensity from Jordan or Bird or Magic.

Kobe, well, we have seen some of that, like the 2006 seventh game with the Suns when he didn’t do much. The difference was he was immediately accused of purposely sabotaging the game. Ludicrous, but Kobe never commanded the media worship James does.

One longtime league guy said perhaps James got some sort of painkilling shot or drugs for his possibly injured elbow—most I talked with thought he was overacting about that—and the side effects dulled him.

The rest of the team must have shared them, then, as the Cavs bench, usually like a South Beach nightclub, was virtually comatose all game.

There were theories that James realized his teammates weren’t good enough and lost interest, bad matchups as Antawn Jamison isn’t good against Kevin Garnett and Mo Williams against anyone in the playoffs, and that late season vacation by James when the team began losing down the stretch and never quite recovered a rhythm even though they beat the Bulls in five, albeit, unimpressively.

There were reports in Cleveland of discord internally, that Shaq—big surprise—was upset with his minutes and players were upset with inconsistent rotations. And where the heck is J.J. Hickson? Though Shaq had 21 points, it was perhaps a sign that in his biggest game they lost by 30. The Cavs continue to play away from their strengths as a fast team and got caught up in a half court game, at which they are inferior to the Celtics.

Bad coaching? They always are to blame, and Mike Brown is being universally damned, by national media and in Cleveland. Hey, the Bulls want a successful, veteran coach. It looks like Brown is about to be available after consecutive 60-plus win seasons. Atlanta’s Mike Woodson should follow after averaging 50 wins the last two seasons.

How come no one’s upset they haven’t gotten votes of confidence?

There’s also this feeling I’ve long had about James.

He’s not Jordan, but not because of some talent difference.

James is a point guard in a point power forward’s body. James always has been commended for being a willing passer unlike guys like Jordan and Kobe. But I think that’s because he’s more inclined to be the facilitator.

Critics are questioning him since Game 5 because he didn’t take over. But the fact remains he never really has had that kind of mentality. He’s had big games at big times, like that double overtime classic against Detroit in 2007, and he’s hit big shots to win games, like in last year’s playoffs. But he’s also often given up the last shot when doubled, the right play but not the one the great players ever make.

Though it won’t happen, it’s why I’ve always thought James could play with Kobe. Like in the 2008 Olympics, LeBron seemed happiest and effective when he was making plays, rebounding, playing an all around game.

He had to become the big time scorer because his team didn’t have one, sort of like David Robinson. I always felt Robinson would be Bill Russell, but bigger. But the Spurs didn’t have the luxury to allow him to be a defensive specialist, which Russell could be with a loaded Celts team. Another reason why Chamberlain was better, but that’s for another day. So Robinson had to be a scorer, but didn’t win until he became more a defensive specialist alongside Tim Duncan.

I wonder if that’s what LeBron needs as well. Playing with Kobe. Playing with Wade.

Though scoring is how you get the attention.

LeBron likes attention; I don’t believe winning championships is quite as important, certainly not as important as it was to the previous generation, guys like Magic and Bird and Jordan.

Like some have termed it, LeBron is more concerned with being LeBron, Inc.

It’s also why in thinking about the possibilities of LeBron leaving Cleveland if the Cavs lose, I can see the Nets as No. 1 because of the new zillionaire owner.

I never heard LeBron talk as much about championships, like Kobe, as being the first billionaire player, a team owner, entrepreneur.

Many have said around the NBA this season if LeBron leaves he’d be viewed as a quitter and it would ruin his reputation, so he won’t. It’s one reason the conventional wisdom has been he’d stay.  He could stay even if the Cavs lose in this round. That’s one reason many believe John Calipari has been sniffing around–not to take LeBron somewhere like Chicago, but to become the Cavs’ coach.

You can be sure to keep James they’d throw Brown overboard in a second.

He has not been allowed to coach much, anyway. It’s no secret around the NBA LeBron directs everything in Cleveland and no one tells him what to do. It’s why he could choose to re-up.

Actually, his life has been much about few saying no to him.

