Could Phoenix Suns Be LeBron James’ Best Choice for More Rings?

By exercising the early termination option in his contract, four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion LeBron James is free to opt for a destination of his choosing once again. Re-upping with the Miami Heat—where LBJ won both of his titles with Pat Riley calling the shots—appears to be the most logical outcome.

But is it the best choice LeBron can make in terms of winning more rings?

Not surprisingly, the best player in basketball wants to sign a max deal, according to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst. Few teams can offer James a max contract while simultaneously keeping the flexibility to put winning pieces around him.

Miami is an obvious suitor, since the only player on its roster right now is point guard Norris Cole. The Heat have money to spend, but they also face plenty of uncertainty by having to build a new roster from scratch.

The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, have established themselves as a legitimate dark-horse landing spot for his services.

“We are in good position,” Suns owner Robert Sarver said, per AZCentral Sports’ Bob Young. “We have a lot to offer, too, with the depth of our roster compared to some of the other teams. We think we have a favorable opportunity, but obviously he’ll make his decision when he wants to make it.”

James is sure to weigh any and all options available, but is Phoenix the best choice he can make from a basketball perspective?

 

The Pitch

After finishing dead last in the Western Conference during 2012-13, Phoenix flipped the script less than a year later.

General manager Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek built and managed a young, upstart roster that wound up winning 48 games—more than 2010-11 when two-time MVP Steve Nash was still running the show.

Hornacek established a winning culture that started with the play of his two point guards—Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Those All-Star-caliber talents led the way, and they’re just a part of the equation that could woo James to the desert.

“The Suns are positioned with the cap space and maneuverability to chase James and the co-star of his liking without yielding Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, James’ close friend, in the process,” AZ Central’s Paul Coro wrote. “That second star pursuit could be USA Basketball buddy [Carmelo] Anthony or fellow Miami free agent Chris Bosh in free agency.”

James and Bledsoe are both represented by the same agent, Rich Paul. LeBron has referred to the 24-year-old Kentucky product as his “lil bro,” per his Instagram account.

The situation in Miami would entail re-signing the Big Three and surrounding them with a new crop of role players and veterans. Whereas Phoenix allows James to join the Bledsoe/Dragic tandem as well as choose another star teammate.

As Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal told me, “Dragic, re-signing Bledsoe, keeping Plum (center Miles Plumlee) and giving him any teammate he desires who’s a free agent? That’s unbeatable.”

Again, the Suns won 48 games despite the fact that Bledsoe missed 39 contests due to injury. Add James to the fold—as well as another star: Melo, Bosh or even a different vet like Pau Gasol—and there’s zero reason the Suns couldn’t be serious title contenders. That’d be true even while playing in the loaded Western Conference.

The Suns’ pitch to James is simple. If he lands with Planet Orange, a supporting cast will be there to help build his legacy. The Larry O’Brien Trophy would be far less elusive.

 

Longevity

Assuming that Bledsoe, James and another co-star sign long-term, financially lucrative deals, that core will be the organization’s focus for years to come.

In the short term, that includes Dragic, Gerald Green and the Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus.

Down the line, the Suns have a plethora of youngsters on rookie deals: Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis.

At the very least, management won’t have to scramble to find worthy role players because youth and upside is already on board creating a buffer.

Of course, that fails to mention the mystique of Phoenix’s incredible training staff.

Head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson kept Nash healthy well into his 30s. A perfect storm of circumstances—a small fracture of his left leg and nerve root irritation in his back leading to hamstring issues—have since derailed his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Other guys like Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill and Michael Redd experienced career resurgences in the Purple Palace, so the Santa Clara product isn‘t an isolated case study.

LeBron will turn 30 years old later this year (on December 30). The appeal of playing for an organization with a history of keeping veterans in playing shape is an underrated factor working in Phoenix’s favor.

Aging gracefully isn’t the norm for NBA players. Nevertheless, after years of suffering through a slew of injuries, Hill had a very successful five-year stint with the Suns. His tenure included three seasons playing at least 80 regular-season games beyond age 35.

James has always been a durable player. The Suns can all but guarantee he stays that way.

 

Depth

Sarver noted the depth of the Suns’ roster as a net positive. Unlike the 2013-14 Heat—a team that couldn’t even attempt to rely upon guys like Michael Beasley and Greg Oden—the Suns can go deep into their bench.

