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Bulls must try to influence next decision by LeBron James

Bulls guard Derrick Rose Heforward LeBrJames show emotions who wwho lost as Miami Hecame back beChicago Bulls 83-80 game five

Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Heat forward LeBron James show the emotions of who won and who lost as the Miami Heat came back to beat the Chicago Bulls 83-80 in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday May 26, 2011 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 18, 2014 6:17AM

In case the NBA forgot that this is just one big pickup game and LeBron James is making up the teams, a reminder will be coming soon.

James once again will hold the futures of players and franchises in his hands, while deciding what’s best for his ring collection and the James brand.

And the Bulls will not be ­immune.

There are other decisions in play, from Carmelo Anthony to Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade, but James is the first domino and the only one that really matters.

That’s why minutes after the Heat were beaten in the NBA ­Finals by the Spurs in five games, James already was being ­peppered with questions.

“I will deal with my summer when I get to that point,’’ James said. “Me and my team will sit down and deal with it. I love Miami. My family loves it. But that’s not even what I’m thinking about.

“You guys are trying to find answers. I’m not going to give you one. When I get to that point, I’ll deal with it.’’

He will sit down with his team, not just the team of Wade and Bosh. There’s also Team LeBron, led by Akron high school buddy Maverick Carter. That team helped him decide to leave Cleveland — a city he also once said he loved — before the 2010-11 season.

What’s best for the Heat will be second to what’s best for James, and he has earned that.

That’s what the Bulls are ­hoping for. The Spurs systematically exposing the Heat was the best-case scenario for general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson.

A three-peat would’ve made James’ summer easy: Let’s opt in and do it again. But watching Wade fumble around and Bosh disappear, well, that’s a dose of reality that James might not have been ready for.

“The whole league continues to get better every year,’’ James said. “Obviously, we would need to get better in every facet, every position. It’s just how the league works.’’

Translation: Wade had better cooperate, or he can enjoy playing next to Norris Cole next season.

Ideally, James would like the Big Three to opt out, opt back in for far less money and have ­Anthony join them.

But what if Wade won’t cooperate and wants a max deal as reward for his time and service in Miami?

That’s when the Bulls need to step in.

As the Eastern Conference has learned the last four years, you’re either on James’ team or you’re watching him from home during the Finals.

His ball, his court, his league.


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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