BOSTON – Golden State once again steamrolled towards another NBA title while leaving LeBron James and the Cavaliers as the last bit of roadkill on the journey.
But the Warriors’ third title in four years was a secondary topic of discussion as James’ impending free agency was to the surprise of no one, the center of attention.
The future of James will dominate the NBA rumor mill for weeks with several teams – including the Celtics – being talked up as a possible landing spot.
But James coming to Boston will require a bit of role reversal to come to fruition.
In the past, teams have gone through a series of salary cap gymnastics, spending months, sometimes years, shedding salary to create enough space to bring James into the fold.
Boston hasn’t done anything like that with an eye towards acquiring James and won’t even consider going down that road unless James makes it absolutely crystal clear that he wants to be a Celtic.
Success at the highest level tends to travel with James, in part because of what’s already in place but also because of what – and who – he brings with him.
In Boston, the only thing James needs to bring is his ridiculously impactful game.
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Because with or without James, Boston is built to compete for an NBA title now and in the near future.
The Cavs have very little financial flexibility to make major upgrades to their roster, which few envision will be good enough to contend for a title next season even if James decides to return.
Trades in Cleveland are always possible, but who’s really trying to holla at George Hill for $19 million? Or Jordan Clarkson, who has two years and $25.9 million left on his deal? J.R. Smith is owed $14.7 million next season, but considering his up-and-down, erratic – no, make that bad – decision-making...there’s not a viable market for him, either.
And while the Los Angeles Lakers have been the most aggressive team in terms of creating space to make a strong run at James, the Lakers will have to add at least one more proven star (Paul George? Trade for Kawhi Leonard perhaps?) to convince James to join the Purple and Gold.
Even LeBron-to-L.A. came to pass, the Warriors would still be the odds-on favorite out West with the Houston Rockets a close second.
Boston came one win away from being in the NBA Finals instead of Cleveland and the Celtics’ entire postseason run came without their two best players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
With those two back in the fold next season, the Celtics will begin the season as the odds-on favorite in the East along with Philadelphia.
The Sixers are one of the league’s youngest teams and looked the part in their second-round exit from the playoffs courtesy of the Celtics.
So, the need for them to add James is great.
As for the Celtics, like the rest of the league, they would love to have James on their roster for next season.
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But the difference is that most teams see the addition of James dramatically improving their chances of competing for an NBA title.
They’re already on the short list of title contenders and the addition of James would put them over the top.