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NBA Free Agency 101

With the start of NBA free agency just days away, I decided to kick-start The Summer of LeBron with a monster e-mail swap with ESPN Radio’s Corey Costelloe. What grew from the idea was a potpourri of free agent madness. We started out with LeBron, moved onto theories, then predictions and ended with the predictable breaking of my little Clippers’ heart.


(Editor’s Note: Please note that Corey and I started exchanging our thoughts prior to Thursday’s NBA Draft. So there might be a prediction or two that seems out-dated. Show us some grace and just move on. Thanks.)

Ben Bates:

Just about another week until NBA fans start peeing on/cutting themselves out of sheer delight/agony. Is there any other sports circumstance that even comes CLOSE to inducing the number of polar-opposite reactions from different fan bases?

If you follow the Knicks, Cavs, Bulls, Clippers, Mavs, Suns, Raptors, Heat or Nets, than the falling of the free agent dominoes is more thrilling than a ride on Space Mountain. But if you’re a fan of any other team, I’m guessing you’d rather listen to “Toxic” by Brittany Spears, on a loop for an four hours, than read one more LeBron, Wade or Bosh feature.

What gives?

Corey Costelloe:

I read an article today where Chris Bosh says he doesn’t want to be just a, “piece” of a team, but a building block. Isn’t that exactly what’s going on in Toronto? He’s not just the building, he’s the only block on that team. But if he wants to be the man, he can stick around and be the second most popular black dude in Toronto (sorry Chris amongst Canadians, I think Joe Carter still has you beat).

As far as LeBron is concerned, by the end of this, nobody will end up taking so long to decide they wanted a job in Cleveland, since Lou Brown had to be convinced to quit Tire World and manage the Indians.

“Charlie I’ll call you back, I got a guy on the other line asking about a set of white walls.”

From a Lakers standpoint, no free agents on the horizon, but I’m convinced Ron Artest is schizophrenic, so we will see which persona shows up come October. That’s like a free agency grab bag, and Jerry Buss is looking more and more like Rip Taylor, so who knows what will happen when he throws his glitter this summer.


What’s with the Laker talk Corey? With their championship, aren’t we supposed to be free from having them shoved down our throats for at least a month or two? (Says the guy who just wrote a big Lakers feature on Shaq and Kobe.) Your station isn’t the home of the Lakers and you know I’m a Clippers fan. Throw me a bone here.

At this point, the major stars are playing their cards about how we’d expect them to…

LeBron: Politically correct.

Wade: It’s all about Miami.

Bosh: I’m a winner people. Please believe me!

Amar’e: So, umm, not to be awkward… but where’s the money?

Johnson: I’m elite too! INCLUDE ME guys!

So in other words, we still have no idea what is going to happen. LeBron’s silence doesn’t mean he is leaving Cleveland, but things certainly don’t seem to bode well for the Cavs’ chances either. No GM. No coach. No one wants to coach, since LeBron might not return. No Type B players to support LeBron. And absolutely no hope of luring any decent players without securing LeBron first.

So THOSE are the reasons LeBron is unlikely to return to the Cleve, not because he isn’t giving the Cavs his vote of confidence.

C.C. tell me two things; first, in your eyes, what is the best currently signed, one-two punch in place, amongst the nine teams I listed in my first e-mail, ready to potentially offer LeBron a contract? If we really believe LBJ is going to make his choice a basketball based decision, than the team with the best two players should automatically have the upper hand.

And second, I know everything centers around LeBron, much like how the seven degrees of separation always leads back to Kevin Bacon, but put your money down: Which marquee free agent will sign first and where?


First the money part. I’ve got Bosh signing first, possibly a sign-and-trade during the draft. Toronto seems very willing to play that game and I think it could create interesting scenarios come draft day.

As far as Lebron goes? Basketball decision? I don’t think he’s made a basketball decision his entire life. His basketball IQ has always been in question as far as I’m concerned, so I worry about letting him make a, “basketball decision.” That’s like leaving France to make a soccer decision. It might not end well. But, if he did get some help in that department, I have to look to the Bulls right now as probably the front-runner. As if we don’t already know this by now, but guard play is the key to any championship run and Lebron isn’t a guard (some people might get confused with this, considering he shoots so much). But I’ll go with Chicago since they have Derrick Rose (who is solid) and Kirk Hinrich (a more experienced guard), giving Chicago a nice one-two punch of court leadership, which LeBron lacks.


Having France in such a state of soccer disarray makes me such a happy American sports fan.

