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Ratings game: James’ Cavaliers face Irving’s Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals

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A Cavaliers-Heat matchup in EC Finals puts Miami back on national television for games leading up to NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Word from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith hints LeBron James primed the Kyrie Irving rumor mill pump.

"According to my sources, they believe LeBron James had everything to do with news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently."

"They believe that LeBron James got word of it, and was put off by it, and leaked it. I'm not going to accuse LeBron of such a thing, I don't know that to be true at all, but I know that's what Kyrie Irving believes. The mere fact that he has that question, says it's time to move on."

As things stand now, the acquisition of Gordon Hayward by the Boston Celtics all but guarantees a Celtics-Cavaliers rematch next May. But what happens if the Miami Heat snag an All-Star, such as Kyrie Irving? Then the storyline for next year’s post-season action flips to some alternative facts.

After three consecutive Cavaliers-Warriors Finals, new blood could restore the spark leading up to their eventual fourth encounter. Last season the postseason path was too easy for both teams. This summer promises a change in the cast of characters for the next NBA playoffs and could put Miami back on national television.

LeBron realizes a shakeup is necessary to revitalize the Cleveland team. For the Cavaliers, enter the Dragon, Goran Dragic, to provide a drive and kick guard for the team’s shooters, such as Kyle Korver. The Chief, Justise Winslow, provides much-needed youth and a disciple who revers LeBron, as in “LeBron, who is everything. Those type of guys are who I want to be.” Zach Lowe doesn’t believe Miami’s two for one swap would be enough to get a deal done.

After two bricky, injury-riddled seasons, Winslow has to play his way back into blue-chip status. LeBron has little use for non-centers who can't shoot.

For the Heat, Irving adds to the 25-30 year-old core already in place. Most importantly though, his presence places the Heat back in the national spotlight. The history between Kyrie and Dion Waiters make for an already present intriguing storyline, one which Erik Spoelstra similarly dealt with the trio of James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh working together to earn two rings. As the only active NBA coach who has won consecutive NBA titles, Spo knows how to get the best out of his players.

Can Pat Riley and Dan Gilbert cobble together a win-win package benefitting both their cities? Beating back the threats of the Celtics, resurgent 76ers, young Bucks, Raptors, Wizards, etc. give both management teams motivation to sculpt their squads for the challenges ahead, even in the weakened Eastern Conference.

Imagine if Wade returns to Miami sometime during the season? A playoff meeting between the teams becomes a must-see broadcasting spectacle played out on the national stage. No need to create drama here: James’ Cavaliers versus Irving’s Heat already has bad blood between the two factions, just from the circumstances leading up to their confrontations.