I’m reminded of the movie Hoosiers when coach Norman Dale tells his team before the semifinals, “I’m sure going to the state finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.”
The Houston Rockets landing LeBron James seems just that — beyond our wildest dreams. It would be a daunting, near-impossible task to land the best player in the league in his prime, so it could be better off left unsaid.
However, the current scenario demands that the subject has to at least be broached.
James can opt out of his contract by the end of the month to become a free agent. Miami was soundly thrashed in the NBA Finals. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski says, “One more team to watch in this with Lebron is Houston because … they can create the salary cap space. Would it appeal to LeBron to go play with James Harden, Dwight Howard? I don’t know that it would, but I think Houston will certainly try to get in that mix.”
So here we go.
LeBron James is a two-time champion, four-time MVP and five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team. This is the one player that doesn’t just provide answers for Houston but actually changes the questions: “Does Player X fit with Harden and Howard?” becomes “Do Harden and Howard fit with LeBron James?”
The Rockets can offer LeBron a roster with two superstars – one inside, one out – in the prime of their careers and several role players (Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones) who appear to be substantial upgrades on their counterparts in Miami. A starting lineup of LeBron-Harden-Howard-Beverley-Jones would be ridiculous, one that would be a giant leap forward on both ends of the ball for the Rockets. Houston would instantly become the favorites to win not just the West but the 2014-15 NBA crown.
While it’s unclear if James would have interest in combining forces with Howard and Harden specifically, he is not a stranger to being a teammate to either player. LeBron played with Howard on the 2008 Olympic squad and with Harden on the 2012 team. He has spoken highly of Harden before, calling him his “little bro” after the trade that sent him to the Rockets and noting that Harden had “made superstar status” after a Rockets-Heat game in February 2013.
No matter how crazy, the Rockets would do whatever they could if it meant reeling in James. Need every penny to sign him? Scrap the Chandler Parsons-restricted free agency plan and contracts they’d like to keep become cut bait. LeBron would come if he could play here with Carmelo Anthony? Suddenly you consider putting Harden on the trading block.
That’s how absurd you would get to land the world’s top player.
LeBron currently has just about everything he could want: A glamour location, top dollar on his contract, an easy path to the Finals in a creampuff conference, a coach he’s comfortable with, star friends by his side and multiple championships. It’s hard to see him leaving all that, especially with the possibility of simply “opting in” for one more year in Miami and giving Pat Riley 12 more months to retool.
But LeBron has made a controversial decision for the purpose of immediately winning titles before. If he senses the future isn’t as bright in Miami (a big “if”), Houston would have to be high on that list of ready-made situations where he could continue to win and compete at a high level. The Rockets also could make an interesting pitch in that with one stroke of the pen, LeBron could turn the San Antonio Spurs from NBA champions to second-best team in their own state, relegating the Dallas Mavericks, another team LeBron lost to in the Finals, to a distant third.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey will definitely do his due diligence on this possibility, but in the event the Rockets do make some ground with LeBron, it seems unlikely that Miami would play ball on a sign-and-trade. The Rockets would have to go the cap room route and unload Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.
But while the Rockets do offer a great situation for LeBron, all of us are in the dark about his plans. Until he decides to actually opt out and there is any evidence of interest in Houston from him, this is just a guessing game.
Ben DuBose also contributed to this profile.