The summer blockbuster isn’t dead, but there’s no Jaws, Jurassic Park, Star Wars or The Dark Knight flying into a theater near you in 2014. Our highest-grossing film is the third X-Men entry in the past four summers. Tom Cruise is starring in a well-reviewed action flick that finished $20 million behind a tearjerker about a cancer-stricken teenage amputee on its opening weekend.
Fortunately, there’s an even better avenue for entertainment if you’re into explosions, fantastic drama and money essentially being lit on fire. If sequels are your thing – and who ISN’T excited about The Expendables 3? – even better.
NBA free agency has been more compelling than its six-month regular season for a while, but when LeBron James is the centerpiece for the second time in four summers, it becomes a whole different animal. Superstars equal titles in the NBA far more than any other sport, and with the biggest one of all threatening to alter the league’s landscape again, it’s no wonder the rumors, sources and speculation of the sport’s insiders are spiraling out of control.
But, as Ian Darke so eloquently crowed after Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time goal that propelled the United States to the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup … you could not WRITE a script like this.
You know the background by now. Northeast Ohio boy drafted by local team, becomes two-time MVP, game’s most dominant force, global icon, can’t win city’s first championship in half-century, leaves for greener pastures in poorly designed, nationally televised display of narcissism, owner of local team pens childish letter of betrayal in childish font, ties severed for good.
Two titles and four Finals later, he’s back on the market. And Cleveland, with the fewest wins in the league since James’ departure, is stunningly a frontrunner for a reunion that I dare say would be even more unlikely than Cory and Topanga getting back together.
Setting aside owner Dan Gilbert’s comic sans charade and Cavaliers fans – myself included – being quick to judge James as Mata Hari, the return would make sense on a number of levels. James has made no secret of his fondness for the area in which he was raised, and maintains a mansion in an Akron suburb. His wife, apparently allergic to the sun, ocean and drinks with umbrellas, apparently prefers Northeast Ohio to South Florida.
Most importantly, the Heat have little flexibility. The cracks began to surface in their NBA Finals no-show against the Spurs. Dwyane Wade isn’t getting new knees, and while a roster returning James, Wade, Chris Bosh and some spare parts may be favored to get out of the East, Miami would likely be swallowed up in subsequent Finals against five or six superior clubs from the West.
The Cavaliers have lucked into three No. 1 overall picks in the past four years, and can offer a core of Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, an offensive innovator in new coach David Blatt and a cache of draft picks and young, tradeable assets. Might some combination of Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and picks be enough for Minnesota to let go of an unhappy Kevin Love? If James climbs aboard and Love lets it be known he’d actually want to play in Cleveland, the Timberwolves may have little choice but to comply.
But that’s all speculation grounded in some realm of logic. Let’s lay out exactly why NOTHING is more entertaining than NBA free agency. With James as the star, Bosh, Wade, Anthony as the supporting characters and Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry and Trevor Ariza lurking in the shadows, the following developments are what, in the past five days, have turned a James return from unlikely to possible. WARNING: Surprising levels of hilarity ahead.
Let’s start Thursday with a tweet from Cleveland sports radio personality Joe Lull.
Now let’s take a massive leap to one Friday from rapper and record producer Q-Tip, late of A Tribe Called Quest.
Is this getting crazy yet? No? How about this from a Cleveland-area personal trainer.
Or this, from someone within the Cavs’ marketing wing?
Now we’re on to Saturday, and a tweet from former Cleveland radio personality Kendall Lewis.
Then, perhaps in the ultimate sign that the apocalypse was indeed upon us, a Cleveland-area cupcake shop weighed in.
On Sunday, word broke of Gilbert’s private plane heading to South Florida, and predictably, Twitter connected the dots. Gilbert was on his way to make amends with LeBron, until he tweeted that he was enjoying the weather in his backyard in Michigan. Hmmm. No worries, the plane still arrived with general manager David Griffin and Cav-turned-Heat-turned-Cavs liaison Zydrunas Ilgauskas, surely there to bring James back home.
Until that, also, was debunked Monday afternoon.
Nonetheless, the whispers and angling and sourcing and silliness among those, um, LOOSELY connected to James were in full motion. We’d yet to hear from any of the key newsbreakers on the possibility of a James return drawing closer. Until …
The news cycle continued late Sunday night and Monday. USA Today reported that James was set to meet with Pat Riley this week to discuss his decision, and possibly, as Brian Windhorst speculated, to tell him he’d made one. Adrian Wojnarowski, the demigod of breaking NBA news, floated the possibility that James’ agent was pushing the prospect of LeBron-to-Cleveland Part II.
Later Monday, we learned the Heat – quiet up until now with Wade and Bosh non-committal about what salary cut they’ll accept to stay – agreed to deals with Josh McRoberts and a seemingly washed-up Danny Granger. It’s unclear if those were Riley’s desperation moves to keep James in an effort to recreate the 2010-11 Indiana Pacers roster – 37-45! – or merely the first transactions in a world in which he isn’t operating with the game’s biggest star.
By the time you read this, there certainly will be more layers off the onion. Perhaps Anthony will sign with the Lakers or return to the Knicks. Maybe Bosh jumps ship and takes the Rockets’ max offer of four years and $88 million. Gilbert’s plane could be dispatched to Canada to pick up Justin Bieber and Drake in one last-bit recruiting effort. Clam the psychic World Cup-prognosticating clam might make a prediction on where James will land.