Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

In sports, everyone is a winner-some people just win better than others. Like Cleveland's chances at keeping LeBron, which, thanks to three blowout conference semifinals, are looking slightly brighter this morning.

Let's assume for a second that LeBron James hasn't yet made up his mind for next year. Let's assume he's not yet set on going to Chicago, where he'd average 40 ppg with Derrick Rose running the point. Let's assume he hasn't already decided on New York, where he'd be the biggest star in the world and they'd probably name a bridge after him. Let's also assume that he hasn't yet settled on staying in Cleveland, near where he grew up and is beloved like no other athlete has been.


Let's assume that he's really waiting until July to see where the best situation for him will be. After this weekend's developments in every playoff series except his own, it may turn out that Cleveland will still be his best option.

The Jazz's spirits were effectively crushed Saturday by one unforgiving rim, to the point where the front page of their sports section today has the headline: "All Hope Is Lost." The Hawks have looked so helpless in their first three games, that the battle is now between Joe Johnson and the Atlanta fans. And, of course, the Spurs packed up their stuff and headed for the beaches and golf courses and family life of an unfulfilled summer.

That's three series, all looking an awful lot like sweeps. That's 12 games of gate receipts, out of a possible 21. That's big, big money lost, and it will affect the salary cap for next season.

There's the rub; the cap isn't officially set until the offseason, once total revenues are calculated. That $56.1 million figure announced last month, that gave so many teams so much hope and being able to take on max contracts? That was just a projection. It's no longshot hypothetical to think that the done-too-soon conference semifinals could bring that number down.


Think about it: nine extra games, each with 18,000 fans, paying inflated ticket prices: we're talking eight figures here. That's obviously before expenses, but take a look at the minuscule margin of error for the teams that were counting on that $56.1 million cap.

The Knicks would have had $34 million in cap space, enough to offer two max deals at $16.6 per. Now, maybe not. And maybe New York isn't so attractive a place to play for LeBron if they can't put Chris Bosh next to him.


The Bulls barely cleared enough room to add one max deal. Now, LeBron could have to take a pay cut. Same with Miami, where they could afford Dwayne Wade, but LeBron wouldn't be the highest paid player on the team.

The Clippers might have been an option, but they only have enough space for a max deal if that $56.1 million projection is accurate. Now? Who knows. But these short series can only be a good thing for Cleveland's hopes of retaining their franchise's face.


Of course this is all idle speculation, from a source not privy to the NBA's actual cap-determining formulas. And, in a fun little twist, none of this may matter if James and the Cavs are eliminated in the one series guaranteed to go at least six games.

I guess all we can say with certainty is that Gary Bettman definitely won the weekend, because for the next week, there's going to be nothing on TV except Cavs/Celts, and a whole lot of hockey.

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