Kirk Hinrich? As in… back-up point guard Kirk Hinrich? As in… a centerpiece in Chicago trade offers these past two years, but no one seems to want to deal for him, Kirk Hinrich? If he’s Chi-town’s selling point, I think they might be in trouble. Didn’t Luol Deng used to good? I keep forgetting. And Joakim Noah? I know the sum equals the whole, but other than Derrick Rose, I’m not sure where the reliable help is coming from. Unless of course Chicago frees up more cap room somehow.

Because I love lists, let’s run through another one. Best two signed players, on each team with the cap room to out-right SIGN LeBron. So teams like the Mavs don’t count here…

Bulls: Rose, Hinrich (or Noah)

Nets: Devin Harris, Brook Lopez

Cavs: Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams

Heat: (incomplete)

Knicks: (incomplete)

Clippers: Blake Griffin, Baron Davis (or Eric Gordon)

Looking at that list Corey, I have to say, the most attractive team would be Los Angeles, wouldn’t it? And yes I have a Clippers bias, but am I wrong? Wouldn’t you rather plug into a team with good top-end talent and the only glaring hole being at small forward, a position you happen to dominate?

Now I will say, I’ve been on record – on your show even – as claiming that potential coaches will not play a big role in LeBron’s decision, but I might be willing to bend on that thought for one exception: What if the Lakers low-ball Phil Jackson and the Nets do in fact offer him a Sultan of Babylon deal? Does that sway the balance a bit?

Phil has 11 titles now. LeBron has none. I think he’d listen. Plus, Michael played for Phil, Kobe played for Phil; wouldn’t the natural order of it all be for LeBron to want to play for Phil?

Now here’s the wildcard that no one is talking about: Couldn’t the Clippers conceivably make the same ridiculously lucrative offer to Phil, keeping him close to girlfriend Jeanie Buss, still in L.A.? If the Clippers and Nets both offered three-year, $30-million contracts, which would Phil be more likely to take? It would have to be the Clippers, right?

It has been rumored for a couple of weeks now that former Dreamworks co-founder, David Geffen, has been trying to blow Donald Sterling out of the water, with an offer to buy a majority share of the Clips. It’s far-fetched and Sterling would relinquish his evil grasp of the team only in a world in which you or I also somehow owned clubs, but what if it somehow happens? What if it’s Geffen pulling the strings and not Sterling? Then wouldn’t Phil DEFINITELY receive a huge contract offer from the Clips? And with Phil on board and the roster in place as is (Griffin, Davis, Gordon, Kaman), wouldn’t the Clippers then become the front-runners in the LeBron Lottery?

It’s a Geffen/Spielberg type Hollywood blockbuster waiting to happen.

Straws Corey, I know, but have I sold you yet?

First you, then LeBron.


I knew the, “Stars will Align and LeBron will come to the Clippers” e-mail was coming. But seriously, Clippers fans are like the NFL wildcard team in December that needs Dallas to win, the 49ers to tie, the Seahawks to lose by 12.3 and the Eagles to score at least 14, to stay mathematically alive for the postseason. I have a better chance of not acquiring irritable bowel syndrome at the county fair than the Clippers do of landing Lebron.

LeBron wears a headband for a reason: to keep his huge head from expanding even further. There’s no way he goes to any city with a statue of another dude in front of their arena. So let’s discount Chicago, because MJ’s got a statue, and let’s discount L.A., because by the time LeBron is finished playing, there will be a statue of Magic Johnson AND Kobe Bryant in front of Staples. And your boy won’t be down with that.

Hence my argument that he remains in Cleveland. All the statues in that town are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so LeBron is free to pursue his own likeness in bronze, and unfortunately for him, aside from the Olympics, bronze is going to be the only metal he’ll get to touch.


Oh, look at the ZING! Your energy is wonderful C.C. Just great, really. That actually felt like a radio rant.

So you aren’t buying the Clippers (not that I blame you) or the Bulls (the team our readers seem to be favoring in our latest Not in HD poll), but you do like the Cavs. Far be it for me to call that opinion erroneous, because really, we’re all just calling blind in order to see the flop here; but I would be a little surprised if he opts to stay put. The world is a grand place and I think LBJ yearns to see it.

Switching gears for a moment, you said Bosh might spin the sign-and-trade wheel. I’m intrigued. Will it be with the Lakers for Bynum’s crutches? The Heat, for Beasley’s bong? Or the Bulls for Noah’s hair?