He was raised by his mother in a nomadic sort of existence and pretty much dictated his team in high school. He’s had his group of friends from his school run his businesses. Heck, the Cavs built a practice facility near his home.

Could he live like that in the New York corporate existence of Comcast and James Dolan?  Of all the obvious destinations, the Bulls would seem to afford James the best chance of winning, other than the more complicated possibility of going to the Lakers. And James seemed to leave some hints with intimate knowledge of the Bulls roster and high praise for Derrick Rose. Heck, he didn’t even seem mad at Noah. And he sure had fun that weekend in Chicago. The Bulls would make logical sense. You hate to apply logic to pro athletes. Or, at least, our logic.

Is it winning LeBron seeks? Or is there more to him?

There’s that problem of playing in Newark for two years with the Nets. And they were almost the worst team ever with Lopez and Devin Harris. How good could they become? But LeBron could live in New York City, a helicopter ride away, and this new billionaire owner has made clear he’ll spend. I’ve heard he offered Krzyzewski $20 million a year. Could Phil be seduced? He loves New York and that would be the big market trifecta. And that’s where Phil actually first coached as a Nets assistant. There’s celebrity pal Jay-Z in ownership and a jet set life to be lived. LeBron likes jet setting.

There’s a center for the Nets not as good as Noah and a point guard not as good as Rose. But I’m not sure LeBron is as much about winning as he is about the celebrity of the game. It’s not that unusual, really. Everyone wants him to be like Mike. But that’s taken. LeBron may define the new millennium athlete, which may mean winning is good, but fame and fortune are even better.

He certainly hasn’t seemed the least upset or depressed over all of this. True, the series isn’t over. And Boston still is a fragile, rickety bunch hardly certain to win Game 6.

But this one has enough story lines and intrigue for an entire playoffs. And with no one else playing, everyone gets to watch. The entire NBA is stopping for one game Thursday. And all eyes are on LeBron, and he loves it.

Is this the end of LeBron in Cleveland?

Time to strike up the band and get Benny the Bull out to O’Hare!

Oh, right. That didn’t work last time when the Bulls met Tracy McGrady in 2000 with a carnival and he fled to Orlando.

But NBA free agency 2010 just got a lot more interesting Tuesday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers and a passive, seemingly disinterested LeBron James were blown out at home, 120-88, to fall behind Boston 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

It was probably the most shocking game of the NBA season to see the heavily favored Cavs not only fall behind in the series at home, but to see James and his teammates, usually Dancing with the Stars wannabes, lamely accept the loss.

James, at least to me, clearly seems hurt, though he denied anything was wrong. But you could almost see his entire team, usually a rollicking, lively bunch on the sideline along with him, sag with an acceptance of their losing fate, and that James really may be leaving.

So the big question is if he is getting close to that decision where, and the Bulls now have to be in the equation. You hear all sorts of rumors regarding James’ future, and one around the NBA now is James taking the Bulls seriously, though hardly as the only team. There also are rumors circulating around Cleveland now that James will need surgery on his elbow this summer, though you’d certainly take him if you could get him even without a physical.

Unquestionably, James Tuesday was as bad in a big playoff game as just about great player ever has been. I cannot believe his lame explanations of not getting into rhythm, just an off shooting game, or doing other things to help the team. He’s too good. Nevertheless, the NBA outside Cleveland is cheering the possibilities.

If LeBron does decide to leave the Cavs, there will be three main criteria: Where he wants to live and play, whether he can win, and whether he needs a sign-and-trade for a max, six-year deal.

Here’s the way I’d rate the favorites if James wants a max deal and sign-and-trade, which I don’t believe is certain. But I’ll get to that later.

First, you can forget all your Oklahoma Cities and San Antonios, Houstons, Washingtons and Philadephias. LeBron’s going to the big time if he leaves, which means New York, L.A., Chicago, perhaps Miami and maybe, just maybe, Phoenix or Dallas.