Markieff Morris established himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season.

His twin brother, Marcus, scored in double digits 42 times despite only starting one game.

Green was stellar as a starter filling in for Bledsoe and as a bench player providing an offensive spark.

Goodwin capped his rookie campaign with a career-high, 29-point outburst during Game 82; even Ish Smith raised some eyebrows for his hustle in limited minutes.

LeBron doesn’t want to end his career having won two titles. If he makes the tough decision to change locales for the second time during his illustrious career, Phoenix would offer him plenty of assistance getting back to the Association’s zenith.

 

Best Option?

A factor that is often ignored when discussing the future of free agents is family. Because these stars are in a business built to entertain the masses, humanizing them can be difficult.

Take, for instance, the decision made by former free-agent guard Darren Collison. He had a solid year with the Los Angeles Clippers—and head coach Doc Rivers wanted him back, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Broderick Turner—but he opted for a lucrative three-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.

James lives in a South Beach mansion with his wife and two sons. He still owns a home in Ohio. You may recall his wife, Savannah, caused a stir with an Akron-related Instagram post not long ago.

The question is: Would LBJ consider moving yet again?

Regardless of whether the answer is “yes” or “no,” Phoenix still provides James the best title shot.

Joining a solid supporting cast, a close friend in Bledsoe and having the opportunity to court another piece to the puzzle is, as Fromal said, “unbeatable.”

Suns fans should still temper their expectations and consider this a long shot, but a James-Phoenix pairing makes a lot of sense.

LeBron’s legacy is tied—fairly or unfairly—to the amount of rings he acquires before calling it quits. As far as the 2014-15 season is concerned, Phoenix offers his best shot at adding trophy No. 3.

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WATCH: Popovich counts Spurs’ rings on his hand

In case you didn’t know already, the San Antonio Spurs are celebrating their fifth NBA championship and appears that Gregg Popovich is having a tad bit of fun. Watch the below Vine clip from SBNationGIF which shows Popovich counting the number of championships that he won on his hand from 1-to-5: Not one, not two… *** Gregg Popovich counts championships [Next Impulse Sports] Popovich image courtesy of Getty Images

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Would a 2013-14 Chicago Bulls NBA Title Stain Miami Heat’s Recent NBA Rings?

Would a 2013-14 Chicago Bulls championship dampen the Miami Heat‘s recent run? Would an asterisk be placed next to LeBron James’ ring? That’s a question that gets asked and an argument that gets made, but is it really fair?

The gist of it is this: Chicago was Miami’s main challenger until Derrick Rose went down with his injury in the 2012 postseason. The Heat never had to beat them. Ergo if the Bulls were to beat them now, it “proves” they could have beaten the Heat then, so Miami’s rings are tainted.

Is that a sound argument?

In order to answer this question let’s define four terms (at least in the context of this discussion). And, since we have the considerable passions of two fanbases involved, let’s use a completely non-basketball scenario to understand them, completely removed from the emotions of the argument.

These four terms are excuse, reason, historical and predictive.

I know that patience is not a virtue that everyone has, but try and exercise some here. Take the time to understand, to read all four words before emptying your ammo in the comments section.

The scenario is a completely (looks around to make sure she’s not listening) “hypothetical” situation where my wife has asked me on a few occasions to pick up some cream while at the Dollar General. (She likes cream).

In this “hypothetical” scenario I might have, on a certain occasion, gone to the store to pick up the cream, seen the corn chips on sale, thought “Nachos!” and then picked up the Velveeta, the hamburger, the beans and yes, even the sour cream, (which was right next to the regular cream), but forgotten completely about the requested cream, caught in the sways of my nacho-driven frenzy.

Excuse

So, I get home (hypothetically) and my wife asks, “Did you remember my cream?”

“Cream?” I respond, “Uhhhh…Well, you see, the Tostados were on sale and…” And right there I’ve started making an excuse.

An excuse is when you take an external situation within your control and blame your failings on that situation. I could have remembered. The Tostados weren’t at fault; I was.

