Free agency has reached near maniacal levels. Rumor blasted out as sourced fact gets refuted almost as quickly as it's made public. No one - except maybe the players, and they're not talking - know what's going to happen.
Well, that's not EXACTLY true. There will be a meeting in Las Vegas today. It's
guessed reported to involve LeBron James, of course, along with his ever-growing entourage that now includes a personal trainer and bakery from Cleveland.
Representing the Heat (again, supposedly) will be owner Micky Arison, president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade who, it would appear, is transitioning into his post-retirement future as part of the Miami front office.
(Excuse me, for a second, as I launch a rant. How Wade could be considered to be a Heat representative seems mysterious to me. Isn't he still a player? Isn't management, in this case, supposed to be ‘the enemy' if LeBron is, in fact, leaving to Cleveland? How do Wade and James work out, eat dinner, go clubbing - as they did this week - and then sit at opposite ends of the bargaining table later today? I asked this earlier via Twitter...isn't this a bit like being great friends with your soon-to-be-ex-wife's divorce lawyer? One night you're chilling over your Paleo diet, the next you're fighting over your house, the kids and even the dog you never liked. Unreal. Or, in today's free agent insanity, perhaps perfectly real.)
So we've established that there will be a meeting, James' only one so far this offseason. While his friend/agent/whatever Rich Paul meets with Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and even Cleveland over surf n' turf dinners, James has not been involved. Instead he's been fishing, working out, tweeting and enjoying a refreshment at his wife's business...WHICH HAPPENS TO BE IN MIAMI. Back to the meeting.
At the start of the offseason, James mentioned that a meeting with Miami wouldn't be necessary. His reasoning was that he already knew what the franchise had to offer after four years. That makes the purpose of The SummitTM open for interpretation. It could be an opportunity for James to say "buh-bye" to Riley, Arison and Spo, if he returns to the Cavs. It could be a chance to discuss what moves Riley has made in free agency, an update on other key pieces that could lighten the load for LeBron if he decides to re-sign with the Heat. It could be to make plans to go see Britney Spears later that evening. No one knows.
But, we can ASS-U-ME that this meeting is an opportunity to "recruit" James, as suggested by ESPN's Brian Windhorst:
In a time of reckless speculation this is unequivocal: Heat didn't expect to need 2010-style recruiting meeting with LeBron this summer— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 9, 2014
Again, no proof this is actually the purpose of the meeting...just a wild, stab-in-the-dark guess. If it is about recruiting James, what's the pitch? Here's a mix of some ideas, both realistic and not.
- LeBron re-signs with Heat. So does Udonis Haslem. James gets his max contract plus a lifetime supply of SubwayTM sandwiches. Also, Haslem lets LeBron live.
- Cleveland has reportedly pursued Ray Allen, James Jones and Mike Miller, all great shooters, to surround James. Miami has agreed to terms with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, both players that have had beef with James. On the surface, this would jive with Riley's speech at the start of the offseason that players need to be tough and stick it out. Knowing Riley, the plan is to sign these players, stash them on the bench and ensure that James will avoid various nemeses in the playoffs. No word yet on whether Miami has agreements in place to sign Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce.
- Wade's presence in the meeting is also questionable because of how much he stands to lose. By opting out of his former contract, he could miss out on nearly $42 million. However, the plan is for him to re-sign at the veteran's minimum and collect one of Arison's ships from the Carnival Cruise Line fleet for the price of one dollar. Arison will confirm this at today's meeting which frees up money for Riley to pursue other big-name free agents. No word yet if the ship will be renamed "Three."
- Three words: NO. MORE. CHALMERS.
Alright...you got me. These are all fairly unlikely scenarios...except the Udonis one. What's my best guess as to what will happen?
The Heat's team sits across from James and Paul. Riley explains the various demands of free agents he's met with, including Pau Gasol, Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza. He explains that these players have salary demands that put them just out of reach of Miami. From there, the following might happen:
James says thanks for the great run over the last four years and explains that it's time to finish what he started in Cleveland. Chris Bosh goes to Houston. The team re-signs Wade but, with no other star willing to come to Miami, the team wallows in mediocrity for Knicks amount of years. This would be bad.
James, Wade and Bosh agree to less-than-max amounts. They sign deals longer than expected and free up space to bring about another quality player. This is the best-case scenario for Miami.
James and Bosh - as reported - agree to max contracts but Wade, still the face of the franchise and making sacrifices, takes less to pursue additional players. This is unlikely but a possibility that depends on Wade's somewhat declining skills and his willingness to help the team above all else.
- James hears the updates, the ensuing discussion proves that Gasol/Deng/Ariza are out of reach but Riley's vision of the "Big 3" along with McRoberts and another point guard (say Jameer Nelson?) would still be the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference. They build a team of quality veterans/young players that include rookie Shabazz Napier, Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow, James Ennis, Haslem and perhaps Greg Oden and Rashard Lewis. Clearly, the favorites in the East (again). LeBron decides to sign a short-term deal and then we go throughout this all again in two or three years, before the eventual lockout takes place in June 2017. This is the most likely scenario.
So there you have it. Either way, we'll probably have some resolution by the end of today. Or, if not, somebody will tweet out a picture of Britney wearing a Cavs jersey and we'll go through it all again tomorrow.