On Thursday night, LeBron James, along with the assistance of ESPN, will come on air and tell the fans where he’ll be playing for at least the 2010-11 season. The main focus of a multi-team pursuit, the deal will undoubtedly impact James’ star status among NBA fans. The events of the weeks leading up to the Thursday night event, have demonstrated a new and ugly side to David Stern’s NBA.
At some point following the third retirement of Michael Jordan, the NBA decided that the most populous markets (save New York) in the league would get some of the top players and TV time. Occasionally a different team would pop up and make a run at a title, but following the Pau Gasol deal to the Lakers, it was clear that the NBA had an eye on only a few teams and rivalries. It also became apparent that the Pistons were not part of the league’s larger plans.
Joe Dumars was heavily criticised for avoiding the 2010 free agency period by making an early move at Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Can you imagine if the Pistons were one of the teams courting the NBA superstar? Even if the Pistons were the only team in the league able to pay James, I would have expected LeBron to have made the move to an European team instead. Detroit, much like Cleveland, does not have much to offer big name free agents besides money. That is the reality for most teams in this town.
With a labor stoppage likely on the doorstep next season for the NBA, it seems that this year’s free agent deals may be all for nothing. The teams that don’t blow their payroll this offseason will likely benefit the most when it comes to the games following the stoppage. By then, who knows who will be running the ship at the Palace?