The NBA Finals haven't even started yet, but it's not too early to consider the future of one of its principle participants. LeBron James' pending free agency is hard to overlook. From the moment James formed the Big Three in Miami, potential suitors had July 2014 marked on their calendars. In February, ESPN.com reporters Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne explained that we shouldn't necessarily assume James will re-up with Miami, no matter what happens this postseason. They also argued that if he leaves the Heat, the Los Angeles Clippers are a logical destination.
A lot has happened since February.
When the Donald Sterling scandal broke, James was one of the first and most prominent players to step up and voice his sentiments. "We're fighting to get an owner out of our league who shouldn't be a part of our league," he said. "No matter how long it takes, no matter how much money it costs, we need to get him out of there -- and whoever is associated with him doesn't belong in our league."
Possibly at least partially due to the players' strong, unified reaction, NBA commissioner Adam Silver levied the harshest penalty he could, and the league started down the path to remove Sterling from ownership -- with the path leading to Steve Ballmer's recent agreement to purchase the Clippers for $2 billion.
Obviously, James' joining the Clippers would have been out of the question with Sterling still there, but with Sterling now almost certainly gone, might James again consider the Clippers a possibility? And could his solidarity with friend and union president Chris Paul, the Clippers' leader, manifest itself in free agency?
Ballmer, fresh off his $2 billion investment, will surely take big steps to make the Clippers a better team on the court. He will improve the scouting and analytics, and likely will allow the team to spend well above the luxury-tax threshold. But ultimately, it all comes down to acquiring the right players.
It makes sense that Ballmer will shoot for the stars when it comes to acquiring personnel. What better target than LeBron? The question is whether Ballmer truly has a chance.