- Could Bulls be in on LeBron's Decision 2.0?
- Thibodeau is all in on Bulls' pursuit of Carmelo Anthony
Updated: June 24, 2014 11:35PM
Where will the ‘‘talents’’ go?
Those skills, of course, belong to LeBron Raymone ‘‘The Chosen One’’ James.
Also known as ‘‘King James’’ or simply ‘‘He From Which All Things Basketball Manifest,’’ the Miami Heat forward opted out of his contract Tuesday.
That means James theoretically could go to any team he wants, depending on how much of a pay cut he’s willing to take and whom he wants playing around him.
Until he and his empire of agents, underlings, haberdashers, documentarians and outright sycophants make their move, the rest of the basketball universe sits on pause.
Call this ‘‘The Decision II.’’
The original ‘‘Decision’’ was a bucket of laughs, wasn’t it? Four years ago, James and ESPN conspired to create a bizarre TV show, with ringmaster Jim Gray presiding, in which James took a half-hour and a ton of Ringling Bros. flying-trapeze narcissistic loops to tell the world — Cleveland, specifically — what could have been said in a two-second, four-word fax: I’m going to Miami.
The Bulls were in the audience for that clown show.
Indeed, there were a lot of star free agents floating about in 2010, and the Bulls had been after almost all of them, James included. When James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade colluded to team with the Heat, the Bulls sighed, looked at the sidewalk and asked Carlos Boozer if he’d move to town. For better or worse, he did.
Meanwhile, the Heat and their player-manipulated Big Three core shot to the top. The group has two NBA titles and four Finals appearances in the last four years.
James did not win the MVP trophy this year — that honor went to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant — nor did he win the NBA championship — the San Antonio Spurs did. But he’s still the straw that stirs the Gatorade and Powerade and Red Bull. He’s a freakishly gifted, magnificently muscled athlete who resembles a defensive end but can play like a point guard and bury three-pointers moments after tearing the rim off with a monster jam.
What he does affects everything that every other player and general manager in the league will do, except perhaps those quiet, ever-sanguine Spurs, who operate in the back room and make no noise except when they raise a trophy. The gilded triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is coming back to the Spurs with another year on their contracts.
In fact, Duncan, the peerless 6-11 power forward, is an anti-LeBron when it comes to drama. Duncan will be back for his 18th year with the Spurs after snaring five NBA titles and leading the franchise in career games played, points scored and rebounds. He’s like Dorothy, staying home on the farm.
James, on the other hand, is the ramblin’, gamblin’ businessman attempting to control his fate, to win, to make more money than anyone, to travel wherever success beckons and plant his flag.
He could always stay with the Heat and try to negotiate with president Pat Riley and Bosh and Wade and somehow decide how the salary cap can be divvied up and the bench weaknesses addressed, and everybody can go after a third title in five years.
Or he could collude with New York Knicks free agent Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls’ dream scorer, and establish a new command post.
According to sources, there are only six teams that could clear enough space to pay James the maximum he could get as a free agent — $23.8 million a year for four years. The Bulls aren’t one of them.
Of course, James doesn’t have to take a max contract. And nobody can pay him as much as the Heat on a new contract, according to league rules.
What he does might be as fickle as thinking about things like real-estate tax or movie deals or filling that old Kobe Bryant void with the Los Angeles Lakers or going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, especially since his wife just tweeted some stuff about ‘‘Home Sweet Home’’ Akron, Ohio, just a tiny road trip from Cleveland.
Who knows? Kings rule in funny ways.
But if what James does affects where Anthony or the Bulls’ other coveted love — Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves — end up, he is indeed the butterfly that lands on the leaf in China that changes the world.
In my mind, I see that yet-to-happen meeting with James, Bosh and Wade unfolding like a scene from ‘‘The Godfather’’: consiglieres and seconds at the long table behind the principals, drivers in the parking lot with the sleek black cars, women and children hidden away, a cigar or two smoldering . . .
James speaks slowly. Everybody listens.
A decision is made.