It may be completely manufactured, on life support and predicated on owner Dan Gilbert figuring out how to build James a castle in the sky, but it's not dead.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd—special thanks for CBS Sports' Matt Moore for bringing it to our attention—the Cavs plan on luring James back to Cleveland by appealing to more than his sense of loyalty:
Yes, the Cavs underachieved this season. Yes, Grant tried feverishly for the past two years, but could never find that second star to pair with Kyrie Irving and ultimately serve as the bait to lure James back to the Cavs.
But the Cavs privately believe it’s not too late. They still have the assets to pull off a mammoth trade this summer at the draft, the type Grant tried so hard to make. Kevin Love will be entering the final year of his contract, as will LaMarcus Aldridge. Grant tried for two years to unsuccessfully pry both stars out of their current cities, but each had too many years left on their contracts for their current teams to consider it. That’s no longer true.
If either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Portland Trail Blazers come to the conclusion they can’t re-sign their stars, this summer is the time to move them and the Cavs will be at the front of the line, stocked with young players and future draft picks.
A core assembled around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge sure sounds nice in theory. Housing two All-Stars would almost certainly get James' attention this summer or next, depending how the upcoming offseason plays out.
Let's be real, though: The Cavs are grasping at invisible straws here.
No doubt, Aldridge and Love could prove obtainable via trade before summer 2015. Love seems like the more likely trade candidate, what with Aldridge having openly declared his loyalty to the Portland Trail Blazers amid an impressive season not even he saw coming.
"I would like to re-sign here," Aldridge told the Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers in January. "If they want to talk about it, I would talk about it. They haven't yet, but I'm looking forward to the chance to do that."
Anonymous players also approached Aldridge and Damian Lillard while they were in New Orleans for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, per CSNNW's Chris Haynes, so you get the sense Portland is more likely to roll the dice in free agency rather than trade its star forward.
Love, meanwhile, has been considered a flight risk since he re-signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012. Most recently, the New York Daily News' Frank Isola reported that Love is expected to choose between Minnesota and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015. He could be put on the chopping block at anytime between now and next season's trade deadline.
But Cleveland's methodology is seriously flawed here.
None of this is to say the Cavs don't have trade assets. They're tracking toward another lottery finish and do have some younger players, such as Dion Waiters, who could be used as bait.
Approaching their immediate future, however, by going all in on a player who already left them is problematic.
The Cavs first have to hope Irving is prepared to re-sign. History suggests he will, even if he stays on a shorter deal. Then the Cavs have to hope that either Aldridge or Love is available and willing to stay in Cleveland.
Finally, they have to hope James, at some point between 2014 and 2015, is inclined to leave the dynastic Miami Heat for Cleveland. Good luck with that.
By James returning to Cleveland to pay his respects to Big Z—who was his teammate for the first eight seasons of his career—he inadvertently fueled speculation. That's what always happens. Simple, seemingly harmless decisions are manipulated into something they're not.
In all likelihood, James isn't returning to Cleveland this summer. The idea of him leaving Miami, championship or no championship, after this season is absurd.
But by all appearances, that won't stop the Cavs from hoping against hope they have the ability to create a team James once again wants to play for.
Just as it was in 2010, everything they do and plan to do seems to be with James in mind. Assuming they're unable to turn overly ambitious schemes into tangible, sky-dwelling castles, one must also assume they're headed for similar disappointment.
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