Then the Spurs turned it on and the Heat withered as the Finals fizzled for Miami. When it was over so was the Heat's time as champs, and James, with free agency suddenly upon him, had a legitimate reason to consider other options.
In theory, the Cavs could've made this same trade with the Wolves in June but they didn't. The reason: This exact deal wasn't being offered. The Cavs badly wanted to get Love in the fold by July 1 to help with pitching James on a return to Cleveland. But offering the past two No. 1 overall picks and a future first-rounder for Love, a player who could leave via free agency in a year, was light on guarantees. So the talks around the draft died.
In all, more than 12 teams reached out to the Wolves to make some sort of offer for Love. Some were non-starters, some were legit. The Golden State Warriors got the closest and could've removed the Cavs from the equation before they ever were able to make their best offer. But the Warriors and Wolves couldn't find a deal and neither could anyone else, buying the Cavs what turned out to be some extremely valuable time.
In the hours after James released his letter to announce his return to Cleveland there was euphoria and insanity in the Cavs' offices. So many people called trying to buy tickets and sponsorships that the entire phone system crashed. James' agents, Rich Paul and Mark Termini, had trouble getting through just to start the process of negotiating the contract and it had to be hammered out using cell phones.
Ultimately, the process was short. James could name his terms. It was one year at the maximum salary followed by an option year at the max salary. This was unexpected -- the Cavs were thinking James would sign for longer, but they were willing to give him his terms. They had no problem paying him as much as possible and if doing it this way helped him get more money they were fine with it and willing to trust him.
By that Friday afternoon the paperwork was on its way to Florida to be signed by James before he took off for a promotional trip to Brazil for Nike.
Before that weekend, the Cavs had been reluctant to offer the rights to Wiggins in a deal for Love. While they offered packages involving the pick prior to the draft, they were excited about Wiggins after drafting him. They saw him as a wing with good defensive instincts they could pair with James if they got James in free agency.
If Love wanted to play with James, as had been communicated to the Cavs through various channels, the Cavs felt like they could wait for their dream big three and figure out a way to add Love via free agency in 2015. But with James only technically committed for one season and with his desire to play with Love as soon as possible made clear to the team, the priorities had changed quickly.
By the time James was back in the U.S. following a weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Wiggins had been put on the table. Within just a few days, a meeting between Love, Gilbert and other Cavs officials had been arranged with the permission of the Wolves. It was communicated that Love would not sign an extension or pick up his option for next season following a trade to the Cavs but that he was committed to playing alongside James for the long term.