In 2011 the Chicago Bulls lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, and while there were some mitigating factors, such as Rose playing with an ankle sprain, the primary reason they lost was on the Bulls. They were an inexperienced playoff team who hadn’t learned how to win in the postseason yet.

They came out and landed a solid blow in Game 1, but it was their first rodeo. They didn’t know how to play that deep into postseason, and the Heat, led by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, did. So the Heat actually won. To deny that is to make excuses.

Reason
On another “hypothetical” occasion, I was going to the General Dollar, and my wife again asked me to get her some cream. Recalling the previous incident, she says, “Don’t forget the cream!” as I’m on my way out.

Intent on my mission, I put blinders on as I wade through the distracting junk food sales taunting me and make a beeline towards the cream. They’re out. And the Tostados are gone, too. So I get whatever it was I went there for and go home.

“Did you get the cream?” she asks.

“No.”

“Did you forget again? Don’t tell me, you got more nachos right?”

“No, they were out of both.”

And that is a reason. A reason is something that is valid. It is when an external situation beyond your control impacts your situation.

Such external situations include things like there actually being no cream to buy, or not having actual players available to play.

Basketball is played by players (hence the word), not hollow, ghost-like uniforms bobbing up and down the court. If you’ve ever argued about the MVP award, you’ve acknowledged the importance of players. Not having players available to play is a valid reason teams lose, not an excuse for losing.

In both 2012 and 2013 the Bulls were missing two of their three best players for most of the postseason. In 2012, they were without Rose and Joakim Noah. In 2013, they were without Rose and Luol Deng.

That’s the biggest reason they lost, but don’t get ahead of me. Before you start commenting, keep reading. The last two words are important here, too.

Historical

The next word is historical. Let’s say, that I’m going for yet another trip to the Dollar General, and my wife says, “Don’t forget the cream again.”

“That’s not fair,” I say, “I remembered last time, they were just out of it.”

At which time, she “hypothetically” reminds me of the 17 prior incidents—that she can remember.

In response, I postulate to her, “We don’t know that they actually had cream all 17 times. Just because I didn’t check doesn’t mean they had it.” Technically, my argument is true. Technically, my wife is also perfectly justified if she wants to slap me upside my head.

The point here is that there is a historical context placed on everything. We can often recall and interpret history as it best benefits our arguments, omitting the history that doesn’t help us.

And in the context of this conversation, if we want to put asterisks on the Heat’s rings, we’re going to have to put them on a lot of championships. Do the 1988 Detroit Pistons lose to the Lakers if Isiah Thomas doesn’t sprain his ankle?

Do the Oklahoma City Thunder make it to the finals last year if Russell Westbrook doesn’t go down? What about the 2009 Boston Celtics and the injury to Kevin Garnett? Do they repeat if he’s not down?

My point is that we could go around reassigning all kinds of championships if we open up the coulda-woulda-shoula floodgates. The problem with these arguments is that they always go the way we want them to. I’ve never heard anyone use an “if, then” argument to prove themselves wrong.

History is history, and we can only know what we do know. Redefining it to our preference is convenient but wrong.

Predictive
Let’s change the hypothetical situation a little bit. Say that instead of having a long history of forgetting the cream, I only got distracted by the great nacho hunt one time and had successfully completed mission possible the other 17.

Would my wife be fair in predicting that I would forget?

Using conjecture to redefine history is one thing. Using it to predict the future is quite another, because you’re trying to deduce what will happen, not change what did happen. In this context, understanding the nuances of the past which formed events is entirely relevant.

So, when people talk about how the present Bulls have failed repeatedly over the last three years, and use that to argue, they won’t go anywhere. They’re using a misrepresented history. You can’t use the Bulls’ injuries to presume the past would have been different. You can’t ignore why things happened either.

The current Bulls’ core hasn’t really failed the last two years because they haven’t really played the last two years.

Furthermore, not everything about the past remains true in the present. An entirely realistic scenario exists where the Bulls get the No. 1 seed, the Heat the No. 2 seed, the Indiana Pacers the No. 3 seed and the Cleveland Cavaliers the No. 7 seed. In such a situation, the Heat would potentially have to go through Andrew Bynum (if he stays healthy) and Roy Hibbert in order to get to the conference finals.

Miami’s biggest weakness is big, physical teams, and they could have to go through two of them just to get to Chicago.

