Since the NBA league office announced its projections that the salary cap will decline next season, several positive economic indicators were released showing that the recession may already have ended. If true, the NBA’s salary cap might not drop nearly as much as projected if it even drops at all. But because Danny Ferry signed Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon to 2-year contracts, the Cavs will not have room for a second max free-agent next summer even if the cap goes up. It might therefore be a checkmate move if Walsh ekes out enough cap room to be able to offer two max contracts in 2010. LeBron’s decision might be between staying in Cleveland with the Cavs’ roster as is or jumping to New York with Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
Indeed, the NBA’s revenues surpassed even the best-case projections the league made before the season began. As a result, David Stern recently told teams to expect next season’s salary cap to be set at around $56.1 million.
Meanwhile, on trade deadline day, the Cavs acquired Antawn Jamison and the $28 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons.
Both of these developments mean that the Knicks will have the cap space for two max free-agents just weeks from now while the Cavs will be over the cap for two more years if LeBron re-signed in Cleveland.
3. The luxury tax. In New York, LeBron could be assured of joining an organization that would spare no expense in pursuit of multiple championships. Cavs’ ownership has never pulled back on spending but that could change. Dan Gilbert’s deal to bring in Chinese investment, spun as a bold marketing initiative, may have had more to do with cash reserves drying up. Once they’re out of cap room, the Knicks would never hesitate to use their mid-level exception, take on more and more salary each year and pay exorbitant luxury tax bills, to keep renewing LeBron's supporting cast. The coffers at MSG are effectively bottomless.
League sources recently told the New York Daily News that the Cavs have lost upwards of $55 million over the past three seasons. This report buttresses the notion that Gilbert’s primary objective in bringing aboard a new owner was relieving the financial burden of Cleveland’s high payroll, rather than opening up new marketing opportunities for LeBron in China.
Will an ever-climbing luxury tax bill be something that Cavs’ ownership is willing to pay year after year?
2. The Yankees.
[i]The Yankees have emerged as the best team in baseball and are poised for another championship run. At some point, CC Sabathia may confide to his good pal, one of the Yankees' most famous fans, ‘There’s nothing like winning in New York.’[/b]
The Yankees went on to win the championship, their ticker-tape parade was the day of the Cavs v. Knicks game in New York, and LeBron was treated to a Yankee tribute on his lone visit to the Garden, with CC at center court and LeBron applauding from the bench.
Then recently during an ESPN pregame show at Fenway Park, LeBron was asked if being a Yankee fan could influence him to sign with the Knicks. “I don't think so,” LeBron replied. “My connection won't sway what I do as a basketball player. ”
Can’t win ’em all.
1. The heart. Big life decisions like the one LeBron will have in less than a year are usually made more on emotion than cold reason. Is home where LeBron’s heart is or does he yearn for the spotlight of Broadway? We don’t know the answer to that yet. But last week, just before letting us know that he plans to become a free-agent after the coming season, LeBron said he is “not ashamed of anything in Cleveland.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially in contrast to the reverential words LeBron used to describe how he feels stepping on the floor at Madison Square Garden. The worry for Cavs fans is that LeBron’s tone seems to be creeping closer to the 'It’s not you, it’s me' line of reasoning, an explanation vaguely reminiscent of 'The heart wants what the heart wants.'
Nobody doubts that LeBron has enjoyed his time in Cleveland. But there is a legitimate question whether he truly loves being there and is ready to commit for another several years.
LeBron is from Akron (that’s not Cleveland as he went out of his way to point out once) but he has something big in common with New Yorkers: He eats, sleeps and breathes basketball. Like them, he lives for the game.
The well-styled, larger-than-life limelight of New York City also seems to be in LeBron’s blood, and there’s little doubt that the world’s most famous fans and arena give him a buzz.
“You almost feel like you’re a performer sitting on the stage and they’re watching you perform,” LeBron said after his only game at the Garden this season.
“It’s this building. This building’s very special.”
There are good reasons to think that LeBron may decide to make that special stage his own starting next fall.