It began during the regular season at the turn of the New Year. Why wouldn’t LeBron James want to hook up with Dwyane Wade in beautiful Miami and create an unstoppable Eastern powerhouse team? After all, what more would you want in a franchise with solid ownership in place, a state-of-the-art facility on waterfront property, his good buddy Wade and savvy Pat Riley running the show? Then the talk of him going to Miami or New York died down as the Cavs headed to the best record in the NBA, a blockbuster trade to bring in Antawn Jamison and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Despite all of this and the millions spent on LeBron's supporting cast, the Cavs are now in danger of meeting the same fate as Miami did in the playoffs at the hands of the same team only one round later. It’s like the Dallas Mavs all over again but out in the East where the opposition isn’t thought to be nearly as tough. Now the questions about the Heat’s chances of getting LeBron have returned at the most critical time of the NBA season. As Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com points out after Tuesday’s game 5 loss:
And when James is off his game the way he was on this particular Tuesday, the Cavs simply can't compete with Boston. So either James brings it in a big way Thursday, or we can bring on the educated guesses as to where he'll play next. And at this point, you'd have to rank Cleveland as the third choice on the morning line behind New York and Miami, maybe even fourth behind Chicago.Chris Perkins of Hoopsworld raises the possibility of a Heat-Lebron pairing today:
The Boston Celtics are up on the Cleveland Cavaliers, 3-2, in their best-of-seven second-round Eastern Conference playoff series, and outside of Boston, no one is more excited than Miami HEAT fans. They reason Cleveland's failure brings Cavs superstar LeBron James a step closer to bolting for Miami to join superstar friend Dwyane Wade and coach Pat Riley (yes, coach Pat Riley) for a run at the 2011 NBA title. Don't believe it. Don't get caught up in the emotion of a 3-2 series deficit. James will be back with Cleveland next season. But I'll admit the other side's logic is starting to make more sense. The wild card is Riley's pronouncement last week he'd be willing to consider coaching if a free agent made such a demand. Those words were partially meant for King James and the New York Knicks - James' top suitor and, coincidentally, Riley's former employer turned bitter rival. Yes, Riley sent Coach Erik Spoelstra a message. But he also sent James, the Knicks, and everyone else the same message, that the 65-year-old Riley is willing to do whatever it takes to land James. And you'd have to think joining Wade and Riley trumps anything any other serious suitor could offer James. If Cleveland slips up with a second-round loss to the Celtics, James might be frustrated enough to at least listen to Wade and Riley make a serious pitch, taking a peak behind door No. 2. There's been a street rumor for weeks (street rumor, not media rumor) that James, who like Wade can opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, has already promised Riley an off-season visit.James makes any team better so let’s put aside the Cavs roster for now and look at the reality of what a move down to warmer weather would entail. Don’t like the current Heat team in place? Fine, almost none are under contract and even still made the playoffs as a #5 seed and almost a 50 win season with Quentin Richardson and a carousel of point guards (Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers and Rafer Alston) among the starters. Even with a second year coach that managed to bungle several late game opportunities to pad the win column and a second year #2 pick who has been severely mismanaged since arriving from Kansas State. Just call up your favorite free agent buddies and have them let their intentions of playing for Miami (a la Carlos Boozer and Raja Bell) known to Riley and I’m sure he’ll make a deal with them. Speaking of Riley he basically just said he would coach the team if you ask him nicely. And he won a title here despite a certain current teammate of yours who apparently didn’t make much of an effort to help win it. Do you want to be coached by a legend with only three fingers left to fit more championship rings on or do you want to be coached by Mike Brown who hasn't won anything? Do you want a friend on your side or a mentor who’s been in the trenches as a player and a coach with decades of experience? James obviously needs help in the playoffs in the worse possible way and playing next to a Finals MVP in Wade at his prime should help matters tremendously. Neither would face many double-teams and both work well off the ball as evidenced on the Dream Team. James is only 25 too. By signing a short three-year deal, which would probably make the most sense since Riley couldn’t possibly coach beyond that, he would still be in his prime and be an unrestricted free agent again. But this time he’d possibly have championship rings in his hand while signing a new contract. Maybe even start a new dynasty with the Lakers after Kobe Bryant’s new extension conveniently comes off the books. The point is that signing with the Heat now doesn’t block LeBron's chances of playing for New York or any other team in his career while he would still be a twentysomething. Plus, by leaving the Cavs you’ve just eliminated them as an elite Eastern team on your own. Yes, that hometown team of yours whose ungrateful fans booed you after everything you've done for the city and the franchise. The Hawks are done with and the Celtics will be a year older. The path to the Finals essentially would run exclusively through the Sunshine State.