Are the Bulls now the leaders in the LeBron sweepstakes?

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Thumbnail image for lebron celtics game 5.pngThere are a lot of jittery Cleveland Cavaliers fans right now. And not just because they had four cups at the Cleveland Coffee Company.

Clevelanders woke up this morning to a new landscape. Yesterday morning they were still the most logical place for LeBron James to play — they had shown him a serious commitment to winning, he got more money, he got to stay home and they were as close to getting a championship team together as anyone else.

Today, that is not the case. Chicago suddenly looks much closer to a title, and they have shown a serious commitment to winning.

That is, if the Bulls can land both LeBron and Chris Bosh. They traded Kirk Hinrich and now are right on the edge of being able to add two max contracts to go with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Land two big free agents and Chicago will get penciled in to take on the Lakers in the 2011 NBA finals.

Chicago has done all it could and now is in a great position. Cleveland has done all it could for the past couple years, making big moves to try to bring LeBron a ring. Both front offices have shown what they are willing to do. There are pitches to be made, but the foundations are set.

There are reasons this might not work in Chicago. Maybe Chris Bosh really wants to be option number one, and the thought of playing on a team where the ball will always be in LeBron’s or Rose’s hands has him heading to Miami or New York. Maybe LeBron really wants to play with Wade. Maybe LeBron really always wanted to play in New York, who cares how far the team is from a title.

Let’s hope the “LeBron doesn’t want to play in the shadow of Jordan” argument doesn’t ring true. Because that would be sad and speak of a weak-minded LeBron. You didn’t see Kevin Garnett shying away from the legacy of Larry Bird and Bill Russell – he embraced it and added to it. You don’t see Kobe shying away from the legacy of Magic and Jerry West, he saw it as a challenge. (Of course, Kobe sees everything as a challenge.)

It comes down to this:

Chicago is a place he can win and maybe be the heart of a dynasty.

Cleveland is home.

LeBron will have to choose. After all the fancy dinners and celebrities and long talks with general managers, it comes down to what LeBron really wants in his heart.

And if that truly is titles, Cleveland may no longer be the front-runner.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.

Luke Walton says he won’t run the triangle as Lakers coach

at American Airlines Center on December 30, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.

But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.

Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:

Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.

Steve Kerr: “Not going to rule out” Stephen Curry for Game 2 vs. Blazers

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 27:  Injured Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts on the bench with Shaun Livingston #34 and Anderson Varejao #18 during their game against the Houston Rockets in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 27, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/726489715398991872

Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.