LeBron James becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season. He will be 33 years old and might be looking for a new challenge. His mission is already complete for the Cleveland Cavaliers; He never promised back-to-back championships, or even multiple ones. He promised the one and he has delivered.
In the game Saturday night versus the San Antonio Spurs, it looked like he was getting tired of being player-coach. Overall, he appears fatigued, having to do so much of the heavy lifting to pull the Cavs closer to their goal.
It’s pretty obvious, barring injuries or some crazy trade scenario, the Cavs are a lock to get to the Finals. The Eastern Conference is just too weak. But, automatic ‘Finals’ berths might not be as valuable to LeBron, if they end up getting slammed by Golden State. And, at this point, that outlook appears to be the most logical for this year’s and next year’s NBA Finals.
There are a lot of factors at work that bring about the conclusion for LeBron to go to the San Antonio Spurs starting in the 2018-19 season. Firstly, there’s Gregg Popovich, the coach that LeBron respects the most in the league and the one he would most allow to coach him. Popovich’s contract ends that season, the 2018-19 season, and he is intending to honor it. It would be a relief to LeBron to not have to be a player-coach and Popovich gives the best chance for that happening.
LeBron can just be a veteran All-Star player on the Spurs team, while surrounded by another perennial All-Star, Kawhi Leonard. DeJounte Murray, the young rookie point guard will be a third-year player coming into that season and will be part of the youth needed for that team. Kawhi will still be young, at 27, and there will likely be other current Spurs talent still around. Danny Green and LaMarcus Aldridge will be in their final year contracts, and the Spurs will likely re-sign Patty Mills this off-season. Tony Parker might be ready to end his career and who knows, the great Manu Ginobili, with his unbelievable conditioning level, could still be hanging around, too.
Kevin Durant gave LeBron permission to make this move after LeBron gave KD permission. When LeBron brought his talents to South Beach to combine with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, KD got the idea later in his head to go combine talents with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Golden State might run off the next two championships, while getting some stiff competition from the Spurs and Cavs, but, ultimately, not enough stiff competition. If so, LeBron’s hand is forced and he goes to a comfortable situation in San Antonio. It just makes sense. Kawhi is the quiet storm and Pop is the system-reliable coach. They won’t let LeBron down and LeBron will be what the Spurs need to get a push over the top.
67 wins last season, on pace for 64 this year and another 60 plus next season without a championship will frustrate the Spurs and ensure that LeBron makes a home there for a while in San Anton. Will he retire there? With a championship in hand in San Antonio and breaking the Warriors legacy, he might still have a little time left for one last challenge.
He’ll probably consider the New York Knicks for a temporary home, basketball’s ‘mecca’ (Madison Square Garden), knowing Phil Jackson will be long gone by then.