Mar 9, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
LeBron James attended the jersey retirement ceremony of Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Saturday, a move that would have been viewed as unusual by NBA standards even before considering the history that exists between the star player and the team where he began his NBA career.
James played his first seven seasons in Cleveland, before infamously spurning the organization with an ill-conceived, nationally-televised spectacle that caused Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to pen a letter full of vitriol aimed at his former franchise player.
The relationship seemed to be irreparably damaged, but time has taken the sting out of the way the separation went down. And while the Cavs have underachieved this season and fired their general manager along the way, people inside the organization believe they still have a shot in tempting James to return to Cleveland as a free agent.
Yes, the Cavs underachieved this season. Yes, Grant tried feverishly for the past two years, but could never find that second star to pair with Kyrie Irving and ultimately serve as the bait to lure James back to the Cavs.
But the Cavs privately believe it’s not too late. They still have the assets to pull off a mammoth trade this summer at the draft, the type Grant tried so hard to make. Kevin Love will be entering the final year of his contract, as will LaMarcus Aldridge. Grant tried for two years to unsuccessfully pry both stars out of their current cities, but each had too many years left on their contracts for their current teams to consider it. That’s no longer true.
If either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Portland Trail Blazers come to the conclusion they can’t re-sign their stars, this summer is the time to move them and the Cavs will be at the front of the line, stocked with young players and future draft picks.
The Timberwolves have Kevin Love under contract for next season, and are not going to trade him before it’s absolutely necessary under any circumstances. If a trade does happen, it won’t be until the following summer, and will only take place if Love insists on playing elsewhere as a free agent — at that point, the team may consider sign-and-trade options.
In Portland, it would seem even less likely that LaMarcus Aldridge would become available, for some of the same reasons. Except that the Blazers are actually decent, sitting at 22 games over .500 in the deep Western Conference while being essentially assured of a playoff spot this season.
Neither of the stars mentioned are likely to become available this summer, when James can opt out of the final year of his deal in Miami to become a free agent. And even if the Cavaliers made a ridiculous offer of young players and multiple first round picks to try to secure an All-Star to pair with Kyrie Irving, it’s far from guaranteed that any of that would entice James to leave the Heat.
Cleveland’s best course of action is to throw those assets at a team in exchange for a star player who still has at least two years remaining on his contract. The game’s top free agents aren’t going to choose to play for the Cavaliers willingly, but if they’re brought in via trade and the team can build a playoff contender around them, they may find it harder to leave when the opportunity comes.
If you believe James still has a soft spot for his home town and may indeed want to return one day, perhaps in the final season or two of his career, that’s not crazy to envision. But going back in his prime to play alongside talent that doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a title? That line of thinking is delusional, at best.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:17 AM EDT
Bonner claims a Spurs strength-and-conditioning coach supports the theory
Jul 6, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT
This rookie knows how to finish at the rim.
Jul 6, 2015, 10:04 PM EDT
Cleveland fills its biggest need with its second-best roster-building mechanism
Jul 6, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
Peter Feigin makes another threat
Jul 6, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Guard will make $2.5 million
Jul 6, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT
In Utah, he counts as a veteran
Jul 6, 2015, 6:44 PM EDT
This is a solid signing, but the Mavs need more help at the guard spot.
Jul 6, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT
This trade could work for both teams if the Clippers can flip Haywood’s contract again for a big man.
Jul 6, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
West left $10.6 million on the table to go to a contender.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:36 PM EDT
This signing was never in doubt.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT
Signing Terry would go over well with the fan base in Dallas
Jul 6, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Skilled forward was No. 35 pick in 2010 NBA draft
Jul 6, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Can the Spurs keep Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, too? Ginobili must still negotiate a contract
Jul 6, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Lakers are surprisingly high at 50/1
Jul 6, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT
Nobody wants Anderson Varejao and his contract
Jul 6, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
As a result, Clippers suffer
Jul 6, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT
Cavaliers forward, a basketball and nothing else
Jul 6, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Michael Malone lands a good lieutenant
Jul 6, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
Former NBA point guard also loves Cory Joseph signing with Raptors
Jul 6, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT
- Report: Mo Williams signing with Cavaliers for most of their MLE 9
- Report: Cavaliers, Clippers discussing Jamal Crawford for Brendan Haywood trade 25
- Reports: David West agrees to veteran minimum deal to play for Spurs 68
- Report: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies reach deal on five-year, $110 million contract 8
- Manu Ginobili tweets he’ll play next season 5
- Who is left: 15 best free agents still on the board 14
- Report: Detroit Pistons sign restricted free agent Reggie Jackson for five-years, $80 million 38
- Report: Lakers near deal to sign Brandon Bass, may trade Nick Young 36