Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 10:39 a.m.
In what has all the makings of a Faustian bargain, the Heat is on the verge of landing LeBron James to go with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. No matter who is signed to fill the remaining spots on the team's roster, those three players alone make this arguably the most dominant team in the modern era -- on paper, anyway.
But karma tends to be cruel to those who aspire to create something flawless.
And that's especially the case when a couple of souls are sold to realize this perfect thing. No, I'm not talking about the team ditching Daequan Cook. I'm talking about how just a week ago, Wade pretended to be "leaning" toward the Bulls, even if it meant taking a pay cut, just so he could spend more time with his kids, who live with their mom in Chicago. I'm even more certain than I was yesterday that Wade was scheming to eliminate the Bulls as the competition for signing James.
To join the Heat, James will have to part ways with the part of his soul that was loyal to the only home he's ever known, in northeast Ohio. It will be the most devastating sports blow to the city since Art Modell smuggled the Browns to Baltimore. It will be another crushing blow to the region's economy, where locals joked that "LeBron's our biggest industry." After the steel industry folded, that may have been truer than they realized.
Then there's the practical question of how three guys who are used to being the primary scoring option on their team are going to be able to handle playing the role of second or third banana on this Heat team. They can't all launch 25 shots a game. They can't all get to take the last-second shot. If Wade misses a jumper that leads to a loss, who can blame James for saying he should have got the ball instead? He knows he would have made the shot. Or if it's James missing that shot, then Wade is left to wonder why he didn't get to take it.
Expectations will be so high for this team that even one regular-season loss will be followed by a chorus of questions -- who's fault is it?
In the locker room after the game, reporters will be swarming the megastars, trolling for signs of tension between them. The tiniest disagreement will make headlines around the world -- just as it does for any celebrity couple. Wade and James are good friends. But has their friendship ever been tested under pressure like this? It has to weather 82 games, then the playoffs. There are tough teams in Orlando, Chicago, and Boston that will all play their most inspired games when they play the Heat.
At the very least, it's way too early to talk about "dynasty." First, the Heat had better hope this "perfect" team doesn't come with a curse.