The Daily Quickie from July 6, 2006:
Two Words For You:
Who else finds LeBron's silence about the "max" deal he has been offered from the Cavs to be the summer's most intriguing story line?
(Well, certainly not fans in Ohio, who could be forgiven for being in a panic right now.)
The offer was made days ago; Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade already have gone public with their enthusiasm to re-sign with their teams.
But not LeBron. Not yet.
So let's read between the lines of his decision not to publicly embrace the team's mega-offer to the NBA's megastar:
Does he really want to play in Cleveland, some half-baked market, for the Cavs, some half-baked franchise already being lapped by competitors in the East planning for the descent of Detroit and sunset of Shaq?
I don't care about previous statements of loyalty LeBron has made about Ohio. Actions are louder than words:
His silence indicates that he's at least considering his options, which have to include playing in a market worthy of his status as the NBA's biggest star -- say, New York or L.A.?
But Kobe rules L.A. And the Knicks are a mess, both in the standings and in the payroll. That leaves the intrigue for LeBron of playing for his buddy and mentor, Jay-Z, who happens to be owner of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets.
Maybe that's a pipe dream from someone who owns a tiny slice of real estate in Brooklyn and would like to see the market get a "LeBron bump."
But even that pie/sky theory is a better explanation today than any Cavs fan can offer for why LeBron hasn't said "yes" to Cleveland yet.
The longer LeBron waits to agree to the Cavs' offer, the more intense the questions (and theories) will get. Here are LeBron's options:
(1) Simple: Sign the max deal with the Cavs and lock in the big money for five years.
(2) Complicated: Sign a 1-year deal with the Cavs and be a restricted free agent in '07. It gets messy, but effectively, he'd trade two years of uncertainty (and low dollars) for the glory of unrestricted choice in '08.
Here's the X-factor that should have Cavs fans worried: Cash on hand.
It's not as if LeBron needs the money now. He easily could live off his endorsement money and wait out his unrestricted freedom.
Could he get injured between now and then? Sure. But I suspect even a half-speed LeBron is still worth a huge payday to the team of his choice.
The bottom line is that LeBron can end all the rumors with a simple, MJ-like message:
In the absence of saying that, it's way too easy to argue that his real message is:
I want out.