LeBron James the businessman is going to rule the Free Agent period of 2014. Unlike 2010, where friendship, championship hunger, and public pressure might have played a role in LeDecision, none of those things will influence him this time around.
LeBron is not my favorite player--he's simply the best current basketball player in the world. Obviously I'd love to see him back in a Heat uniform (and I think that's ultimately what will happen), but he's got options, and he's GOT to explore them. The Phoenix Suns make sense because they could possibly pair Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh with LeBron and they have the best training/medical staff in the NBA. The Houston Rockets make sense because they'd have their own Big 3 with James, James Harden, and Dwight Howard. The problem with going to ANY Western Conference team is doing so would greatly impact LeBron's chances of advancing to the NBA Finals with the same regularity he has enjoyed in Miami. The Cleveland Cavaliers make sense because it's home and they could possibly trade to get Kevin Love.
I found myself (early in the season) hoping James, Wade, and Bosh would all take a lot less ($12- 15 million each) to stay together and give the franchise the flexibility to add other quality players. After witnessing the 2104 NBA Finals, it is unrealistic to expect James to take equal money to a couple of guys who couldn't answer the bell at the ultimate crunch time. LeBron's reported desire for a max contract all but ensures that he, personally, will not give the Miami Heat a discount.
On the surface, the move may seem selfish or unreasonable. After all, LeBron was reportedly unhappy with the cost-cutting moves of amnestying Mike Miller and trading Joel Anthony. So then, why not take a pay cut to ensure quality talent around you--especially when you have endorsements with Nike, Powerade, McDonald's, Sprite, Samsung, Beats, and others? A tweet Kobe Bryant made last year comes to mind. He referenced players taking less to help BILLIONAIRES stay rich. The owners are the ones who locked players out a couple of seasons ago to put these punitive tax measures in place. The owners are the ones who write the checks. The owners are the ones who want players, who are both the NBAs product AND its labor, to feel obligated to give discounts on their value to a franchise in order to compete for championships. Really?
If I'm Kobe, LeBron, Kevin Durant, or even Dwyane Wade, I'm not doing it. Give me my money, and YOU figure out the rest. If you're not willing to spend some of the fortune I'm making you to pay tax penalties for better talent, I'm out of here first chance I get.
This is all business for LeBron James this time around.