Eye on Sports
by Patrick Andres
PUBLICATION DATE: July 03, 2018

Patrick Andres

There was a sense of finality in the thing. When the last buzzer sounded on the Warriors’ sweep of the Cavaliers-the third championship won by the Golden State in four years, all at Cleveland’s expense – there was a sense that Cleveland (and Ohio) had lost something greater than the NBA Finals, that something being one LeBron Raymone James.

All season, the King’s looming free agency had lingered over Cleveland like a specter. It affected every move the Cavaliers made – on the court, in the front office, and in the coaches’ meeting rooms. At basketball’s trade deadline, it sent Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, and others packing, reeling in new faces Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson.

Yes, this was the chaotic autumn of the age of LeBron – and none of the Cavaliers’ other four Eastern Conference titles were harder earned. A young Indiana team led Cleveland 1-0 and 2-1, and still the Cavs survived. Toronto, the best team in the East during the regular season, ran into a buzzsaw, and LeBron almost swept the Raptors single-handedly, killing them with a ridiculous two-game sequence that saw James nail eight fadeaway jumpers in Game 2 and then, for good measure, sink an absurd running buzzer-beater in Game 3 that put the Cavaliers up 3-0 and the Raptors away for good.

And then there was Boston – oh yes, the glorious Celtics series, where the Cavs rallied from a 2-0 hole to defeat the Celtics in a bruising Game 7 for the ages, one in which LeBron ended affairs with a dramatic and-one with Marcus Morris draped all over him, and a long pass to Hill that resulted in the clinching layup.

But the Cavs were swept unceremoniously in the Finals – although the King’s 51-point Game 1 was anything but that – and now the question becomes a matter of where. Where will LeBron “take his talents” now? The entire balance of power in the National Basketball Association, more so, perhaps, than in any league ever, hinges on the decision of one man.

This writer’s top 10 potential new locales for His Majesty are as follows:

  1. LA Lakers – Young up-and-coming team with an area for LeBron to further his business career and raise his family.
  2. Houston – Chance for LeBron to play with his longtime friend, Chris Paul. Rockets will have to work to create cap room, though.
  3. San Antonio – Current home of best two-way player in NBA (Kawhi Leonard) and a coach that LeBron harbors great respect for (Gregg Popovich). Would LeBron go to a small market?
  4. Cleveland – No place like home, right? Cavaliers would need major roster upgrade, however, which would likely mean more turnover.
  5. Philadelphia – LeBron’s admiration for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, 76ers’ young stars, is well-documented. James’ fit into the Philly system may be awkward, though.
  6. Boston – Best chance for LeBron to win a title right away maybe with Celts. Would playing with LeBron again disillusion Kyrie Irving, who fled King once already?
  7. New York – Dark horse gives LeBron a chance to play in the media capital of the world with a team on the rise.
  8. Miami – Now we enter long shot category. Dwyane Wade will likely be back, but how keen will LeBron be on a Pat Riley reunion?
  9. Chicago – Bulls give LeBron a chance to stay in Midwest and play where idol Michael Jordan played. The roster is lacking in talent, however.
  10. Washington – James has always expressed interest in social issues. Is playing for Wizards alongside John Wall a potential springboard to bigger things, on and off the court?

 

FIVE MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Golden State, Oklahoma City, LA Clippers, New Orleans, Brooklyn.