LeBron James is coming to Chicago, sources have assured me.
What? What’d ya say? Oh?
Sources have confirmed to me exclusively that LeBron James is coming to Chicago…
…Friday to play against the Bulls.
I knew it sounded too good, but I’m betting some internet service reads the first paragraph and we get a story out of it.
James and his Cleveland Cavaliers—as we used to hear about Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls—are in Chicago Friday to play the Bulls, or, at least, several of them.
Joakim Noah remains out with plantar fasciitis, so he’ll be in good position to review James’ dancing moves, which James practiced in a blowout win over the Bulls a few months back. Noah objected, James came over in sort of a menacing move, though it soon occurred to James while he was in his arena he was in the other team’s huddle, and someone might take a poke at him. Yes, even the Bulls. They seemed to be feeling feistier then.
Noah, though, is expected to return for limited minutes starting Saturday in Philadelphia.
Luol Deng, who defends James, or at least tries, as everyone does, also is out. He has a calf injury. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said before Friday’s game Deng’s injury has worsened, as an MRI showed, and Deng is out at least two more weeks. The probability now is Deng will be out the remainder of the season after having played in 62 games and averaged 18 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Derrick Rose also is out. He has a wrist injury from his latest collision with Dwight Howard. Rose remains possible for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia, but Del Negro said it won’t be known until game time whether Rose will play.
The Bulls have fallen to the edge of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, two and a half games behind Toronto with 15 games left and without the tiebreaker. They, thus, remain longshots to make the playoffs.
The Cavs look like the 1991 Bulls headed for their first NBA championship.
James is headed for another MVP award, the Cavs have the league’s best record and are playing great. James took a few games off to rest an ankle injury, and the Cavs beat the Spurs at home without James. They are playing faster with a smaller lineup of late, and James has been Jordanesque by cruising through the first half of games to let his teammates get going and then turning it on down the stretch to clinch wins, like he did in a showdown game against the Celtics last week.
And this week they can resign center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was traded to Washington in the Antawn Jamison deal and then bought out. Later, they’ll get back Shaquille O’Neal from a wrist injury and have a pair of seven footers ready for the slower pace of playoff basketball. They are the team to beat.
The Cavs lead the Bulls by 21 games in the Central Division, which the Cavs just clinched. Just in case you wondered.
But all you were really wondering, I know, was whether James would leave the Cavs as a free agent to sign with teams holding money under the salary cap, like the Bulls/Nets/Knicks/Clippers/Heat/Timberwolves….
OK, OK, you get the point.
This season, perhaps more than any season in NBA history, has been more about next season because of the massive potential free agency involving many of the game’s stars.
But James towers over all of them as he’s on the path—heresy, in Chicago, I know—to be considered the greatest player in NBA history. If he gets multiple championships, he will be able to make the case. He’s 26 years old working on his second MVP and second Finals appearance.
So what will he do?
James has pretty much left everyone guessing as he talked about free agency some when the season started, saw it was becoming annoying and then stopped cold and refused to entertain any questions since.
It hasn’t stopped everyone else from regular speculation.
Which is more fun than listening to his denials, anyway.
It’s all left Cavs management and fans with a season long tummy ache.
The Knicks have remained the big name because they have enough money under the salary cap now to sign two maximum money free agents, which means James could pair with someone like Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh in the city with the World’s Smelliest and Dankest Arena, Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks have a few pieces to go along with that, though no big men. Though the notion is if you get James and Wade or Bosh, then top players will come for minimum salaries just to be part of something great. At least, that’s’ the Knicks’ story and they are sticking with it.
It seems doubtful anyone else has much chance to attract James.
The Nets’ ownership includes James’ friend Jay-Z, the husband of Beyonce, but they are headed to play in Newark, wherever that is, for the next two years while a new arena in built in Brooklyn. The Clippers pretty much dumped their entire management recently. This is what that means: We have talent and you, LeBron, can be coach and GM or hire your own.
There’s been some suggestion about twisting the Cavs arms into a sign and trade for Andrew Bynum so LeBron could join Kobe and Pau with the Lakers and at least we wouldn’t have to worry anymore about who would win each season.
Oh, right. Rose and Deng and Noah and Kirk Hinrich, which seems the most solid group of players James could surround himself with an approximate a team.
Not that the Bulls wouldn’t love to have James and find a way for it to work. But James loves to have the ball in his hand, like Jordan did, and have guys play off him, especially in crucial times of the game. Can Rose become a stand still three point shooter? He’d have to start practicing.
Though it’s difficult to see how James could pass on the Cavs. They have a big guy in Anderson Varejao and could finesse Shaq back into the mix. They’ve now got an All Star in Jamison and some good role players who fit around James in Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and J.J. Hickson. James seems to love being around his teammates and his team.
The guy’s dancing during working hours. How badly can he be feeling?
And no player I ever have heard about anywhere is given more latitude by the franchise than James is by the Cavs. Heck, they built the practice facility near his home so he wouldn’t have to travel much.
So would you leave if you were him?
And if you do leave and the Cavs don’t do a sign and trade, which they likely wouldn’t so they could begin to invest in the free agent market, you’d have to accept a shorter term deal and lower annual increases, which would mean perhaps $30 million less in the length of the contract.
Which means everyone is hoping the Cavs stumble in the playoffs, maybe lose somewhere before the Finals. That thus makes LeBron mad and he imagines it will be better somewhere else. It happens.
You’ve got a great life, a great team, a great ownership willing to spend money well above the luxury tax and a community which worships and idolizes you. Is the grass really greener?
We know, like in Chicago, it’s brown now in Cleveland. Friday’s is the first of two visits this season for James to Chicago. If the Bulls were somehow able to sneak into the playoffs, they’d draw James and the Cavs in the first round. That would be great fun, if not a recipe for playoff success. But it’s also why missing the playoffs is such a potential setback. What if the Bulls could get to eight and beat the Cavs in the first round? I know. Big time fantasy. But it would be a heck of a selling point for free agency.
My guess is April 8 will be the final James visit to Chicago before James gets his first NBA championship and resigns with the Cavs and they run out of rose petals as James asks they be laid out for him forever wherever he walks.