In many ways, the playoffs are about attrition. The Heat have already been to the last three finals. The combination of the massive minutes they’ve played over four years and two grueling, physical series could have an impact on them in the conference finals.

Beating a battered Heat team wouldn’t prove history wrong.

Those things weren’t true two years ago. They weren’t true last year. They are theoretically true this year. Past is not always prologue. Things in the present have changed. That means the future could change, too.

The Bulls are no longer as inexperienced. The Heat are no longer as fresh. The East is shaped differently, with more stacked frontcourts, than there were two years ago. If the Bulls were to beat the Heat this year, it won’t mean they would have beaten them previously, and the fact that the Heat have beaten the Bulls before doesn’t mean they will this year.

Using the 2011 series between the teams to assume the same outcome would happen in 2014 is just as fallacious as using a hypothetical 2014 Chicago win to presume a 2012 or 2013 win. Using a predictive argument is very different from using a historical.

If the Bulls “cream” the Heat in 2014 and go on to win the title, all it will mean is that they are the 2014 NBA champions.

 

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Ray Allen wears special ‘Two Rings’ Air Jordans on opening night

Rockin’ gold for the Heat’s ring ceremony

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Heat get rings, then hold off Bulls 107-95 (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 29: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives around Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls during a game at American Airlines Arena on October 29, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI (AP) — They got their rings before the game, then a challenge as it was winding down.


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Watch the Heat receive championship rings

LeBron James was exuberant, and Chris Bosh was goofy.

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LeBron and wife Savannah James show off wedding rings

LeBron James and his new bride, the former miss Savannah Brinson, have kept most of the details and photos from their wedding private. The high school sweethearts got married over the weekend at the Grand Del Mar Hotel in San Diego. On Wednesday, LeBron shared a photo of the couple showing off their rings and […]

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Louisville Cardinals receive NCAA title rings

Peyton Siva shows off his ring.

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Louisville Cardinals Men’s Basketball Team Receives Championship Rings

The players who contributed to the Louisville Cardinals’ championship-winning 2012-13 men’s basketball team will receive their commemorative rings on Monday.

Kenny Klein, the program’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations, announced the news on Twitter on Monday afternoon:

As Klein noted, these come just in time for the Cards’ trip to visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

Jonathan Lintner of The Courier-Journal found that every single one of the UL players from last season will be making the journey to Washington D.C., with the notable exception of Russ Smith.

The team’s leading scorer in 2012-13 will be participating with Team USA during the Four Nations Cup in Europe before he returns to the states for his senior season.   

Expect the players to show off their new jewelry when they are on stage at the Rose Garden tomorrow, as these rings are flashy.

The front features the Cardinals logo inlaid with numerous diamonds, surrounded by the words “National Champions,” while the side displays the Louisville name with another national champions graphic emblazoned underneath.

Head coach Rick Pitino finally has a ring to show for a championship effort, as he won the 1996 title with the Kentucky Wildcats but was not awarded one due to the NCAA believing they were too expensive.

However, the coach may not need to wear the ring often, as he will never be without a constant reminder of his 2012-13 Cardinals squad.

Pitino famously tattooed the program’s 35-5 record and “NCAA Champions”—along with an “L” for the university—on his back, fulfilling a promise he made to his players.

With these rings in hand, the Hall of Fame coach and the young men that made it possible now have one more reminder of how amazing their journey was.

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Kobe Wants Seven Rings

As you can see by the title, you know what the next 500 or so plus words are all about. So before I go any further, let me just say this…..Kobe Bryant will never win another title unless he leaves the Los Angeles Lakers, which he won’t do. Period!!
I’m not saying this because he is a middle age, shooting guard that’s been in the league for 17 years with lots of NBA miles, trying to come back from a torn Achilles. I’m saying this because of the current state of the Lakers as a team, a franchise. Financially the Lakers are bent over a barrel, the core of the Lakers roster is super old, and with the death of Dr. Buss, there is a power struggle over who should really be running the team. Jeanie Buss, or her brother Jim who has been for quite sometime and has made some very questionable moves. When you factor all of this in along with the amount of time Kobe has left, I just don’t see Kobe winning a title again as it will take some for the Lakers to become a legitimate title contenders …

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