Despite Stephen A Smith’s report that LeBron James could return to Miami if Cleveland wins a championship, the Miami Heat should not consider the re-union.
The Miami Heat possibly got the four best seasons of LeBron James’ career. That led to two NBA championships and four straight Finals appearances. That is something the Heat can brag about forever. They stole the four best seasons of James’ career from Cleveland.
While that four-year run was like nothing else in basketball, a LeBron James return to Miami seems like a long-shot, especially with how the two sides ended their marriage.
It seemed like a long-shot until yesterday, when Stephen A. Smith threw out a new hot rumor that stole the Internet for most of Monday morning:
"“I’ll drop one other tidbit of information, because people have been ignoring what I’ve been saying. I’ve hinted around it for months as you well know. But I’m going to say this again.LeBron James promised the city of Cleveland, ‘I’m coming back to bring you that elusive title that has escaped this city since 1964.’ He never said anything about staying once he does accomplish that.I’m in Miami last week. I’m in Miami a few months ago. Skip Bayless, I’m hearing about a return to Miami if this man wins. He ain’t going nowhere if he loses. But, if he wins, his options are open. LA, but especially Miami, a return to South Beach.Look man, there’s a lot going on. And there’s a lot riding on him winning. Losing changes everything, because it keeps there in Cleveland. But more importantly, it keeps him stuck, because he knows he can’t leave until he fulfills his promise. And if you can’t because you’re not a champion, that’s far worse than just choosing to stay because you want to.It’s going to get very interesting. Keep your eyes on it.”"
Smith is generally polarizing figure, featured on ESPN’s infamous First Take with Skip Bayless. He has a tendency to go over the top with his screaming and intense perusal of the Thesaurus when opining about current sports events.
However, when Smith reports a rumor or drops tidbits of news, people tend to listen, as he has been a reliable source during his career. Remember, Smith was the first one on the possibility that the Big Three could come together in Miami. So his report, while still a long-shot, is not something that should be ruled out.
While Riley and James are not on the best of terms, James came to Miami one time for friend Dwyane Wade, he could certainly return to play alongside his buddy, once again.
However, the Heat should not be looking for a LeBron re-union just for the sake of a star returning to Miami. Just like most sequels, this would not go as well as the original.
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If such was the case, LeBron, as we all know, would already have one foot out the door. While the salary cap is expected to rise dramatically this off-season, LeBron is expected to sign a one-year contract to take advantage of the cap situation that will rise even more next off-season.
According to Business Insider, LeBron would be in line to earn $110 million more on a max contract in 2017 opposed to signing one in 2016. His max contract in 2016 would begin at $29 million, while a max contract in 2017 would start at $35.6 million a year.
That would be a dangerous bet for a 33-year old player, which is typically around the time older NBA player start to wear down, especially one with the mileage LeBron has put on himself in his first 13-NBA seasons.
While LeBron is still an extremely impressive player, we have already seen a dip in his production as he enters his 30’s. In fact, he has seen a dip in production in his numbers since the 2012-2013 NBA season, his age-28 season.
In that 2012-2013 year, he posted a 31.6 PER, .640 true shooting percentage, and 19.6 win shares. That numbers were 29.3 PER, .649 TSP, and 15.9 wins in 2013-2014, his final season with Miami.
Last year, LeBron posted a 25.9 PER, .577 TSP, and 10.4 win shares. This year, his numbers bounced back a little, at 27.5 PER, .588 TSP, and 13.6 win shares.
All of this is not to say LeBron is not a good player anymore. It just points out that he has undergone regression as he ages, as does any player. Just because of his greatness, he is not immune to a decline in production as he ages.
That is something the Heat, or any NBA team signing LeBron needs to be weary of.
The great Michael Jordan posted one of his more impressive seasons during his age-32 season, however, he declined each of the next two seasons before he eventually retired at the age of 34.
Kobe Bryant‘s last great season was the 2010-2011 season, his age 32-season, before injuries and father time finally caught up with the Lakers star.
While the signing of a 26-year old LeBron James had little to no risk and unlimited upside for the Heat, the signing of a 32 or 33-year old LeBron has a ton of risk, with little reward for the franchise.
LeBron gave the Heat franchise four of his best seasons he will have in his career. The Heat should be content with that and move on, just like LeBron moved on from Miami two off-seasons ago.
While the Toronto Raptors have somehow managed to tie the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavs at two a piece last night, this news makes Heat fans wish even more that the Heat and Cavs could be locked into this series as well.
The headlines would likely overwhelm the on-court series.