Shanoff's WUC: Nothing As "July 4" As LeBron

Today's Calls: LeBron vs. Free Agency, Knicks vs. Nets, Rudy Gay vs. Memphis Grizzlies, Phil Jackson vs. (another) three-peat, All-Star Voting vs. All-Star Reality, AJ Hinch and Josh Byrnes vs. the Diamondbacks, Netherlands vs. Brazil, South America vs. the World (Cup), Tiger vs. Philly fans, Brett Favre vs. H.S. receivers, July 4 vs. Work and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Nothing reflects a Fourth of July weekend celebrating the independent, can-do spirit of America like a B-list NBA free agent getting a 5-year/$80 million deal like Rudy Gay just got. Free-market glory at its best and worst. ↵

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↵Of course, the long weekend belongs to LeBron. Yesterday, he got pitched on the ultimate American dream: Billions. ↵

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↵First came the Nets, with Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov and uber-entrepreneur Jay-Z. (Is there any doubt that if the Nets were already in Brooklyn -- rather than 2 years away -- LeBron would be headed there?) ↵

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↵Right afterward came the Knicks, literally pitching that LeBron can make a billion in New York City -- but only in New York City, not Chicago, Miami or Cleveland. (They conveniently and conspicuously ignored the Nets.) ↵

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↵It is fitting that these were the first two presentations LeBron got, befitting his personal "American dream" that he become a billion-dollar global brand. Presumably, winning championships is in there somewhere. ↵

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↵That's where the Bulls and Heat will come in next: There is nothing more American than winning, or an obsession with winning. You would expect they would tell LeBron that everything springs from rings -- and they offer him his best shot. ↵

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↵Cleveland will get its chance, and they will take that American message down to its grassroots: If the Knicks and Nets want to globalize him and the Bulls and Heat offer nation-building, the Cavs will say that there is nothing more American than your hometown and the ties that bind you to it. Would LeBron really reject that? ↵

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↵(It isn't all passive for LeBron. He needs to be working back-channels to ensure a free-agent big man will join him wherever he goes. Call it LeBron's "Declaration of Dependence.") ↵

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↵It is very possible -- even probable -- that by the time the long weekend is over, LeBron will have made up his mind and announced his decision. It will be the ultimate fireworks display. ↵

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↵Phil Jackson returning: "It will be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one." The 2010-2011 season now has its dominant narrative: Can Kobe and the Lakers send Phil out a champion, with a three-peat to match his three other three-peats? ↵

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↵NBA Free Agent Innuendo: ↵

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↵• The phrase of the day: "Front runner tremendous." That is how a source close to the Nets described the team's feelings to ESPN's Chad Ford about how they think their pitch to LeBron went. We'll see. ... ↵

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↵• Rudy Gay is going nowhere: Not when incumbent Memphis is offering him 5Y/$80M, which is as much -- probably more -- than any other team was going to offer him. Along with Joe Johnson presumably going back to Atlanta, that's another B-list star off the table for the teams that don't get LeBron. ↵

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↵• I trust Rockets GM Daryl Morey implicitly, so if his numbers say that the Rockets are better off with Bosh (or Amare) than with the combo of Ariza-Battier-Scola (whom they are reportedly offering in a trade for Bosh), I trust him. But intuitively that just doesn't make sense to me, unless they feel like they can easily find glue guys as replacements. ↵

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↵• The most popular guy on the C-list? Mike Miller, who would be extremely valuable on a very good team (which is why the Lakers reportedly offered him 5Y/$30M). If Miller was smart -- and wants a ring -- he would join up with Kobe. ↵

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↵• And the Raptors' overpaid replacement for Chris Bosh is... Amir Johnson? ↵

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↵• It's hard to mock Darko after he just signed a 4Y/$20M deal to stick with the T'wolves. Minnesota GM Mike Kahn, on the other hand ... ↵

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↵World Cup Quarters: This morning's Netherlands-Brazil is the headliner of the round. ... Hard not to be rooting for Ghana over Uruguay. ... It will be a disappointment if tournament star Argentina doesn't get past Germany... Spain is peaking at the right time (while Paraguay is coming off that lackluster PK win over Japan.) ↵

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↵With South America's dominance through this tournament -- placing four teams in the final eight -- it would be hard to imagine at least half not advancing to the semis. I'll say three of the four move on: Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, along with Spain. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: Did you get your ballot(s) in for the All-Star Game? Here were my final picks (alas, no Zobrist-style bandwagons this year): ↵

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↵AL: C Mauer, 1B Cabrera, 2B Cano, SS Jeter, 3B Longoria, OF Ichiro/Hamilton/Crawford, DH Vlad. ↵

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↵NL: C Olivo, 1B Pujols (put Adrian Gonzalez at DH), 2B Utley (Phillips as inj. replacement), SS Ramirez, 3B Wright, OF Braun/Ethier/Hayward. ↵

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↵More: ↵

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↵• D'backs clean house: Hinch ever a good fit? ↵(Byrnes will have a new gig quickly) ↵

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↵• Injury Watch: Utley's thumb. ↵

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↵• Weekend's Best: Dickey vs. Strasburg ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Vincent Jackson should not be in your fantasy starting lineup for Weeks 1-3. ↵

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↵Camping Preview: Bucs. What kind of leap can Josh Freeman make in his 2nd year? ↵

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↵Tiger Watch: So let me get this straight -- Philly fans won't boo Tiger? I thought they were better than that. (Come on: Not even a "750 Million!" cat-call?) ↵

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↵CFB Countdown: No. 64 Oklahoma State. We're a long way from last year's Top 10 aspirations. ↵

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↵Scandal: It seems hard to believe that Georgia AD Damon Evans can keep his job with no punishment (or keep his job at all). Given Evans' leadership position, this is much worse than if a player got picked up for a DUI. ↵

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↵Favre Watch: It's that time of year again -- when Brett Favre throws to high school receivers down in Mississippi. Send your TV crews! ↵

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↵RIP Don Coryell: You know a coach's strategy is brilliant when it earns eponymity ("Air Coryell"). Condolences to his family, friends and fans. ↵

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↵The Last Word: No Wake-Up Call on Monday in celebration of July 4 weekend. See you back here on Tuesday ... with an answer from LeBron?!?! Have an enjoyable Fourth, everyone. ↵

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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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