Cincinnati may no longer have an NBA franchise, but the Queen City is steeped in a hoops heritage that includes a colorful professional basketball past and deep, persistent roots in the college game. As a result, Cincinnati sports fans maintain a strong connection to the NBA, whether we follow national powerhouses like the Miami Heat or more local teams, such as the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. As it turns out, the Monday deals that brought Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger to the Heat, as reported by Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, could have implications for all three of these potential Eastern Conference title contenders.
While Adrian Wojnarowski Tweets that McRoberts and Granger signed with the Heat under the impression that LeBron James would return to South Beach this fall, there is still no guarantee that will happen. In fact, Brian Windhorst reported yesterday that the sparks are flying between James and the Cavs again, so a homecoming could be in the offing.
James’ choice could come down to going home to Cleveland to play with a talented group of youngsters on the verge of big things, or returning to an aging Big Three, an already-old Granger, and McRoberts. If The King can get over the Dan Gilbert flap, the lakeside might look pretty good to him again.
For the Cavs and Heat, of course, James’ ultimate decision will probably change the course of their franchises once again. With LeBron in the fold, Cleveland would be poised as Eastern favorites for years to come; without him, they still have some work to do.
With James, the Heat should be title contenders for a couple more years. Without him, they’re done as superpowers, at least for the foreseeable future.
For the Pacers, the James effect is a bit more subtle, because his landing spot will simply toggle which team Indiana needs to chase through the Eastern Conference each season. The Blue and Gold has already shown that they can hang with the Heat, so a Cavs reunion would probably represent a more daunting challenge for Larry Bird and Company.
Regardless of where James ends up, or which nearby team Cincinnati fans root for, the McRoberts and Granger signings are nevertheless interesting. For Pacers fans, it will be interesting to watch how the two Indiana castoffs perform on a bigger stage, and whether they up their games when playing against their old team. McRoberts holds an extra curiosity factor since he is originally from Indianapolis, and both are former teammates of Lance Stephenson, who played his college ball for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
For Cavaliers fans, of course, McRoberts and Granger will either form part of a new target to aim for, should LeBron stay in Miami, or as fodder for the rearview if LeBron comes home. Either way, there’s a rooting interest for local NBA fans.