LeBron James tells SI he’s chasing Michael Jordan’s ghost

 

lebron-james-si-cover-title   PROMISE KEPT.

That’s the saying on LeBron James’ new rubber band he wears on his wrist since delivering the city of Cleveland its first title in 52 years the night his Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

James’ old band, one he wore during Game 7, read I PROMISE. The new one was a gift from the man who runs his foundation.

That story is part of an exclusive interview James gave Sports Illustrated – same publication for which James wrote his exclusive ‘I’m Coming Home’ article two summers ago when he decided to return to Cleveland after four season with Miami.

But this story deals with the next chapter in James’ life after keeping that promise.

“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing,” he tells SI’s Lee Jenkins. “The ghost played in Chicago.”

That ghost is Michael Jordan.

James appears on the SI cover for the 25th time for the story, the cover line reading “One Promise Kept. Greater Goals in Mind.”

What James is chasing is both tangible and intangible.

The tangible: Jordan’s rings, of which he counts six. James now is halfway there, the first two coming in 2012 and 2013 when teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

The intangible: Jordan’s stature the greatest player who ever lived, a subjective title in which James clearly is motivated to enter the argument.

“My career is totally different than Michael Jordan’s,” he says. “What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it’s cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”

Not only is James halfway to Jordan’s ring count but he’s also halfway to Jordan’s title for the most times on the cover of SI. Jordan has graced 50 covers. James’ 25 is third behind Muhammad Ali’s 40. Of those, nine came while James was a member of the Heat, including when he was named SI’s 2012 Sportsman of the Year.

[Heat extend broadcast partnership with 790 The Ticket]

[Why Russell Westbrook to the Heat isn’t as crazy as it sounds]

 

 

Why Russell Westbrook to the Heat isn’t as crazy as it sounds

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands on the court during game one of the NBA Western Conference Final against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on May 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands on the court during game one of the NBA Western Conference Final against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on May 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Russell Westbrook was left “angry and hurt,” according to ESPN, when friend and teammate Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors without so much as a phone call to inform him of his decision.

Though the Thunder did add 24-year-old guard Victor Oladipo this summer, it came at the expense of another of Westbrook’s long-time teammates, Serge Ibaka.

As the team looks to the future, Westbrook has been non-committal to that process, with initial reports stating that there was “no chance” he would sign an extension, according to TNT.

From there, it seemed that the Thunder had turned their attention to trading the 27-year-old point guard, but those plans have halted as Westbrook reportedly doesn’t want to be traded and wants to play out the final year of his contract in Oklahoma City.

With the possibility that Westbrook’s time with the Thunder may be coming to an end, could a new chapter with the Heat be on the horizon?

Despite losing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the past three offseasons, it’s not crazy to think that the Heat have a shot at landing Westbrook. Here are four factors the Heat have working in their favor.

Pat Riley

Anytime that a player is available, whether through free agency or trade, Pat Riley should not be ruled out.

The man that helped construct the Wade-James-Bosh Big Three enters 2016-17 with a roster of unknowns. From the health situation of Chris Bosh to the roles that the Heat’s young players will have, the Heat and Riley won’t be sure what they’ll get out of their roster until the season starts.

While some of his efforts will be put toward making the most of what he currently has, Riley always has an eye on the future. When LeBron James left in 2014, Riley turned his attention to 2016, and although this offseason didn’t work out as he had hoped, it’d be wise to assume that he had a fallback plan. Riley has failed to land the crowning jewels of the past two free-agent classes, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant, on Miami. He did, however, secure meetings with both players when, in reality, he had very little to offer.

Despite the Heat’s perceived shortcomings, it is clear that NBA players respect Pat Riley and that respect could go a long way in helping the Heat land their next franchise superstar.

The possibility of a trade

As mentioned earlier, the Thunder have entertained the idea moving Westbrook in a trade. Though the Heat may not have the assets to pull off a deal for the point guard, they have enough to at least throw their hat in the ring. The Heat have several valuable and controllable pieces, including Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic and Oklahoma native Josh Richardson. In addition to that trio, the Thunder may see value in young pieces like Rodney McGruder, Briante Weber or Willie Reed as the season progresses and their roles expand.

Though the Heat don’t have the drafts picks that other teams looking to trade for Westbrook will have, they still have several pieces that could get a conversation started.

The Heat’s young core

Should the Heat fail to acquire Westbrook’s services via trade, they can still try to add the explosive guard in free agency.

The Heat’s pitch would be simple and it would revolve around their young core. All of the players previously mentioned as potential trade pieces can be used as selling points to lure Westbrook to Miami. Though there may be no resolution to the Bosh blood-clot saga by next summer, the Heat may be in a better position to sell Westbrook on the future. By next offseason, both Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson will have second seasons under their belts, and their young players will all have logged NBA minutes and had a chance to showcase their abilities and potential. As has been shown with Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside, sometimes NBA players just need a chance and some playing time to show their worth.

The Eastern Conference

Between the superteam in Golden State and the powerhouse in San Antonio, the road to the NBA Finals in the Western Conference is a tough one. Throw in the at-times-confusing, but always dangerous Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets and the improved, up-and-coming Memphis Grizzles, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers, and any Western team hoping to make a deep playoff run has its work cut out for it.

Though the Eastern Conference is top heavy, there is upward mobility if a team can add a valuable piece. The Heat can look to sell Westbrook on the vision that he is their missing piece that could help them make a Finals run.

Also, the idea of not having to match up against Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley may be enticing to Westbrook.

 

Are the Miami Heat in position to sign a max player in 2017?

Miami Heat president Pat Riley (AP Photo/ Pat Carter)
Miami Heat president Pat Riley (AP Photo/ Pat Carter)

The Heat picked financial flexibility over Dwyane Wade.

After missing out on Kevin Durant, Miami’s top priority this offeason has been to preserve cap space for next summer. So it’s not a surprise the Heat built their 15-man roster with short-term contracts.

[Tim Duncan retires: His link to the Miami Heat]

[Despite messy breakup, Dwyane Wade still loves Pat Riley]

Miami currently has about $91 million invested in 11 players for the 2017-18 season. With the salary cap projected to jump to $102 million next summer, that would leave the Heat with about $11 million of cap space. Continue reading “Are the Miami Heat in position to sign a max player in 2017?”