Free Agent Watch: The LeBron rumors continue to gain steam

Here’s some semi-major news from Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: Not long after his Cavaliers got booted from the NBA playoffs, LeBron James made a quick phone call to Derrick Rose. And he didn’t do it to discuss the virtures of Chicago-style pizza…which we all already know is awesome.

McGraw writes: “Shortly after Cleveland was eliminated by Boston in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, James placed a call to Bulls guard Derrick Rose. What did they talk about? Word is, James said he likes Rose’s game, likes his team and would welcome the chance to play together. … The James phone call to Rose was mentioned by ESPN reporter Scoop Jackson and confirmed by a league source.”

McGraw is quick to point out that LeBron may have made similar phone calls to Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Toronto’s Chris Bosh. We also know that other teams — the Clippers, Heat, Knicks and Nets — potentially have what it takes (money and/or existing talent) to land James. And let’s not forget that James could still choose to remain in Cleveland. So it would be a tad bit premature to declare the coach-less Bulls a frontrunner in the LeBron sweepstakes. But, at the very least, they appear to be in the running. And that’s an encouraging thought.

Say what you will about LeBron’s antics — the boogy dancing, the faux photography, the occasional grandstanding — if you have a chance to sign the best player in the league, you do it. No questions asked. I’m sure that’s what Chicago’s front office is thinking right about now.

Speaking of the Bulls’ coachlessness, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune continues to play up the Calipari-LeBron connection: “League sources said Sunday that noted NBA power broker William Wesley continues to work back channels to sell John Calipari and James as a package deal to franchises such as the Bulls, Nets and Clippers with coaching vacancies and salary cap room. Another league source confirmed that an unknown Calipari connection contacted Bulls management over the weekend.”

However, there are a few problems with Johnson’s report.

First off, ESPN’s Andy Katz writes: “A source close to Wesley told that Wesley had not contacted the Bulls or any other team about a James/Calipari package deal … [A] source with knowledge of the Bulls front office’s thinking said that at no point has there been discussion about packaging Calipari to get James to come to Chicago. The source also said that bringing Calipari along to get James would lessen Calipari’s status in the locker room, because he’d be seen as the coach who is there only because of James.”

Second, on Monday morning, Calipari used his Twitter account to once again dismiss the “Cal-to-the-NBA” speculation: “Now, do I have to respond to these rumors too?”

And finally, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Calipari told top basketball recruit Brandon Knight that he’s staying put at Kentucky. Said Knight: “He said he’s not leaving and that he’ll be there. I”m not really worried.”

Now, let’s journey from the world of cloudy facts to the realm of pure conjecture. 

According to ESPN’s Bill Simmons, LeBron James’ final decision this summer — either staying in Cleveland or signing with another team — will tell us what he values most: winning, loyalty or immortality.

Simmons says that valuing loyalty will keep LeBron in Cleveland whereas the desire for immortality would probably land him in New York. As for winning, Simmons believes there’s only one choice.


Said Simmons: “If [LeBron] cares about winning titles (multiple) and reaching his full potential as a player, he has only one move: the Chicago Bulls. That’s always been the play. If you’ve been listening to my podcast or reading this column, you know that I’ve been touting this possibility since the winter, and here’s why: Deep down, I think LeBron (and, just as important, the people around him) realizes that he needs one more kick-ass player to make his life easier. That means Miami or Chicago. And really, I can’t imagine him signing with Miami because Dwyane Wade is almost too good. LeBron wants help, but he doesn’t want to be perceived as riding someone else’s coattails, either. Wade might be the best player alive for all we know — he certainly was in 2006, and he’s been banged-up and trapped on bad teams ever since.

“No, Chicago makes more sense. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah proved they were warriors these past two springs. They could be LeBron’s Pippen/Grant or McHale/DJ. Easily. Rose could take the creative load off LeBron on nights when he doesn’t have it. Rose could come through a few times in the clutch. Rose could hide some of LeBron’s faults. It’s the single smartest basketball move for LeBron James.”

I have to agree. Of course, nobody other than LeBron really knows what LeBron’s value system is like. Furthermore, we have no idea what James perceives as “the smart basketball move.” So even if James values winning over everything else — and how can you measure that anyway? — it’s possible he might see wisdom in other options (even, say, signing with the Los Angeles Clippers).

My grandpa always used to tell me: “It’s a good thing we’re all different, or everybody would have been after your grandma.” He meant that not only do we all want different things, our perception of what we want and what those things mean can vary by a lot.

It’s impossible to tell what’s going on in LeBron’s mind…but that won’t keep us all from speculating about it endlessly. Until he finally makes a decision, that is.

Update! ESPN’s John Hollinger rates Rose pretty low as a potential running mate for LeBron: “Rose’s game is hardly a perfect match for James. He wants the ball in his hands (second among point guards in usage rate), and while he’s a very good midrange shooter, he doesn’t have the catch-and-shoot, long-range game that would help space the floor for LeBron when he’s off the ball. While Rose is likely to improve in the coming years, and would form a devastating running mate in transition, the combo isn’t ideal.”

Update! Dissenting opinion time. ESPN’s David Thorpe thinks a LeBron and Rose teamup could work: “Some point guards, like Jameer Nelson, are better controlling the game at a more moderate tempo, and while they surely can be successful next to LeBron, they’re not right for this style. Our guy has to be a pace pusher who relentlessly attacks the basket in the mold of Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. They are both great one-on-one scorers and have big bodies that can punish guards in the paint off cuts and seals, making them perfect receivers for LeBron in the halfcourt.”

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51 Responses to Free Agent Watch: The LeBron rumors continue to gain steam

    Max May 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Hey Trm3 do you feel a Mutt humping on your leg too?

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