July 1, 2010

The Summer of 2010

July 1, 2010. 00:01 US Eastern Standard Time. One of the biggest moments in NBA history. While the Mayans civilization, film director Roland Emmerich, and a bunch of other apocalypic nerds would have you believe that 2012 is the end of the world, everyone else (that matters) knows that the end is already here. Or the beginning. Or the most important middle part.

The Summer of 2010. Where Free Agency Happens.

As of the aforementioned hour, some of the biggest names in NBA basketball have become free agents. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, etc, etc, etc. It is the time of the year that more than half the NBA teams have saved money for, raised fans expectations for, based their future on. Franchises like the Cavaliers, Heat, Raptors, Suns, Jazz, Hawks, Mavericks, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Bucks, Timberwolves, Clippers, and many, many more have been waiting anxiously and excitedly for this moment. Many will lose their best players and be forced to start building up from scratch. Many will add the right pieces around their squad to elevate themselves to the next level. Some will strike gold and win the sweepstakes, bringing drastic changes to their roster for success.

The top free agents in the Summer of 2010, from a list on Yahoo! Sports, are:

1. LeBron James
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Chris Bosh
4. Amar'e Stoudemire
5. Dirk Nowitzki
6. Carlos Boozer
7. Joe Johnson
8. David Lee
9. Rudy Gay
10. Paul Pierce
11. Luis Scola
12. Brendan Haywood
13. John Salmons
14. JJ Redick
15. Ray Allen
16. Shaquille O'Neal
17. Udonis Haslem
18. Brad Miller
19. Tyrus Thomas
20. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
21. Matt Barnes
22. Raymond Felton
23. Nate Robinson
24. Mike Miller
25. Anthony Morrow

These are just the top 25!

For the past few years, and particularly over the last season, the shadow of this summer has been hovering over the entire league. From rumours circulating damn near every day to free agents planning secret summits to teams going to great lengths to clear up roster space, there has been no shortage of speculation about this summer. There has been a no-holds-barred approach to player recruiting as well, a process that has included many, many websites, T-shirts, rallies, and the mayor of New York wrong-numbering a young Indian man. Hell, even the leader of the free world aka US president Barack Obama couldn't keep his mind of the issue, adding his own opinion on free agency. Who cares about some spilled oil when LeBron is unrestricted, right?

Speaking of LeBron, he is by far the most important pawn in the game. Wherever LeBron will go, success will follow, except, ironically, if he stays with the Cavs. When the Celtics surprised and beat the Cavs 4-2 in the second round of the playoffs, LeBron James walked off the court amidst mass speculation about his future. Kevin Garnett, who himself suffered through a major dillema when finally demanding a trade away from a Timberwolves team that he had spent his career with, approached LeBron after the closing Game 6 of the series and reminded him his choice: Loyalty vs. Legacy. Does he stay with his hometown team, the one that helped him become a two-time MVP, the team with whom he can become a true legend, or does he leave for greener pastures for success and cement his legacy? LeBron has been linked with the Cavs, Knicks, Bulls, Nets, Heat, and even the Mavs. Wherever he ends up, other stars are sure to follow, except, perhaps the Cavs, who don't have the market, money, or trade value to get other big players. One decision LeBron, the reigning, two time MVP, could cause a techtonic shift of power for the entire league, somehow similar to the shift of power when Shaquille O'Neal went from the Lakers to the Heat, or when Garnett finally shifted from the T-Wolves to the Celtics.

Then there's Wade, my favourite player, and who is only second to LeBron because of his greater age and his injury prone past. Wade is more likely to stay with the Heat and attract other stars like Amar'e, Boozer, or Bosh towards him. The world, including me, would love to see him and LeBron pair up and make the most threatening tandem in the league since the Shaq and Kobe days.

Others, like Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer, Johnson, David Lee, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen hold the key to the developments of particularly these two, as great players will obviously be tempted to play alongside other great players. Bosh, in particular, seems to be the most important key of them all, and is sure to contribute his loyalties to one of the other stars.

Dark horse candidates like Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce will also be free agents, but unless there are some drastic developments, these two are not expected to leave their respective teams.

For my team, the Knicks, this is a time of great opportunity. They have enough cap money to sign a few big names, but the question is, will they go there? The Knicks have promoted their big stage, their ties with basketball history, their role in NBA history, their fans, their (few) remaining players, and other factors to try and sell themselves, but good players will only come to a bad team if joined by other good players. Until recently (when I heard that the Knicks offered Joe friggin Johnson a max contract), I have been fairly optimistic of the Knicks' chances of coming out of this summer with a much-improved team. I don't want to repeat the long-endured tortures of a Knick fan, but I would like to say this: Dear haters, don't even THINK of juimping on the Knick bandwagon. I haven't suffered for 11 years as a fan to share the space.

Aaah... I'm officially done with the speculation, the talks, the possibilities, the what-ifs, and the maybes. Its July 1, 2010. It's going to be a crazy summer. Let's buckle up and watch what happens...

Keep updated with the free agent breaking news on Yahoo! Sports NBA Free Agent Tracker.

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