A headline most Cavaliers fans would curse and deny in a heartbeat; how is the superstar forward LeBron James a detriment to his team’s chances at winning a championship? It boils down to his future contract status, which as most ardent NBA fans know, is in flux.
As LeBron has one year remaining before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent, his contract status has legitimately hurt his teams’ chances to recruit big-name free agents.
Today, jubilant Cavaliers fans woke up to headlines stating that LeBron James hinted to free agent Trevor Ariza that he’ll remain with the Cavaliers past 2010. The joy was unmistakable across the web. However, as a true cynic, I was very skeptical considering nothing is set in stone until ink hits the contract.
Fans just recently received a taste of a player changing his mind. After reaching a verbal agreement with the Portland Trailblazers, Hedo Turkoglu understandably changed his mind and decided to sign with the Toronto Raptors. Of course not just players change their mind.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers showed his admiration and respect for Leon Powe. Unfortunately, the Celtics will only sign him to a contract once he is healthy.
No one blames LeBron when he wishes to explore all his options before signing a contract. The leverage that unrestricted free agency brings is well worth the wait to achieve a huge payoff.
LeBron has uniquely been one of the major marquee superstars “to flirt” with other NBA teams and even Europe. Yes, the laughable suggestion of leaving the NBA is now becoming more of a consideration with the lack of a salary cap in foreign basketball leagues.
It is traditional for players to become free agents (even franchise players). Most people might not remember Tim Duncan exploring his options and possibly leaving the San Antonio Spurs.
Unfortunately, James has turned his impending free agency into a high-stakes drama, despite the fact that his swim with the sharks doesn't start until 2010. And that has become a distraction and a huge hindrance this free agency, where the presence of impact players has shifted the landscape of the NBA.
Free agents are reluctant to sign with Cleveland considering LeBron’s open door policy when it comes to the Cavaliers. They won’t be interested in taking less money to join the King in his quest for a ring if there is a strong chance that he’ll leave the team. This might have even hurt the Cavaliers in their attempt at signing Ron Artest, who signed for a below market contract with the Lakers.
Although the tone of Charles Barkley was over-the-top, the message was clear; don’t talk about the possibilities of leaving the Cavaliers two years ahead of the free agency. Those words are now ringing loud and clear as James watches the Celtics and Lakers pick-up some major acquisitions in the NBA’s version of the Arms’ race.
Ariza reached an agreement to sign with the Rockets. Of course, Ariza can change his mind, and there is no doubt a team like the Cavaliers are most likely working behind the scenes to try and sign Ariza.
That’s why upon hearing reports that LeBron James had told Ariza he would stay past 2010 with the Cavaliers, I rolled my eyes. Apparently, so did Ariza considering he’s not a Cavs player.
Of course making matters worse, sources close to LeBron deny that he ever committed for the long term. Just what the King needs, another bad recruiting pitch.