LeBron James has been one of the most talked about story lines in the NBA over the last 2 seasons. Teams such as the New York Knicks have gone so far as to mortgage the farm, giving away nearly all of their assets and future draft picks to position themselves with enough cap space to lure him away from his home state Cleveland Cavaliers.
During the next week we will be taking a look at why Lebron should shun the other organizations and go to their particular team. First off we’ll examine why LeBron should join the (gasp!) Los Angeles Clippers.
Naysayers will argue that no player in their right mind should or would chose to play for the Clippers. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1984 they have been to the playoffs 4 times and in that 26 year span have had 15 different coaches.
Currently they have a "non-interum" general manager Neil Olshey, and no head coach. Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s reputation is longstanding as one of the cheapest in the league. For that reason the Clippers have been a model of futility in not only basketball but all of professional sports.
So why should a player of LeBron James’ stature consider the Clippers? For some of the same reasons Kobe Bryant nearly signed with the Clippers in the summer of 2004 and because they offer the best combination of talent and off court opportunities of any of the teams courting him.
The City of Angeles is a primary destination for people around the world. The beaches, the weather, the beautiful people, and the glamour are all reasons people come to visit. After spending his entire life dealing with the cold winters in Ohio, a 3 to 4 year hiatus to Los Angeles without dealing with snow storms would not be the worst thing in the world.
He has already proven that he enjoys the Southern California lifestyle and weather as the only version of the LeBron Camp held outside of Ohio during his off season is in Southern California. Hollywood opportunities with movies or other forms of entertainment would be at his door step.
While Los Angeles is farther away from European market he would be closer to the ever expanding Far East fan base and marketing opportunities. Los Angeles can provide a combination of entertainment, marketing and weather that no other city in the US can provide. Sure Knicks have their Spike Lee but look around the Staple Center and there’s stars galore. LeBron could certainly help the Clippers capture some of the Lakers fanbase, celebrity and otherwise.
Furthermore, unlike other biding cities in the Lebron Sweepstakes, Los Angeles is unquestionably a basketball town. With no NFL team to compete with basketball is at the forefront in the heart of the Los Angeles fan base. Shaquille O’Neal’s stories at the gas station in Los Angeles are legendary. Even in his championship year in Miami you never felt the love that Shaq had in Los Angeles or the love Los Angeles has for Kobe Bryant.
While it is true that the Lakers dominate the local sport section in Los Angeles and hold much of the tradition with the acquisition of LeBron he can turn it to an equitable cross town rivalry much like the Jets and Giants are beginning to become.
Winning a championship in Los Angeles would make him the toast of the town and give him the credibility that he did it on his own and could win anywhere. This is something Kobe considered during the summer of 2004. He also would be able to intensify the rivalry with Kobe Bryant in determining who is the biggest fish in this town and in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers personnel actually work in their favor. They only have 4 guaranteed contracts for next year and all 4 of them are excellent basketball players: Former All Star point guard Baron Davis, 2010 All Star center Chris Kaman, and upcoming studs Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin. A starting 5 including LeBron James would instantly be among the best in the NBA.
Baron Davis, who may be entering his twilight years, always steps up his game during the playoffs.
Chris Kaman is a top 5 center in the league and would instantly become the best center that LeBron James has played with in his career given the age of Ilgauskas and Shaq. He is physical and can run the court much more fluidly than the aforementioned players and can provide a consistent low post presence.
Eric Gordon would be the biggest beneficiary in playing with LeBron as he can shoot the lights out. He can play the same role as Ray Allen plays know, spotting up when LeBron goes to the hole or getting screens on the opposite wing. His youth and athleticism should allow him to run with Lebron, but don’t sell him short he can create shot for himself as well.
Blake Griffin is the most unknown commodity in this group but he is young and athletic. At the very least he too should be able to catch alley oops and rebound defensively. But he was the clear number one draft pick a year ago and demonstrated in college that he could dunk with power and shoot the mid range shot, his upside may be much greater.
Having two other players in the starting 5 with the abilty to create shots for themselves (Baron and Eric) and all this for $32 million in salaries with a projected $56.1 million soft cap allowing the Clippers to sign LeBron and still have 5.1 million leftover to attract some additional players.
Add in promising DeAndre Jordan, their backup center and the 8th pick in the draft and the total salaries is still only $35 million. The beauty of all this is that by adding Lebron to the starting 4 all the Clippers need are rotational players who understand their role and play spot minutes for a championship caliber team. With LeBron on their side, the Clippers bargaining power goes up considerably (ie Rasheed Wallace signing with the Boston Celtics in 2009) LeBron and the Clips could acquire specialists to fill out their roster (3 point specialist, defensive specialist, backup pg…).
None of the other teams courting LeBron can provide an All Star at the two most critical positions (point guard and center) or the mixture of seasoned veterans and young talents a few years away from being in their prime that the Clippers can.
LeBron James can decide who runs the organization. He could potentially hand pick his general manager and head coach. He could take his pick of Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Brian Shaw, or maybe even Phil Jackson as his head coach should he choose. He could possibly even pry away Kevin Prichard from Portland to be GM for the Clippers. Donald Sterling, with the acquisition of LeBron, could potentially double the value of the franchise in the same way he increased the value of the franchise simply by moving it from San Diego to Los Angeles. It is said that he refuses to pay salaries but with the return on investment the acquisition of LeBron would bring to the franchise, he would be a fool to not meet Team Lebron’s every demand.
Lastly, should LeBron leave Cleveland, the last thing he wants to do is devastate his fan base. Going to a rival team in the Eastern Conference such as New York or Miami would be more damaging than skipping town to the Western Conference to a non-rival. He would only hear the displeasure of the Cleveland fans a maximum of one time per year as a Clipper and would likely never face the Cleveland franchise during the playoffs.
For all the aforementioned reasons, the Clippers should be considered a true contender in the LeBron sweepstakes. Look for upcoming articles on HoopsDaily.com from other featured writers detailing why LeBron should opt for playing for the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat, or simply stay in Cleveland.