How much power does LeBron need?

In an ESPN Insider column, Ric Bucher writes that one factor prospective teams will have to weigh is whether or not to give LeBron the kind of power that he’s enjoyed with the Cavs over the last seven years.

Just know that the Cavs are where they are — capped out with a modicum of trading chips — because the team power structure supposedly has looked like this: owner Dan Gilbert, GM Danny Ferry and head coach Mike Brown.

With James standing just below Gilbert and just above Ferry.

Multiple league sources say that the Cleveland Cavaliers, in their attempt to keep James since drafting him with the No. 1 pick seven years ago, have done just that. Two opposing GMs, without citing specific examples, said they know James has vetoed deals Ferry would have made over the past few years.

Meanwhile, the acquisitions of Larry Hughes, Mo Williams, Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison all have been made at James’ behest, sources say. And whether it’s by James’ hand or the Cavaliers’, the team has been constructed on the presumption that he is Michael Jordan, a scorer and finisher, rather than Magic Johnson, a playmaker who needed a go-to closer alongside him to win titles. “They tried to make him Michael,” says one league executive. “He’s not.”

Hmm. That makes me wonder what this team would look like had Ferry had his way on those aforementioned (undisclosed) trades. Players are notoriously bad at player personnel because like most things in life, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Also, with this kind of power, LeBron has to (or should) take a lot of responsibility for the failures of this hand-picked group of players over the past few years. Does he look at it that way or does he blame the game plan and player rotations? Only he and his boys know.

It has to be tempting for a team to offer LeBron this kind of power. Without it, they probably don’t sign him and they’re left to several more years of mediocrity. With him on the roster, barring injury, they’re basically guaranteed that they’ll make the playoffs every year, and who knows, if his personnel decisions finally work out, maybe they win a title.

That said, the Bulls don’t appear to be one of those teams. They didn’t give Michael Jordan that power so it’s doubtful that they’ll hand it over to LeBron.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Cleveland’s musical pitch to LeBron [video]

So many adjectives for this one: inspired, funny, true…and a little pathetic.

One thing that is often overlooked with regard to LeBron’s pending free agency is just how much of an economic impact he has on the city of Cleveland. One pundit suggested that the value of the Cavs’ franchise would drop $100 million if he signed elsewhere and obviously the tickets and merchandising would plummet as well. And this is a city that can ill-afford a loss in revenue like that.

More Cavs/Celtics Fallout

Bill Simmons, ESPN: You cannot call what happened in the Cavs-Celtics series an upset. Boston played better in five of the six games. The C’s had four of the five best players. They were better defensively. Their best player (Rajon Rondo) played better than Cleveland’s best player (LeBron James). They had playoff-proven guys who kept coming through. They had better crowds. They showed more heart. This was not an upset … but still, it felt like one. And only because we were duped by Cleveland’s faux urgency (for most of the season, it felt genuine) and Boston’s retro-urgency (for most of the season, it was dormant). The playoffs hinge on toughness, chemistry, defense, leadership and urgency. Cleveland lost all those battles. Every one of them. … If he 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.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Whether by design or defeat or both, he’s made it possible to get out while the going is great. To hand-pick another group of sycophants to have his way and never have to answer for His Way, however misguided. The tri-state area, Miami, Chicago, who knows? He doesn’t even want to know. He just wants to get back to remembering what it’s like to be the self-proclaimed “King.” The sort of guy who has to remind you what he wants his nickname to be. Doesn’t have to answer for nine turnovers in a deciding game. Won’t have to answer for not attempting to take control of the game until the latter stages of the fourth quarter, and only in the form of a couple of desperate 3-pointers that happened to go in. Won’t have to answer for that defense, which was embarrassing. Just has to answer to the question, “Who’s the NBA’s best player?” It’s still James, you know. Just because we don’t really care for him at the present, it doesn’t take away from his greatness. We’ve all got brains big enough to handle him being the game’s best player and a crushing failure as a leader when it counted most in this series. If anything, it should add to the enmity that you’ve no doubt developed over the last week for this ghost. This person who should know better, but doesn’t want to hear it.

Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald: If it is true that James is about winning first, as he insisted in his postgame, post-series, post-Cleveland interview Thursday, then this is an automatic. If his obvious frustration with Cavs teammates and their inability to function without him is a driving force for LeBron, then playing alongside Wade will offer him exactly what he desires. When you consider that the Heat can sell a player like Michael Beasley to a team with salary-cap space to create enough space to sign a third substantial star, possibly a big man like an Amare Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer, then it only makes Miami more intriguing because of the real possibility a true dynasty can exist. There are two arguments against Miami that tend to dominate, neither of them making much sense. The first tends to be ego. As in, James’ ego won’t let him come to Wade’s town and not be the obvious attraction. It might be Wade’s town, but in basketball terms, it’s LeBron’s world, as Kevin Garnett confirmed after Thursday’s game. It has been for a half decade, practically, and sharing space with Wade can only help his global takeover because it’ll finally offer him that championship that has escaped him. No matter where he goes, James will not play second fiddle. Besides, it’s practically necessary these days, when you think about it, to have a player of similarly superstar caliber by your side. Kobe Bryant had arguably the best post player in the league, at the time, helping him win each of his four titles, first Shaquille O’Neal and now Pau Gasol. No one does this alone.


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David Lee is uncertain about the summer

The soon-to-be free agent has had a career season for the Knicks, averaging 20-12, while shooting almost 55% from the field en route to his first All-Star nod. He told the New York Times that he doesn’t have any idea what’s going to happen this summer.

“I don’t know how the Knicks are going to do timetable-wise, or if LeBron is going to have a decision made by July 1 or Sept. 1,” Lee said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work. At this point, I’m just going to look at everything as it comes to me and let my agent do his job.”

Ideally, the Knicks would sign two superstars, with James and Bosh the top targets. That would require renouncing the rights to all of their free agents, including Lee. But there are countless ways to spend the cap space. They could sign one marquee player and have enough left to sign Lee and another solid free agent. Or they could strike out entirely on the marquee players, in which case they will have plenty of room for Lee — and a long line of depressed season-ticket holders.

Chris Sheridan writes that it’s likely that another team will make him a sizable offer early in free agency and ask him to make a quick decision.

There’s a significant chance someone makes David Lee a take-it-or-leave-it offer that he’ll have to make a choice on almost instantly, and that could happen on the second or third day of July if the Knicks are still waiting on James. If Lee bolts, their best sign-and-trade asset will have disappeared, too. Gonna be an interesting July, eh?

I agree with Sheridan. Some savvy, second-tier team with cap space — I’m talking New Jersey, Washington, Sacramento, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City or Minnesota — will realize that their chances of landing a top-tier free agent like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade is next to nil, and will make a move on the Knicks’ backup plan (Lee) when they’re still wooing one of the big-name free agents. (By the way, when I say “second-tier,” I’m talking about the size of the market, the quality of the team and the franchise, etc. I would say that the Bulls, Knicks and Heat are top-tier free agent landing spots.)

If a team like the Nets makes Lee an offer averaging $10-$11 million per season and puts a time limit on it, it’s going to be tough for Lee to sit around while the Knicks figure out who they can and cannot sign. And if Lee is no longer an option, then there goes the Knicks’ best sign-and-trade chip, which is why Peter Vescey advocated last week that the franchise should re-sign Lee as soon as possible this summer.


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LeBron’s camp thinks he’s staying in Cleveland?

According to Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer, LeBron’s camp seems to think that he’s going to re-sign with the Cavs this summer.

After being mostly neutral and downright noncommittal for some time, those closest to James have been altering their view recently. The vibe being sent out from James’ camp — whether it is private conversations or discussions about new business or plans for the near future — is that James currently is leaning strongly toward re-signing with the Cavs.

That may sound vague and, as always, it continues to be fragile. Yet there is no denying the gradual shift within James’ circle and, it is assumed, by James himself.

James has declined to talk publicly about free agency since November. But as one source said, “I have never been so sure that he’s going to stay in Cleveland than I am right now.”

Windhorst is a good beat writer and I believe him when he says he’s getting a different vibe from LeBron’s camp.

LeBron is supposedly a loyal guy, and is from nearby Akron, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he decided to re-sign with the Cavs even if the team flames out again in the postseason. He seems to genuinely enjoy the players on the team and the franchise has treated him well, and that goes a long way.

But if the Cavs lose in the playoffs, would they bother to bring Shaq back for another season? If not, even with his salary off the books, the Cavs would be approximately $17 million over the salary cap. The only way to infuse the team with more (or different) talent would be to swing a trade or use the mid-level exception.

In other words, if this Cavs team doesn’t break through and win a title, I’m not optimistic about the 2011 Cavs or the 2012 Cavs having more luck.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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