After nearly four seasons in Miami, the four-time league MVP can become a free-agent this summer and ESPN speculates the L.A. Clippers are shaping up as frontrunners for the two-time defending NBA champ should he decide to bolt South Beach in much the same fashion he did his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Though the salary-capped strapped Clips will not have the means to pursue James with the lure of a maximum deal, growing sentiment is if Pat Riley and the Heat gauge that James is intent on suiting up elsewhere they may be open to dealing him in a package that revolves around high-flying forward Blake Griffin.
ESPN also opines James may be further motivated to broker his way to L.A. based on his respect for Clippers coach Doc Rivers and his friendship with star point- guard Chris Paul, whose relationship with The King dates back to their AAU circuit days and has blossomed into Paul now serving as the godfather to his young son Bryce.
Reportedly, as far back as 2005 James urged his then-Cavs to draft Paul, but the team didn’t have any first-round draft picks that year and was unable to trade up high enough to nab him. The two later starred together as Team USA members on gold medal winning teams in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“This time is going to be different,” a source close to James recently told ESPN of James’ free-agent thinking this summer compared to 2010. “If LeBron decides to look at other options, it won’t just be teams with cap space. He has 30 options if he wants them.”
So different might the climate be this summer even Dwyane Wade, largely thought to be the mastermind behind the Big 3 union of himself, James and Chris Bosh, readily admits there are no guarantees.
“There are different times and different mindsets that you deal with,” Wade told ESPN. “That was 2010. I’m not saying that LeBron James or Chris Bosh, if they get the opportunity again, are going to leave $17 million on the table as they did in 2010. No one can say they should do that. You have to do what is best for you.”
The bond James has formed with Wade, Bosh, Riley and even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been and remains strong. It’s anyone’s ballgame as to what it all might come to mean in the summer of 2014.