The countdown has begun in earnest. The day Cavaliers fans have dreaded is just days away. The day the franchise teeters in the wind as LeBron James decides where he's going to play his basketball.
Early next Thursday, a minute after the stroke of midnight to be exact, the anointed one becomes a free agent and the scramble begins. Only three serious players in this little slice of theater: The Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knickerbockers The others are either pretenders and/or have no chance.
The Cavs, if LeBron is to be believed, are the frontrunners, but not by much. His unabashed love of Akron and the comfort he enjoys living in that part of the world, work in Cleveland's favor. That's the strongest card the Cavaliers hold. In fact, it's the only card they hold.
LeBron knows he's going to get a lot of money wherever he lands. Again, if he is to be believed, money doesn't matter at this stage of his career. He's got enough to last several lifetimes.
He wants to win championships. And who could blame him?
He watches as Kobe Bryant rings up title after title and he's jealous. That should be me, he most likely says to himself. I'm just as good as he is and yet I have nothing to show for it. I'm a championship type of player. I need to hold that big trophy some day.
I'm sick of watching Kobe doing it.
The Bulls have shrewdly placed themselves in a position to help Lebron achieve the one goal that has eluded him. By trading Kirk Hinrich on draft night, they have opened up enough cap space to afford two high-profile free-agent signings. The latest rumor has them going after LeBron and Chris Bosh to go with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
In some corners, it'a almost a fait accompli. Yahoo!Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, referencing Lebron guru and advisor William Wesley, writes: To listen to World Wide Wes, LeBron will never look back on Cleveland. “He’s up out of there,” is the way he tells it to people, but LeBron’s Akron crew has to tsk-tsk such public talk because they all live in Northeast Ohio, and maybe always will. “We’re going to Chicago,” William Wesley tells people, “and Chris Bosh is coming, too.”
Sounds ominous for Cleveland and Akron. If that's the case, then all the words LeBron has uttered were nothing more than lip service.
If he does wind up in Chicago, he's got to understand that no matter how well he does there or how many championships he wins, he will never begin to win over the Windy City like Michael Jordan did. There is only one Michael Jordan. Winning there would amount to a hollow victory for LeBron.
It wouldn't be nearly as hollow in Cleveland should he remain and raise a championship banner or two there. In Cleveland, he would be embraced and worshiped. Much like Jordan was -- and still is -- in Chicago.
If Wesley is correct, however, it will signal the beginning of the end for the Cavs franchise as we know it. Nick Mileti's dream of 40-plus years ago will slowly -- and sadly -- fade away.