The Lakers may have competition in their NBA free agency pursuit of LeBron James next summer in the form of LeBron’s former team, the Miami Heat.
On ESPN, NBA Lockdown podcast host Jorge Sedano said a LeBron – Heat reunion was a decent possibility.
“Pat Riley is a go big or go home kind of guy,” Sedano said (via SliceMiami.com). “I look at Pat and he’s saying to himself I want to create enough mobility for myself with my roster and some flexibility where I can have some cap space for next year in the big 2018 free agency class and have some tradeable commodities to be able to maybe create some space because I think – and this is just my guess – Pat Riley’s trying for a LeBron reunion. He’s trying for the banana boat tour, the banana boat boys, in Miami.”
LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are all eligible to become free agents next summer. LeBron has said in the past that he wants to close out his career playing with his buddies.
Riley has had something of a falling out with LeBron and even more so – Wade. But the Riley – LeBron dynamic seems hunky-dory compared to the relationship LeBron currently has with Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. Also, Riley has spent the last few months seemingly trying to smooth things over with Wade through the media. From a Wright Thompson piece on ESPN.com in April:
Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently.
“I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” Riley said. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”
Bringing back LeBron and the banana boat boys would certainly qualify as competitive, and Riley can offer three things the Lakers cannot. He can sell LeBron and Co. on the fact that they’ve already made this work in Miami, and second, the Heat are in a better position to “win now” than the Lakers are. Hassan Whiteside is 28, Goran Dragic is 31 and Justise Winslow (21) is further along in his development than any one of the Lakers’ young studs.
Third, Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra has emerged as one of the most revered head coaches in the NBA, and he has the respect of LeBron. The jury is still very much out on Luke Walton as a head coach.
What the Lakers have going in their favor, however, is likely more important. It’s that they’ll have one of the more favorable cap situations in the league next summer. They current have four players entering the final year of their contracts and Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball will still be on their rookie deals.
The Heat would have to shed a ton of salary to even entertain landing the banana boat crew. Maybe another fun sign-and-trade with Gilbert and the Cavs? Let’s party like it’s 2010.