Every time you think the Cleveland Cavaliers are out, the lottery pulls them back in.
In an incredible bucking of the odds, the Cavs won the draft lottery Tuesday for the third time in the past four years. Even more, they've won the top pick four out of the past six times they've been in the lottery, dating to 2003 when Cleveland won the right to draft LeBron James.
Naturally, outrageously or uncomfortably depending on your rooting interest, the big question now becomes: What does this development mean if James chooses to become a free agent next month?
It's a question that never seems to go away, no matter how much success James enjoys with the Miami Heat or how many failures the Cavs experience without him.
The notion of James ever playing in Cleveland again is an extremely polarizing topic, both inside the organization and with its fan base. Within the league, opinion on this topic varies wildly. Some label it as absurd because of the Cavs' repeated stumbles and the damage the franchise did to James on a personal level after his departure. But there are others who think it's reasonable under certain circumstances -- one of which exploded onto the radar Tuesday night in the form of more lottery luck, opening the door again for the Cavs to add a potential star player.
James himself, the only voice that matters here, has respectfully left the door open enough that he now gets cheers by a healthy percentage of fans when he plays in the city. But s ince the beginning of the season, he has been diligent in refusing to discuss his free-agent options, which include the distinct possibility that he stays in his contract with the Heat this summer and pushes his free agency off to 2015. James' game plan all along has been to reach the end of the season and then judge the landscape before picking a path. All indications point to him sticking to that strategy.
However, what is clear is that when James looks at his menu of options next month he will focus on being with a team that is built to contend for championships right now. Not in two years. Not after new teammates get their first taste of the playoffs. Now.
At age 29 and in his prime, James is not in the business of playing for a team that is still developing. He wouldn't have much interest in losing a season while a coach is learning the ropes, either. James is very focused on adding titles and being on a team that has the expectation to be a yearly contender, essentially a situation like he has been in for the past four seasons.
The Heat are in hot pursuit of their third consecutive title and the organization is a model of stability in an ocean of turbulence in the NBA, where coaches and executives are getting fired even after successful seasons. When it comes to execution in surrounding James with talent, the Heat have lived up to all their promises.