Shanoff's W.U.C.: Countdown to 2010 Is So On

Today's Calls: 2009 vs. 2010, Carlos Boozer vs. David Lee, Jason Kidd vs. the Knicks, Charlie Villanueva vs. Marcin Gortat, Orioles vs. Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia vs. Ian Kinsler, Lance Stephenson vs. Xavier Henry, Ndamukong Suh vs. Tim Tebow, Kobe vs. Coach K and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: One year from today: July 1, 2010. ↵

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↵Has there been a bigger single day in NBA history? I would argue there hasn't. LeBron enters free agency. With Dwyane Wade. And Chris Bosh. And scores of others. The balance of power in the NBA, the fortunes of franchises -- even entire cities -- hangs in the balance. And the countdown starts today: One year to go. ↵

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↵The speculation will be even more non-stop than over the past year: ↵

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↵• Will LeBron bolt the Cavs for the Knicks? Or for Jay-Z and the Nets? What if the Cavs win a title with LeBron and Shaq? Will that change his mind -- or seal the deal for New York? ↵

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↵• And will Chris Bosh join LeBron in a duo destined to rack up titles? Or will Bosh -- less leading man than uber-complementary player -- join forces with Dwyane Wade? The recruiting will be as intense between LeBron and Wade for Bosh's partnership than any team looking for LeBron and Wade. ↵

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↵• Or will it be anti-climactic, with LeBron feeling the tug of home and Wade feeling the love in Miami, both players staying put? ↵

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↵Regardless, a dozen teams are clearing cap room for a run at the top-tier free agents; only 2 or 3 will come out of it as "winners" -- the rest will have a choice: Use their salary room to claim second-tier free agents for a run at the title ... ↵

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↵... Or maybe horde their cash for the next version of 2010 -- 2012, when Kevin Durant is the next LeBron James. The next Must-Have Free Agent. ↵

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↵2009? That's so last year. The countdown to 2010 is on. Only 364 days to go. ↵ ↵

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↵Know who isn't a FA in 2009? Carlos Boozer, who took the cash-in-hand ($12.7M) to play for the Jazz for another year. But is one more year of speculation and distraction about Boozer possibly leaving all the team going to get? ↵

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↵Shocker!!! Kobe NOT opting out of his deal with the Lakers! Moving on ... ↵

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↵That leaves Jason Kidd as the biggest "name" left on the board. And it sounds like the Knicks want him, presumably as the stop-gap between now and when LeBron arrives. Or Ricky Rubio arrives. But Shoals makes the case that the biggest catch of '09 is Trevor Ariza (ironically, a former Knick). ↵

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↵More NBA Free Agency: If I was Charlie Villanueva, I would take the mid-level exception to play one year for the Magic, whose style fits CV31's unique big-man-shoots-3s abilities; win a title; then cash in in 2010 when all those teams have money they won't know how to spend when they don't get LeBron. (Forgoing cash to try to win a title? It just doesn't happen in the NBA. Villanueva would be a folk hero. With a ring.) ↵

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↵CV31 is part of a solid FA crop of previously undervalued PFs -- David Lee, Paul Millsap, Chris Andersen -- who can play valuable roles: Put Lee or Millsap in the starting lineup of the athletic Thunder. Put Andersen as an energy guy on a contender. Even put Rasheed Wallace on the Magic, like I suggest for Villanueva, as a matchup-nightmare big who can fling 3s. The only issue: Teams don't want to pay, so these guys go from undervalued to underpaid. ↵

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↵(Speaking of previously undervalued, it looks like the Yao-less Rockets are going to go after Magic backup C Marcin Gortat, who proved to be a rugged banger during Orlando's playoff run. He seems like precisely the kind of player Houston GM Daryl Morey's league-leading analytics would sniff out as someone worth pursuing.) ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points What a collapse by Boston! ↵

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↵• BoSox Stunner: Epic choke.* ↵
↵(* - Largest comeback ever by last-place team over 1st-place team.) ↵

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↵• Pujols bashes HR 29, 30: 2nd-half storyline: 62? ↵

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↵• 10 Ws for Marquis: CG 2H SO vs. LA. Wow. ↵

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↵• Rays keep rolling: 7 straight Ws for MLB's hottest. ↵

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↵• AL Beast: Yankees win 6th straight. ↵

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↵• Lesson here: Listen to the fans. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Ross Ohlendorf (7 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, W). ↵

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↵MLB All-Star Voting: AL. Just two days left to vote, and the most drama involves the right side of the Red Sox infield: Kevin Youkilis has moved back ahead over rival Mark Teixeira, and Dustin Pedroia has closed within 7,000 votes of 2B leader Ian Kinsler. I expect Red Sox Nation will rally to put both over the top -- in Kinsler's case, that would be a shame; the fewer Red Sox and Yankees starters, the better. (Jason Bay already has a lock on an OF spot; the intrigue is whether Torii Hunter can pass the injured fan fave Josh Hamilton.) In a refreshing rout, Evan Longoria will hold off A-Rod at 3B. ↵

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↵2010 NFL Mock Draft: Too early? Never! Your No. 1 overall pick (to the Lions, naturally): Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh. And, yes, that would be TIM TEBOW GOING NO. 13, to the Redskins. I guess the new over-under on Tebow's draft position is where Tyler Hansbrough went in last week's NBA Draft. ↵

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↵CBB Recruiting: Lance Stephenson is going to Cincinnati. What is this, 1992? The Bearcats are back! (To recruiting sketchy super-talents!) As Mike Decourcy points out, Stephenson may be the most talented player in the country -- will that matter if he sucks the soul out of the team in the process? ↵

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↵Xavier Henry is still going to Kansas: Although when you read between the lines of this story, it really sounds like it's not something he's that enthusiastic about -- that he'd rather be in the NBA right now. He's certainly talented enough. Which begs the question: Why wouldn't he just go to the D-League for his "one-and-done" year, where he could get pro development, sign a shoe deal ... and NOT have to go to class. ↵

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↵NBA Coaching Carousel: Michael Curry out in Detroit. That puts the Pistons in full-on rebuilding mode: They need to remake their roster. They need a new coach. They need to position themselves for the summer of 2010. (Sorry: Ben Gordon ain't a fix by himself.) ↵

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↵NHL Free Agency: Starts today. ↵

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↵CFB Countdown: No. 66 Baylor and Robert Griffin, who -- in a conference loaded with superstars -- might be the most exciting player of them all. Yes, that's right: Baylor is must-see. ↵

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↵Vick Watch: In a smart move, both for marketing and his ability to get out of the heat this summer, Vick will swap jobs from construction to working with the local Boys & Girls Club. Awww ... he's thinking of the children! How can you deny THAT guy a place in the NFL, Mr. Commissioner? ↵

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↵Must-Read: Spencer Hall, fresh from his Vegas table-tennis adventure, on the NFL's overtime rules. ↵

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↵Video Games: One of these days, a judge is going to agree with these college players (or ex-college players) who are a little peeved that their likeness is used in video games without any compensation to the players themselves. Now, are the players just looking for a quick settlement check? Maybe. But let's not confuse the issue: Realism is the core attribute of the game experience. "If It's In The Game, It's In The Game" is the freaking motto. Case closed. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I'm not going to the Lakers." -- Coach K on his future. But you have to wonder if he will always wonder what it would have been like to coach in the NBA, particularly coaching a once-in-a-generation talent like Kobe. Still, K was decisive: "I will never leave Duke until I leave coaching." ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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