So here’s the way I see it if there’s a sign-and-trade:

1. Lakers: Cavs get Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom and Lakers take back Daniel Gibson for Cavs cap relief, or maybe Delonte West with LeBron. I know Kobe supposedly won’t want this, but how could you pass on a chance for Kobe and LeBron with Pau? How great could they be? Of course, if they win again they’ll think they already are.

2. Bulls: Not a great sign-and-trade, but something. Probably Deng, Gibson, a No. 1 pick and Brad Miller going to Cleveland after signing. It gives the Cavs a lineup to work with.

3. Knicks: Probably David Lee and Gallinari. Not that great, either, but then the Knicks could add two free agents to go with LeBron and build a team instantly. Though that would be a hard sell for the Cavs to overpay Lee without a big man.

4. Nets: The No. 1 pick if they get it and maybe Yi or Terrence Williams. The Cavs could start building right away with an attraction. Russian billionaire, Jay-Z. Who knows. Maybe Newark is OK for two years.

5. Clippers: They probably have the best package for the Cavs in Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. Then they could add LeBron and another free agent with Baron Davis, though they’d try to hold onto Griffin. But would LeBron want to compete with Kobe and the Lakers? I can’t see it.

6. Heat: They’ve got the least. Michael Beasley. Alonzo Mourning has been telling people James is Pat Riley’s secret project, but the Cavs couldn’t in good conscience accept anything from that roster.

I assume those would be the markets LeBron would go for as he likes the spotlight. The Suns would be interesting because old buddies Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry do a lot of business and the Cavs might be able to get Stoudemire and maybe Robin Lopez. Dallas would try to go in big, but I’d assume they’d try to keep Dirk and don’t have much else. I suppose the Cavs could sell Dirk for a few years, but I don’t think Dirk would re-sign to go there.

The other possibility is LeBron just leaves and takes someone’s cap room. I actually think this is more likely because I can see him taking a short deal again, maybe three years as he’s only 25, and seeing if the team he goes to can get the pieces in place. So how would the rankings look then?

1. Bulls: Enough to pay James to fit him in right away with a point guard and center, which no one else can offer. And then it would be up to the Bulls to find a sign-and-trade with the pieces they have to add someone like Chris Bosh or maybe even Stoudemire or Lee. I’ve long thought LeBron would run away from the Jordan comparisons, but Chicago would be the most ready made team in an actual big city.

2. Nets: They could have John Wall to go with Brook Lopez and then a trade of Harris for someone good and LeBron. That, too, could be a heck of a team, but, again, could LeBron put up with the relative anonymity of Newark for at least two years? Though the new Russian owner could make things pretty comfortable.

3. Knicks: They can bring LeBron and anyone else he chooses and he is one of the few who would seem to like the New York attention. It’s uncertain who he could recruit, though, as not many guys want to go somewhere as the second piece, and then one overshadowed all the time by LeBron with the pressure to produce because no one’s blaming LeBron.

4. Heat: They just don’t seem to have enough pieces without a center or point guard. Wade and LeBron would be impressive, though they’d still have to do too much. They’d have money for another high level player, so maybe Boozer or Lee decides to take a bit less and come. It’s possible.

5. Clippers: It could be a heck of a team if Blake Griffin is OK, along with Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and Eric Gordon. But I cannot see LeBron playing second to Kobe and the Lakers, who run the city and the arena. Would he try to upstage them? It’s a heck of a risk and an even bigger one as something seems to happen to guys when they become Clippers.

If the Cavs lose the series Thursday, which now just about everyone expects, James’ future will be the biggest NBA story for the next two months no matter what else happens.

Yes, he could go back to the Cavs on a short deal to give them one more chance or not opt out and take his last year. That was the thinking all along with the assumption the Cavs would at least make the conference finals. But losing in this round would be a step back each of the last two years, and with an aging, uncertain team and few options to improve.

What actually seemed most shocking—and yes this could all change with a win in Boston Thursday—was the way James and everyone seemed to accept their fate in a matter of fact way without much enthusiasm. It’s as if everyone knows and only the date needs now to be filled in. Someone may be getting the sporting prize of a lifetime.

Who’s got the fireworks! Didn’t anyone call the jugglers?