SALT LAKE CITY — If you hadn’t noticed, there are definitely signs that the NBA’s free agency period is quickly approaching.
Even Sacramento is jumping on the LeBron James bandwagon — assuming, that is, the self-appointed king opts out of his Cleveland contract as many suspect he will.
The fun part about free agency is all the rumors that fly around leading up to the July 1 negotiating window. Well, that part is fun for fans — not so much for the players who have to deal with off-based reports, nor for the teams who are nervously biting their nails in anticipation and certainly not for reporters who are expected to chase down and make sense of all the speculation swirling about.
Jazz fans had to deal with that madness in Utah a year ago when Gordon Hayward was front and center on the free-agency stage.
The tricky part for media members is that anybody can start a rumor that seems legit — from an agent hoping to drum up attention for his client, to someone in the player’s camp who’s trying to have fun by spreading truths that are sometimes half-baked (could be a friend, a parent or the second cousin of someone who cleans toilets in the agent’s office and swears he overheard juicy details). Sometimes players can even change their minds so leaked information that is legit at the time the scoop is tweeted can change drastically by the next day and then again the following day.
That, by the way, is what happened last summer when Hayward did his Miami-Boston-Utah-via-San-Diego recruiting trip. At every stop, the former Jazz star told people close to him he thought that place might be his future home. It had long been rumored he was Boston-bound to reunite with his old college coach, which ended up being the case, but his camp claims the decision was a tough one and not made until late in the game.
The bizarreness that played out — with it being announced he was headed to Boston before it was denied and then undenied via his carefully crafted blog — was a worst-case scenario for just about everybody involved. Well, except for Boston. The Celtics got him, so they didn’t mind that things played out like they did in that regard.
LeBron’s impending free agency could be an even bigger circus, involving the likes of the Lakers (4/13), Cavaliers (13/4), Rockets (15/2), Sixers (10/1), Celtics (18/1), Spurs (20/1), Clippers (25/1), Knicks (30/1) and Heat (40/1). At least those are the teams (and current odds) most likely to attract James to their franchise, according to CBSSports.com.
ESPN, however, claims sources say James isn't going to go through the "pomp and circumstance" or repeat The Decision mistake, according to Stephen A. Smith. And he supposedly has his list narrowed down to two teams.
CBS sports writer James Herbert offered some wise advice for fans heading into this wacky period, which a co-worker labeled as “LeBron James week.”
“It comes down to really basic media literacy,” Herbert said during an online interview. “We have to separate when people are speculating, opining, on what he should do versus reporting on what he actually will do. I think at this point nobody knows for sure what LeBron James’ priorities are and how he ranks these potential destinations with free agency approaching.”
James didn’t help by changing — GASP! — the avatar on his Twitter page.
James isn’t the only big target this offseason, of course. Paul George is another star who is going to attract a lot of attention (from teams and everyone else). We were reminded of that Monday when Sports Illustrated somehow ended up with what reportedly is a leaked pitch by the Lakers to George. The text of the video pitch to George, who grew up in Palmdale, California, before going to Fresno State, was included in an SI article:
When you were just a kid
In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale
We were dreaming too.
While you dreamt, we built — built for your arrival
And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world's greatest.
Life's most powerful dreams are the one we realize ourselves.
The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too
Some believe the kids from Palmdale and Akron will even end up on the same team here soon. Could that be what Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss was referring to with this tweet?
No really, who knows? Our reporters would like to call and confirm.
In the meantime, we’ll all just sit back, relax, listen to a lot of words — most that mean absolutely nothing at all but offer entertainment — and be grateful our Fourth of July celebrations aren’t going to be affected by a decision made (and unmade and made again) by the kid from Brownsburg.