ESPN is reporting that in an effort to lure Trevor Ariza to the Cavs, LeBron James told him he’d stay with the Cavaliers past this coming year. Ariza, like me, was not convinced, and will likely sign with Houston, I hear to be closer to his kid, who lives in Los Angeles, California. (Which begs the question… isn’t Los Angeles even closer to Los Angeles?) And also, he says, because of the opportunity to grow as a player, which he apparently can’t do on the title-contending Lakers or Cavs.
Sidebar: When did Trevor Ariza turn into Scottie Pippen? I actually like Ariza, I know he plays some D, and I know he had a very nice playoff run for the Lakers. But how about we see him score nine points a game before someone gives him $33 million, as the Rockets are? Because he’s topped out at 8.9. At least he’s done that twice.
Regardless, I find it hard to believe that LeBron would throw away his opportunity to have the eyes of the sports world exclusively on him next year to get Trevor Ariza. Maybe Ben Gordon, but not Ariza, no matter how much he enjoyed torching him for 50 in high school. Even if he has no intentions of leaving Cleveland — and honestly, who knows what his intentions are? — I can’t see him being that desperate as to tell Ariza that he’s not going anywhere as a sales pitch. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, it just seems fishy.
Of course, he might not have expected this information to get out via some “source.” In which case, it kind of makes this commercial teasing the massive ensuing marketing campaign ring a little hollow. LeBron James wants to be a Global Icon. (His words, not mine.) So why would he risk it getting out that the upcoming 2010 sweepstakes, in which he’d be the most coveted free agent since some guy named Michael Jordan? Of course, the Knicks desperately hope things will go different with LeBron than they did with Jordan.
The point is, if LeBron really said this, and meant it, it’s a surprising misstep for an extremely savvy and image-conscious budding captain of industry. I’m a little surprised he’s shown his cards, if that truly is what he’s done here, but it’s also sending a message to the Cavs loud and clear: “We’re not good enough.” If it’s that important to him to get Trevor Ariza, I wouldn’t expect him to want to stay there if he doesn’t feel that their chances have improved.
In summation, I think what you can read into this is that if LeBron feels he has a championship-caliber team around him at the end of next season, a team with a future, he probably wants to stay there. But if he’s perceiving that GM Danny Ferry can’t get the job done, you’re going to be seeing him at Marquee starting July 2010.
Predictably, LeBron’s people are now denying that he had a conversation with Ariza. So if Ariza’s people lied — which I’m not sure they did — it’d be to pump up his value and reputation by making it seem like LeBron was recruiting him. Regardless of whether its true, that would be why they leaked it. It’s not a shock that LeBron is denying it for the reasons I detailed above, that he wouldn’t want to cut out the legs from under his upcoming major media blitz.
Maybe he truly does want to stay there, maybe he wants to keep his options open. Maybe he just wants people to think he’s keeping his options open. Nobody really knows. My guess is he’s going to stay there, but there really is no way to know for sure right now.