If not to the Heat for Beasley, who can you legitimately see Miami bringing in, to be the sidecar to Wade’s Harley?


Honestly, I think there is collusion among all the NBA teams and David Stern, to make this free agency last as long as possible, so America will actually pay attention to the NBA during the summer time. I mean seriously, this is getting out of hand.

I don’t know what the Heat will do, in answering your question. They’re waiting on D-Wade, obviously, who is probably waiting on LeBron, not only to decide where he will go, but for how much, so he can set market price.

On that note, Chris Bosh co-hosted this morning on Mike and Mike, and said he’s waiting on LeBron, saying, “I think everyone has to, I have to as well.”

What? I thought Bosh fancied himself a ‘building block,’ but yet he’s waiting on LeBron? Kind of sad that NBA players as proud and as cocky as some of them can be, are playing little brother to LeBron. Tragic really.

Speaking of Bosh, I’m not convinced about the Lakers as a potential destination anymore. The L.A. Times broke down some of their financial issues today, with the key word being BROKE. Despite pulling in $20-million from winning the NBA title, they might not use their $5.9-million mid-level exception, even if they save money if Phil Jackson doesn’t come back.

I hear Lamar Odom is possible on the block in as the Lakers want to free up some payroll. They’re tired of paying luxury taxes, so I might have to recant my sign and trade thoughts from earlier. I don’t think they want to add the sort of payroll Bosh is looking for, unless he’s willing to give them the Canadian discount.


You may be onto something there. Wouldn’t it be funny if we could all somehow convince Bosh that due to the exchange rate, he would actually make SIGNIFICANTLY more money staying in Canada, thus delegating him to five or six more years in basketball purgatory?

No? It’s just me that finds the idea with screwing with his Canada-muddled mind, from spending the past few years north of the border, slightly hilarious?

(For the record, as great as it is to take easy shots at Canada, I think I have liked every person I have ever met from the country. I can’t say the same about the U.S. So they at least have that going for them. That and Steve Nash. And beer with higher alcohol percentage. That too.)

It was reported today (Thursday) that the Bulls have agreed in principle to a trade with the Wizards, which would send your golden boy, Kirk Hinrich, and the No. 17 pick in the draft to Washington. In return they would get a little kid’s tricycle or something. The deal can’t become official until July 8th, but it would free up roughly another $8.5-million, putting Chicago $30-million below the cap.

A team will need about $16-million or so to sign a player to a max contract this summer. So my second grade math tells me the Bulls will be one more small $2-million dump away from the eternal joy of having the capability to offer two players a max deal.

The infrastructure is BLOWN Corey. My mind is moving faster than Donald Trump’s jet, thinking of all the new possibilities. This changes EVERYTHING.

As entertaining as this swap has been, I think it’s about time we wrap things up. After all, the length is dangerously close to forcing our readers into taking a nap somewhere in the middle, in order to get through this beast.

So let’s do something completely subjective, that no writer or talk show host seems to actually want to do. Let’s make our official predictions for the five best free agents. In my mind, those five are LBJ, Wade, Bosh, Amar’e and Joe Johnson, in that order.

(Takes a deep breath…)

Here we go…

1.) LeBron: Chicago

2.) Wade: Miami

3.) Bosh: Chicago

4.) Amar’e: New York

5.) Johnson: Los Angeles (Clippers)

Alright Costelloe, give us your list.


Ok, going against my better judgment, and to just to agree-to-disagree to make this interesting… here’s my list…

1.) LeBron: Chicago (That trade has changed even LeBron’s mind from Cleveland.)

2.) Bosh: Los Angeles (Lakers)

Despite being broke, I think they make some deals, ship off Andrew Bynum and possibly Lamar Odom to make this happen. They’ll also be dropping Adam Morrison’s $5.2-million salary, that’s right $5.2 million!

3.) Wade: Miami

Why? Because he has a ring and Miami is warmer than any of the cold weather contenders.

4.) Amar’e: Nets (Drago has to make some sort of splash.)

5.) Johnson: Clippers

I’ll give you that one. They need some sort of leadership now that they drafted another young soon-to-be injured collegiate player.

  1. June 29, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    This is a great blog you got going here! I think that the big problem that is going to face these top tier free agents is the ability to find a good supporting cast because teams have shed so much salary in order to get them. Also, you think you could check out my blog because I really want to know what your opinion is on my thoughts. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/lebron-and-sidekick-will-be-dominant-but-will-it-translate-to-a-championship/

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