Hey, the shape of that gift sure looks a lot like
Of course, just because there are fancy packages to be opened doesn't mean front-office executives won't wince when they see the names on the wrappers. "FROM LEBRON JAMES" can only mean "TO" one team.
James may very well return to the
"When you recruit," said one general manager, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be considered tampering, "all you have to do is turn someone's head for a minute."
The decisions of James, Anthony and potentially Bosh to opt out of their contracts could make a handful of executives merrier than expected when free agency begins at 9 p.m. PDT Monday.
The wooing will commence with phone calls and meetings and creative enticements (hopefully more effective than the "STAY" signs that couldn't convince
In keeping with the Christmas-in-July theme, here's a look at the dreamy gifts, worthy splurges and stocking stuffers teams will be trying to load up on in the coming days:
Everything starts with James, who has already dined with Heat teammates
One likely target in a stay-together scenario would be
If James decides to leave the team he led to two championships and four Finals forays, possible destinations would include Houston, Chicago, the Clippers or Cleveland. One front-office executive said it wasn't a given that James stays with the Heat.
"Whenever a player opts out, it creates uncertainty," said the executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because he could not publicly discuss free agents. "You look at Dwight last year, he left the
"Players these days come up through the AAU circles where they like being recruited, they like being shown everything they can be shown. It's a fun, sort of ego thing for them but there's also something real there because I don't think anything's ever a sure thing."
Anthony acknowledged as much last year when he said he intended to explore free agency for the first time. The
Dallas is probably a longshot to land either player considering its history of failed pitches to elite free agents (see
There are two other transformative talents available this summer.
Lance Stephenson sure can be maddening, but there will be plenty of teams willing to shrug off idiosyncrasies such as blowing in an opponent's ears and gyrating on the court as long as the 23-year-old continues to blow by defenders the way Stephenson did last season. And did we mention he's only 23?
The Knicks have already turned
It sounds pretty enticing until you consider that Gasol, who made $19.2 million last season, would have to take a roughly 75% pay cut because the Knicks are so far over the salary cap.
The Lakers have plenty of money to bring back Gasol, who turns 34 on July 6, at a reduced rate, but there are a handful of younger centers who would be better long-term fits, including
Hawes, who made $6.5 million last season, might be an option to fill the Clippers' backup big-man needs if he's willing to take a pay cut.
Chandler Parsons and
This is where the Lakers will do most of their shopping considering they have only four players under contract for next season. Fortunately, there are lots of quality options.
Need a point guard? Try
A shooing guard? There's
How about a serviceable big man?
Clippers President and Coach
Was his name Darren Collison?
"Yeah," Rivers said, "that's a good name."
Just one of many that could leave executives feeling like they got what they wanted on their list.