The Story: LeBron James could possibly, maybe, [insert other qualifier here] meet with the Golden State Warriors this summer, according to a report by ESPN’s Chris Haynes that dropped late Wednesday night, jolting basketball Twitter awake like it just took a shot of espresso.
Who Does It Benefit? We’ve reached the part of the LeBron Sweepstakes when anything goes, when rumors can be started with a whisper, and when the entire NBA might just call it quits if the latest has even a chance of coming to fruition.
Spoiler alert: LeBron is not joining the Warriors. Below the eye-popping headline, the report slips in this nugget: “There is no indication that Golden State is evaluating such options to acquire the Cleveland Cavaliers star at this time.” So there. The question becomes: Who does this rumor help? As the Cavs stumble in the East, where Boston and Toronto feel like more trustworthy contenders at the moment, the rumor makes LeBron seem even more valuable, giving a wake-up call to the Cavs that they need to make moves to both win the East and appease LeBron into staying. It’s a power move by LeBron’s camp, if it indeed came from them.
.@ChrisBHaynes tells us now on @ESPNLosAngeles if these teams had a max slot LeBron would listen to them b/c he respects them. Teams are the Warriors, Spurs, & less so the Heat (b/c he's been there done that). Wouldn't rule out Lakers, Cavs & Rockets. No Clippers.— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) February 1, 2018
Of course, this also benefits the Warriors, specifically majority owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers. To the basketball world, they look like both geniuses and hoarders of talent, always angling to extend their dynasty. The only impediment? The ability to clear enough space to give LeBron the max. Here’s where things get interesting: As the report outlines, the easiest way to land LeBron would be to do a sign-and-trade in which LeBron heads to the Bay Area in exchange for Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, while Shaun Livingston moves elsewhere and Kevin Durant declines his player option and takes less money. Simple enough. And if you’re the Cavs, and you know LeBron is more than halfway out the door, why not offer to take this deal anyway?
Who Does This Hurt? Everyone associated with the Cavaliers, especially owner Dan Gilbert, who might actually be better off selling the team, which was rumored a few weeks ago. LeBron has all the power, and Gilbert is at his whim. In one way or another, we all are, too. LeBron is getting to troll all of us with one sentence that doesn’t even have to come from him. Imagine having that kind of influence.
Durant also isn’t benefiting from this story. He’d have to take less money! That’s no fun. Meanwhile, for Thompson, imagine going from the best team in the world to the leftovers in Cleveland. A top-five shooter of all time deserves better than that.
Finally, this would really hurt Adam Silver and the league. This would be like if FC Barcelona added Cristiano Ronaldo and re-signed Neymar. Silver would be hard-pressed to use a David Sternian move, vetoing the trade for “basketball reasons” to maintain at least a semblance of competition and parity in a league that doesn’t have it as presently constituted. I can’t even imagine LeBron in Golden State colors. Silver would need to save us all from the NBA apocalypse.