OK, so we'll give this a second try. I was unable to edit the poll title so I had to delete it entirely and start a new one.
So you may have thought you were already sick of hearing all the LeBron James free agent talk? Well, here's one more blurb to add. I think the general thoughts are that LeBron re-signs with Cleveland or goes to a new team: either New York, Miami or Chicago. Most other teams have been ruled out, it seems, mainly because of the inability to add a complimentary max free agent team mate to LeBron. So for the sake of things I'll keep a few thoughts to each of the teams just listed. If someone thinks another team has a shot at landing James be sure and state why.
Cleveland- What else can LeBron do in Cleveland? Well, winning a title would be one thing. But LeBron has taken the city to heights rarely reached in generations there. I mean this is the city famous for its Cadavers, the fumble and the"Mistake by the Lake". Not exactly a pro sports hot bed. And prior to LeBron's arrival this was one of the worst NBA franchises in league history. The Mark Price and Brad Daugherty combo had gotten Cleveland out of the first round of the playoff's twice. Other than those two times the Cavaliers had made it passed the first round of the playoffs once in team history- that's three times in 35 years in the league. Now they have a five year run of at least the semi's; and the they've been to the finals.
I think Lebron's chances of re-signing with Cleveland is better than either New York or Chicago, even better than Miami. Loyalty can mean a lot. And this is not just any team that happened to draft LeBron. This is a team some 40 minutes from where LeBron grew up. The chance of moving to a more glamorous team/ city should be discounted. Take San Antonio, for instance. Besides the River Walk there's not much there. And S.A. was not exactly a basketball haven prior to the David Robinson/ Tim Duncan run, Duncan had his chance to leave, too but chose to stay. But the city is pretty important now that a few titles have been won. To an extent, the same could be said of the Jordan era Bulls. I'll say the overall percentage of LeBron re-signing with Cleveland is 45%.
New York- The entertainment capital of the world? The Mecca of basketball being MSG? I don't buy it. The Knicks are a horrible team and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Isiah Thomas started a progressive downward spiral that will take a decade to fix. And it's not like being a Knick has made any player a marketing sensation recently. Plus when was the last time the Knicks won a title? 1973? Thirty-seven years ago is just three years longer than Cleveland has been an NBA franchise. The Knicks have become much more famous in the basketball world for the privileges of being a David Stern favorite, such as being given Patrick Ewing and having the NBA look the other way (or give a slap on the wrist) when the NY franchise does something wrong that would get a small market franchise hammered.
Besides all the bad past the Knicks have endured, it appears they do not have the cap room to sign two max free agent players. Correct me if I am wrong on that. And there are rumors that David Lee will be headed out of town. I just don't see LeBron calling NY his home team. Why would he want to become contractually obligated to the biggest mess in the NBA? Percentage of LeBron signing with the Knicks, 10% tops.
Chicago- I still remember the last time I wrote anything about Chicago. It was the summer of 2000 when I was doing free lance for Sportsline and they needed an article about NBA free agents. There were the big fish free agents Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan and the second tier players Eddie Jones, Grant Hill and even Tim Thomas. Of course, there was speculation that the Bulls would land one of these guys. And, of course, they landed none. Well they signed Ron Mercer who didn't really have anywhere else to go. And they signed Brad Miller. Since that time the Bulls have essentially been shut out of the free agent market. Yes, they signed Ben Wallace a while back. But what else have the Bulls really done over the past decade?
Every year we hear about the Bulls being in the free agent market for some big name and pretty much every year the big names sign elsewhere. Personally, I think the Bulls have been black-balled by the star NBA players for dismantling the Michael Jordan led title teams. Hell, the entire Bulls team was disbanded once Jordan retired, it seemed it all happened in just a matter of days too. And it even included coach Phil Jackson.
I really have no evidence that the Bulls have been black-balled, other than no big name free agent signing with them over the last decade. I have a hunch that's the deal though. And because of that I don't see LeBron James signing with Chicago. You never know how times will change though. And I guess a pretty nice nucleus of players to surround James can only help the Bulls' chances. I say the chances of LeBron signing with Chicago are 10%, same as with the Knicks.
Miami- Except for Cleveland, this has to be the place for LeBron. But that would depend heavily on Dwyane Wade returning. And, except for Wade returning, there really is nothing Miami offers unless Chris Bosh or some other top tier free agent signs. Miami has shed a ton of contract money and at the first of next month may only be obligated to some $7+ million. That leaves a lot of room to sign LeBron, Wade and whomever else is needed to make legit title runs for the next several years. My estimate at LeBron signing with Miami is 35%.
Why does Cleveland have the inside edge? For a couple reasons, the first of which is this is the team that LeBron has been with his entire pro career- and it's close to home. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, is that Cleveland will be shedding a lot of salary over the next two years. Shaq and his $20 million are off the books. Zydrunas Ilqausas' salary of $11+ million will be gone as well. Should LeBron opt to stay at Cleveland for one more season the salary of the Cavaliers will drop from $84 million this past year to $69 million. If Cleveland could somehow unload Antawn Jamison and a few others they could potentially find themselves in a position to pursue Carmelo Anthony AND re-signing LeBron James after next season. Would that be worth LeBron sticking around another year? Possibly. And the selling point would be that James could stick it out for a year, let the team shed some contract money and go after some complimentary players- maybe even a big fish like Carmelo. It would certainly be better than LeBron heading to Miami, New York or Chicago, things not working out, and he being obligated to fulfill his contract for several more years.