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LeBron to Bulls Rumors Heat Up

By Benjy Lipsman in News on May 17, 2010 3:40PM

No sooner did the Cleveland Cavaliers meet their untimely end in the NBA playoffs then speculation began in earnest about where LeBron James will play next year. While many had expected the Akron native to stay close to home in the end, Cleveland's inability to surround King James with the pieces to win a title might compel him to bolt in free agency this summer. And while many had long assumed that New York would be the most likely location for the two-time MVP to land, a new destination has gained steam in recent days: Chicago.

That LeBron might have been telegraphing interest in joining the Bulls is nothing new to us, but the MSM seems to have caught on only recently. Fueling the speculation was ESPN's Chad Ford, who reported that moments after the Cavs were eliminated three different GMs contacted him, all saying that they believed James would leave the Cavs and that James was most likely headed to the Bulls. Re-signing with the Cavs might show his loyalty to the team that drafted him, allow him to remain close to his hometown Akron, and earn him a larger paycheck because NBA rules allow one's current team to offer more money and a longer contract than other suitors. But given his frustration after being knocked out of the playoffs short of The Finals for a third straight year may have him looking for greener pastures. New York would give James access to the biggest stage, a rabid fan base, the chance to resurrect a team that's longed for another title for almost four decades and enough cap room to land two top free agents.

So how can the Bulls counter?

The Bulls might just offer James the best supporting cast to actually win a title. ESPN's Bill Simmons explains, "If he cares about winning titles (multiple) and reaching his full potential as a player, he has only one move: the Chicago Bulls." Washington-Post columnist and "Pardon the Interruption" co-host Michael Wilbon echoed those sentiments, "If LeBron is realistic about having a serious chance to win a championship next season, he'll go to Chicago, plain and simple." Teaming up with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng might provide the best chance to hoist a championship trophy, all while following in the footsteps of his idol Michael Jordan. James apparently called Rose shortly after the Cavs were eliminated by Boston, telling the Bulls point guard that he "likes his team and would welcome the chance to play together."

If playing along side Rose isn't enough, fans have begun lobbying James online to sell him on Chicago and the Bulls. Even coaches angling for jobs are trying to use any connection to LeBron James to try and land a job by helping to land the cream of the free agent crop. Current University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has connections with James (and coached Rose at the University of Memphis), apparently reached out to Bulls management over the weekend through his agent to try and sell the pair as a package deal. But the downside of that package deal is that management would be hiring a coach with a 72-112 lifetime record as an NBA coach in hopes of luring LeBron. Even former Windy City resident President Obama is weighing in that he thinks LBJ will wind up in Chicago.

Of course, the naysayers have also appeared. Former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy knocked the Bulls, claiming James alone would not be enough for the Bulls to win. Others, like Wilbon, don't believe James is really that focused on winning at the expense of fame, fortune and fun at this point. Of course, all of this hype is nothing more than speculation until the NBA free agency window opens up, which isn't until July 1, and teams can begin to make their sales pitch. And so we enter the Summer of LeBron, which ESPN is ever so helpfully counting down the time on their "LeBron Tracker." Only 44 days to go; let the hype begin.