|What LeBron’s decision means for the Celtics||07.08.10 at 10:02 pm ET|
After an interminable half-hour of television that followed two years worth of hysteria and hype, LeBron James announced that was leaving Cleveland and signing with the Miami Heat, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a new superteam.
In the end, we may never know the whole story on all the background machinations. Maybe there was a master plan all along. Maybe it was just a bunch of young men playing mogul.
Regardless of all the drama, both real and contrived, James joins Wade and Bosh as the single biggest free agent haul in the history of the sport. James will also have to live with the fallout for the rest of his career after he abandoned his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now that it is official, we can finally ask the basketball question: How good are the Heat? Good enough to instantly become one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference along with the Celtics and Magic, even with just five players and three second-round draft picks on the roster at the moment.
One of those players, Michael Beasley, is expected to be traded in a salary-cap dump, which leaves Mario Chalmers as the only other player with NBA experience on the roster. Pat Riley has his work cut out for him in shaping the roster.
They are over the cap now, which means they will have to entice a center and most of a bench with minimum contracts. What’s also unknown is how these three superstars will play together. [Note: An earlier version of this post noted the Heat's interest in Mike Miller with the mid-level exception. They don't have the MLE after these moves.]
This isn’t quite like the Celtics moves in the summer of 2007 when Danny Ainge added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Paul Pierce. Those were all veteran players hungry to win a championship and the better-than-expected young core of Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo certainly helped them attain that goal.
Wade, Bosh and James are at different stages in their careers and there is no one remotely as good as Perkins, to say nothing of Rondo on the Heat roster.
Ainge has brought the Celtics back together for one more run after a playoff run that saw them beat Wade and James’ teams, and it has been reported that Tony Allen will be as returning as well. Allen will have his work cut out from him when they play the Heat.
If nothing else, this move, and others in free agency, make the East much stronger. The Knicks added Amar’e Stoudemire and appear ready to try and play to win again, while the Bulls finally added a low-post scorer in Carlos Boozer.
The Celtics road to repeat as Eastern Conference champions just got more difficult, but not impossible.
|LeBron Watch, 6 p.m.: Decision still unknown||at 6:28 pm ET|
While all the fuss Thursday has centered on LeBron James‘ apparent decision to join the Heat, ESPN’s Ric Bucher recently posted on his Twitter account that the consensus among GMs, agents and league officials is that he will not be going to Miami.
James was, however, spotted Thursday at his basketball camp at Cleveland State University, watching high school stars play in front of college coaches. Those in attendance included Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Bob Huggins, to name a few. From there he is headed to the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn., where his hour-long special will air.
If he were to re-sign with the Cavaliers, rumors abound that it would be a three-year contract. And because of the firestorm James’ decision could have on the people of Ohio, there is reportedly going to be increased police activity in downtown Cleveland.
Mark Cuban, the omnipresent and free-speaking owner of the Dallas Mavericks, took to his blog Thursday afternoon to give his take on where LeBron James will end up.
Saying he believes King James will end up re-signing with Cleveland, Cuban explained, “The sports world is full of uncertainties. When in doubt, go for the love.”
James, who joined the Twitter world Tuesday afternoon, already has over 300,000 followers and gave his fans an update Thursday morning, encouraging them to send questions regarding where he will end up.
|LeBron Watch, 3 p.m.: Boozer, Stoudemire hold out hope||at 3:34 pm ET|
Carlos Boozer, who agreed to a five-year, $76 million contract with the Bulls, is attempting to woo LeBron James via text messages. Boozer said he sent LeBron a message Wednesday night and hopes to get the superstar forward to join him in Chicago.
The Knicks are hoping that their recent signee, Amar’e Stoudemire, will be enough to get King James to choose New York. General manager Donnie Walsh spoke about the possibility of signing James at Stoudemire’s introductory press conference Thursday.
Said Walsh: “I was pleased with the meeting we had in Cleveland. I thought we were able to present our franchise the way we wanted to. I did think New York was the perfect place for LeBron.”
Meanwhile, Magic GM Otis Smith, at a press conference in Orlando to introduce Chris Duhon, told WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane that he still believes James will stay in Cleveland.
|Magic GM Smith: ‘Surprised’ if LeBron leaves Cleveland||at 2:19 pm ET|
ORLANDO, Fla. — I just spoke to Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith after a press conference announcing the signing of Chris Duhon. Smith was impressed by the Celtics’ ability to keep the core together and add Jermaine O’Neal.
“They did a great job,” Smith said. “To sign Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] and add a piece like Jermaine O’Neal? They are going to be tough again next year.”
Smith, who wouldn’t comment on the status of free agent J.J. Redick, was asked about LeBron James. If James signs with the Heat, would it signal a shift of power in the Eastern Conference?
“I still think you have to put teams together,” Smith said. “That’s it. If all three of those guys go to Miami, that’s a very good team. But three guys don’t give you anything, you need a team. It gives them a chance to win a title, but doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Does Smith think James will end up in Miami?
“I would be surprised.”
Does he think he’ll end up in Cleveland?
As news circulates that LeBron James is heading to South Beach to join friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as a member of the Heat, Miami is looking to make more moves to fill out its roster.
FoxSports.com writer Jeff Goodman is reporting that free agent Mike Miller has been offered a five-year deal worth somewhere between $27 million and $30 million, with a deadline of Thursday night for him to accept the offer.
Meanwhile, the Knicks and Cavaliers are holding out hope that LeBron will have a change of heart. WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane reports that one source claims the Knicks still are confident he will choose the Big Apple.
The Cavaliers are doing their best to make their team more appealing, with rumors circulating that they are pursuing a trade with the Timberwolves involving point guard Jonny Flynn.
|Celtics sign O’Neal for two years||at 1:53 pm ET|
Scratch another item off Danny Ainge‘s to-do list. Multiple outlets are reporting, and WEEI.com has confirmed, that the Celtics have signed free agent center Jermaine O’Neal for two years at the full mid-level exception.
O’Neal’s addition shores up the center spot, which is in flux following Kendrick Perkins‘ knee surgery and the expected retirement of Rasheed Wallace. By using the full MLE, the Celtics now are shopping for players with the the veteran minimum contract and the allure of playing on a championship contender.
The length of O’Neal’s deal also completes the framework of the Celtics’ window of opportunity with their veteran group. O’Neal’s deal will expire at the same time as Kevin Garnett‘s and Ray Allen‘s. (Allen has a player option for the second year).
The only players signed beyond the next two seasons are Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and rookie Avery Bradley.
As noted earlier today, Ainge still has Wallace’s contract to dangle in trade talks, should Wallace follow through on his intention to retire. Ainge can also re-sign his own team’s own free agents, with Tony Allen figuring to be the next Celtics target.
Here’s the Celtics’ updated roster as of this afternoon:
PG: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Oliver Lafayette (non-guaranteed contract)
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce, Luke Harangody (second-round draft pick)
PF: Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Tony Gaffney (non-guaranteed)
C: Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal, Semih Erden, Rasheed Wallace