The Cleveland Cavaliers believe they will be able to make a pitch for LeBron James' return to his home state if he ultimately decides to leave the Miami Heat. ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein report that the Cavs' meeting with James' agent, Rich Paul, made the team hopeful, while Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Cleveland is even working on trade specifics that would open up enough cap space to sign the free agent to a max contract.
Getting a sit-down with James won't come for the Cavs unless a meeting with Heat president Pat Riley this week goes in a bad way for Miami and a good way for all the teams chasing LeBron. Even then, it's a wonder if Cleveland will have a legitimate shot at landing James, especially as Wojnarowski cautions that the Heat forward's agent and childhood friend -- not James -- is the one leading the push of a return to Cleveland.
Why would James return?
Free agency fodder
Free agency fodder
Two things this offseason have gone in Cleveland's favor: they signed All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to a five-year extension and drafted Andrew Wiggins first in the draft. That and a young core that could grow through a number of draft options could be enticing for James.
The Cavs have a trade in place for guard Jarrett Jack and his $6.3 million-per-year contract, which is needed to open enough cap space to sign James to a max deal (though hardly the only necessary move). The Cavaliers believe the Brooklyn Nets are open to taking Jack in a trade, but a third team would then need to be included as the Nets unload Marcus Thornton, according to Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski reports that Paul has been determined to bring James back to Cleveland, and while that may be more the agent's idea at this point, the biggest thing the Cavs can do is earn themselves a sit-down to convince James himself to do just that. Paul is helping their cause.
Are these false hopes?
The biggest hurdle has yet to be cleared. If James decides to meet with teams that aren't the Heat, then unloading the right contracts in a timely manner must occur to make his signing viable. Paul has met with representatives from Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers, most of which have more playoff-ready rosters in place.
Arguably, the Cavaliers aren't the best-suited team for James since they have untested though well-respected first-year coach David Blatt coming into the fold.
Cleveland also has the obvious issue to overcome. There will need to be peace made from owner Dan Gilbert's letter that ripped James following the free agent's infamous decision to leave Cleveland for South Beach back in 2010. According to Windhorst, that letter remained public on the team website for four years but on Monday had been removed. Perhaps that's the first step in mending a relationship, but it's still an awful difficult thing to overcome.
How likely is this?
It's a nice story for James to return to Cleveland and it would right for him to return to a state that's seemingly been ready to forgive him for leaving in such a painful manner. But even if James decides Miami is no longer for him, there are other quite competitive offers out there that don't come with the added baggage of Gilbert's comically written letter. Give the Cavs a 3 out of 10 shot of landing James.