MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Thursday, July 1st, 2010, a date that's been anticipated like no other by NBA teams. Tonight at midnight, open season begins for this year's free agents. And it's a stellar lineup - many would say the best ever, including LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Art Garcia covers the NBA for NBA.com and Turner Sports. Welcome to the program.
BLOCK: Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.
BLOCK: And are - you call this the most gifted class ever. What's so special about these free agents?
BLOCK: It's funny. It goes back to 2003, which a lot of people were calling probably the greatest draft of, you know, the last 25, 30 years. And all these guys came out in the same draft: LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh. And now, seven years later, they're all in the same position where they're free agents. And so, seven years later, after the greatest, you know, what a lot of people call the greatest draft ever, we have these same great players who have lived up to the billing that we all thought they would back then and now they're on the open market.
And they hold the fortunes of a lot of teams, their old teams and new teams, in the balance with their decisions over the next week or so.
BLOCK: And it's a feeding frenzy, or it will be. All eyes especially, though, on LeBron James, who's been playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. What do you think he's looking for in the team that he might sign with?
BLOCK: I think he's looking for several things. I think he wants to be in a position where he can win and obviously he has won in Cleveland, but he hasn't won it all. He's mentioned many times in the past that he wants to be a global icon. And even though he's on his way to that Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods sort of status, you need to win championships and that's one thing he hasn't done yet.
At the same time, I think he wants to maybe have somebody to share the burden with him. He's a guy that in Cleveland has been their sole beacon of hope for the last seven years. And he played on the Olympics. He's been on a couple Olympic teams now. He understands what it's like to play with other superstar caliber players.
He's obviously great friends with a lot of these players that are free agents at the same time. And that's why we've heard so much about superstar summits and these guys making their decisions together because they realize this is basically the only chance they're going to have to ever do something like this. And it's completely unique.
Twenty-five years ago there wasn't shot of Magic Johnson playing on the same team with Larry Bird. It may not be Larry and Magic, but it's pretty close.
BLOCK: You're talking about the superstar summit. And let's talk about that because there have been rumors that James, Wade and Bosh met over the weekend to talk about strategy, talk about maybe teaming up to accept less money to play together on, say, the Miami Heat.
BLOCK: Yeah, it's sort of conflicting reports on that end. You have some outlets saying that they did meet in Miami. I know we're reporting at Turner that that didn't take place. But regardless of whether they're all in the same room, they can all talk to each other. Obviously everybody's got each other's cell phones.
I think at the end of the day, they're going to make their decisions individually but they are going to consult with one another. And if they do all end up in the same place, I mean, the rest of the NBA has got to watch out for the next four, five, six years.
BLOCK: Yeah, talk about a dream team. Is there a team that could afford to take all three of them, that has enough space under the salary cap?
BLOCK: Really, right now the best option is Miami. It's conceivable that a place like New Jersey could also offer enough room and New York. One of the other variables in all this is if they went to a New Jersey or a New York, they probably all wouldn't be able to make maximum money. They may be, you know, having to shave a few million dollars off a maximum salary.
BLOCK: And just before we feel too bad for them, the maximum salary would be?
BLOCK: Approximately $15 million. Yeah, they're going to be in pretty good shape if they choose 15 or 13 or 12, or whatever it is.
BLOCK: What do you think, for a player like LeBron James listening to pitches from all these teams, apart from the pure dollar value, what makes up their mind? Does the vibe of the city, the fan base, does that play a part at all?
BLOCK: Yeah, I think there are a lot of things that are in play here. You look at the team and the roster. Are there players there that these superstars can connect with? You look at all these factors: weather, city, fan base, money, ownership. I think all these things are going to come into play.
BLOCK: Art Garcia covers the NBA for NBA.com and Turner Sports. Art, thanks very much.
BLOCK: Thank you, appreciate it.
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