- Melissa Isaacson, espnW.com
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CHICAGO -- It certainly wasn't hard to imagine LeBron James headed anywhere but back to Cleveland on Thursday night as he whipped off his jersey just steps off the parquet, and tossed it away like a discarded paper cup once inside the Cavs' dressing room.
Forget the fact that half the players in the NBA peel off their jerseys as they leave the court, and that you wouldn't expect James to be anything but disgusted after being ash-canned in the second round of the playoffs.
He's through with Cleveland. Done.
There, now we can move on. And focus on why there is absolutely no other logical move for him than to come to the Bulls.
It's kind of funny how the Bulls have gone from overachievers after last season's first-round showing against Boston, to lost souls with a lame-duck coach, to the best darn young nucleus in the game. But with the continued development of Derrick Rose and the blossoming of Joakim Noah, the Bulls really do suddenly look better.
Once you get past the notion that a team is allowed only one mega superstar (and six NBA championships) in a single fan's lifetime, and after hearing enough speculation that yes, James really, sincerely, could perhaps actually be interested in coming to Chicago, it's not that difficult to believe.
Hey, our general pessimism and enduring inferiority complex is still better than New York's pathetic display of the past several months.
One New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist went so far as to say that James is not worth groveling over, that the Knicks should be above all the begging and silliness, which included New York Magazine's photo-shopping James in the midst of Madison Square Garden and all things Knicks.
That hype has been going on so long, it almost seems like it has run its course already, though with two max contracts, the opportunity for James to go to New York and bring a friend has to be enticing.
And funny that the Nets, with their fabulously wealthy owner, don't get mentioned all that often as a possible destination, though there can't be much room left in the New York media after all the Knicks drooling. Also, James would have to play in Jersey for two years before the team moves to Brooklyn.
If money were the key factor for James, he would stay in Cleveland. I mean, how many yachts can you water-ski behind? How much is enough? (Sorry, kind of excited about the Wall Street sequel). But really, will a few million be a deal-maker or breaker to him? You wouldn't think so.
Championships are what sells. Winning is the best form of marketing. And all you have to do is look around at the number of Super Bowl Bears who have stayed and made nice livings and remained celebrities in Chicago 25 years later to know that there aren't many cities that can match that.
It has been suggested that perhaps James' ego could not handle being compared to Michael Jordan, but I don't buy it anymore than I buy that there aren't enough basketballs to distribute between James and Rose.
If you don't believe James is a team player, then you haven't been paying any attention to his career at all. Would Rose benefit from a superstar big man? Of course. So would 95 percent of the point guards in the NBA. But any great player knows that having another great player on the court only makes him better. Rose knows it. James absolutely knows it.
But James also still needs a strong coach. One respected NBA observer said that for all of James' talent, he still needs a go-to game under pressure. Bulls fans must hope Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't economize on the coaching end.
James to Chicago?
I'm kind of, sort of starting to believe it.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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6dMatt Walks, ESPN.com