It was probably inevitable that it would come to this. Two days before LeBron James officially becomes a free agent everyone and their mother is offering a breathless report on where the King will be playing basketball next season.
The New York Times spoke to an anonymous NBA executive (outgoing Nets president Rod Thorn, perhaps?) who said that it was a "done deal" that James and Chris Bosh would be signing with the Bulls. That's going to be hard because another NBA exec said that it was a mere "formality" that Bosh would wind up playing with the Heat next season. What will Bosh do when the Bulls play the Heat? Automatic power forward in a game that's always being played 5-on-4?
Noted cheese doodle lover Stephen A. Smith has another take on the whole affair, however. He told Dan Patrick on Monday that it was "highly likely" Bosh would go to Miami, bring James with him and form a trio of terror with Dwyane Wade. That's a big departure for Smith. Just 10 days ago he had James ticketed for the Knicks. You might call such wildly varied speculation irresponsible rumor mongering, but we applaud a man with so little regard for the way he's viewed by others that he's not afraid to make bold and contradictory pronouncements at regular intervals.
What of the Knicks? No one's sending James to the Garden and James Dolan is cited as a big reason why James isn't down with the orange and blue. That seems a bit odd since winning in the NBA takes an owner willing to spend money at every turn and Dolan is certainly that. Other teams have similar owners but the Bulls have proven time and again that they aren't willing to spend the extra dime something that would have to be a consideration along with Dolan's personality/reputation if ownership is playing a role in the decision making process.
It's probably a good thing that James has placed so much stock on growing his brand overseas. This process is going to wind up making him a hated figure in large chunks of the country, a rather ill-advised strategy for someone looking to move product in the United States.
Search around the internet for a while and you'll find someone saying that James, Bosh, Wade and all the other free agents-to-be are signing with just about every team in the league. It's hard to fault people for getting too hyped up about this because it isn't every year that an entire professional sports league is on the verge of being totally remade because of the decisions of a few players. Embrace the excitement but, for your own sanity, take all the proclamations of certainty with a few grains of salt.
As previously noted, none of the current predictions have James landing with the Knicks. Much of the recent coverage of our local squad has been focused on how they'll be meeting with Joe Johnson and Amar'e Stoudemire before going to Akron for their big sit-down with James. Since the team has been adamant that the creation of cap room was not all about getting James, they've got to have a backup plan in place when and if he decides to play elsewhere. Johnson and Stoudemire have both played well for Mike D'Antoni in the past, which makes a reunion a sensible idea so long as the Knicks find themselves a point guard at some point.
Sensible though it may be, it is hard to imagine anyone throwing a parade for Donnie Walsh if that's the haul for this offseason. You can rationalize things any way you want, but this has always been about James (or Wade, although he's always been a secondary figure on local radars) and everything else will feel like a failure. That doesn't mean it won't work out well for the Knicks, although they'd still lack the superstar player that every NBA champion in the last 30 years other than the 2004 Pistons have had, but it does mean it will be perceived differently than it would in a year without James on the market.
That's the way the stage is set with a little more than 48 hours to go until the curtain goes up on a show that's been years in the making.