We’re less than 12 months away from LeBron being a free agent. If you thought July 2010 was wild (The Decision!), and if you thought July 2014 was wilder (Not 1! Not 2! Not 3!), I’m fairly certain July 2018 will be LeBron’s wildest (and last) foray into free agency.
He’ll be 33. Definitely on the back nine of his career, entering his 16th season as a pro. I’ve whittled down the options right now to the Lakers and 76ers, but Woj said something on ESPN radio Monday that was interesting:
Q: LeBron James, leaves or stays?
Woj: I’m not going to do it, Dan. There are so many variables in a year … it is going to be hard for him to go anywhere and feel like it’s going to take a couple, three years to build. It has to feel relatively ready-made … I think Golden State kind of skews that. You look around and there’s almost nothing you can put together in this league right now that makes you think, ‘OK, now we’re better than Golden State or ‘now we’re as good as Golden State.’
In another year … I don’t know if staying gets him closer … or leaving gets him closer, but Golden State is so good … I think that whole idea is skewered. So maybe you just go where you want to play.
So maybe you just go where you want to play. We already know at least 25 teams are eliminated, and you could probably kick that up to 27 or 28. There’s no telling what might happen next season – will Houston emerge as a contender for LeBron’s services if James Harden and Chris Paul lead them to the Finals? – and who knows, maybe the Spurs make a play for LeBron. Either way, it looks to me like he’s gone.
Later, the discussion turned to location (this part is not in the video above), and that was somewhat eye-opening:
Woj: When Lebron was in Miami, or if potentially Lebron is in Los Angeles, it’s easier to recruit other players with him, when he’s in those places, vs recruiting them in Cleveland.
When Cleveland was the best team … you can get guys in Cleveland. But when people feel they’ve fallen behind, and Golden State is the team, I do think it’s a little harder to recruit guys to play there.
Think about that above statement this way: If LeBron loses to the Warriors in the June 2018 Finals, he’ll have lost to them three times in four years, including two in a row. It will be obvious to anyone watching that the Cavs aren’t getting by the Warriors are long as LeBron is in Cleveland.
But could it happen in Los Angeles? That’s the question you have to ask. Maybe is the answer. But the answer, in Cleveland, is no.