Now that the NBA season is over, the LeBron James free-agency watch has begun. Every team will be lining up to make a pitch at him. Whether he opts into his lucrative contract and demands a trade or decides to enter free agency on his own, LeBron will have his pick of teams around the NBA. He can go wherever he wants.
Except for Miami. The Heat shouldn't be an option — not because LeBron wouldn't come back, but because the Heat doesn't need him right now. For the good of the franchise, it's best they aren't involved. Been there, done that. Good luck, LeBron. We don't have room for you here.
In a vacuum, adding LeBron James is always a no-brainer. Any team with LBJ practically guarantees itself a place in the NBA Finals. Their team will be the talk of the sports world. Everyone wants a ticket to LeBron's games, and every player wants a spot on his roster. A closer look, however, reveals that adding LeBron to the Heat would be a lot like smoking crack: a euphoric high right now, a regret-filled hangover afterward, and negative ripple effects for years to come.
Word is, Miami has no expectations that LeBron is coming back. That makes it sound like the Heat would be open to it, though. That would be a mistake. Miami is still picking up the pieces from LeBron's last (amazing) stay. Draft picks are gone. Big contracts the team gave out in a desperate attempt to stay relevant have been given out. There are no more assets to help surround LeBron with the talent he would need to compete against the likes of the Golden State Warriors or a healthy Boston Celtics.
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If LeBron came back, it would be a disaster, not now, but later. The Heat would win a lot now with LeBron. After he left again, though, Miami wouldn't win for a long, long time. As the Cavs and Heat have both found out, having James on your team doesn't come for free. You spend all of your vacation money in one day when LeBron is with you. There is no rationing.
Even a meeting with LeBron would be a mistake. Sure, the Heat and its fans moved on and are over it, but it can't be forgotten that LeBron did Pat Riley and the Heat dirty in 2014. He didn't return texts or calls. He played defense against the Heat in free agency, costing the team Paul Gasol. He didn't even entertain a sign-and-trade option that would have given the Heat something in return when he left, something that would definitely be on the table if he left Cleveland for the second time. Having already made a decision, he invited Riley and the Heat to Las Vegas just to watch them beg.
All may be forgiven, but none is forgotten. The Heat can't afford to pay the price for LeBron. Miami doesn't have the current money or assets, and further borrowing from the team's future would only make things worse when he inevitably left again. Second-place NBA Finals appearances aren't worth enough to beg LeBron.
The Heat should pass on the pursuit of a LeBron-Miami reunion because it's the best thing for the franchise — no matter how crazy it sounds.