INDIANAPOLIS – Returning to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2000 will take on a much different challenge in 2014-2015.
Lebron James has made his decision and that’s not to return to the Miami Heat, but rather to his hometown of Cleveland to play again for the Cavaliers, where he started his career from 2003-2010.
James made his decision through an article posted by Sports Illustrated around 12:30 p.m., and at that point, the look of the entire Eastern Conference changed, especially for the runners-up the last two years. He later announced his decision via his Instagram.
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Now, instead of having the mantra of “Beat The Heat”–which they failed to do in three consecutive playoff series– the Pacers now face an Eastern Conference in a bit of flux and one in which the team with the No. 1 draft pick this season may be the team to beat.
Cleveland adds James to a lineup that features seasoned point guard Kyrie Irving-a former No. 1 overall pick-who signed a multi-year contract with the Cavaliers on Thursday. Also the team will welcome center and this year’s No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins to the fold as well along with other acquisitions they may get through signing players or trades now that James is in the fold.
What is obvious is that Miami will no longer be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference which they have won the last four years-twice going on to win the NBA Championship. Per reports, Chris Bosh is likely to sign a contract with the Houston Rockets which leaves just one of the big three left with the Heat-guard Dwayne Wade.
The Pacers’ central division rival Chicago also is looking for a serious upgrade as they remain in the hunt to get the services of Carmelo Anthony and welcome back former NBA MVP Derrick Rose from injury.
As for Indiana they are still in a bit of a holding pattern as the wait for Lance Stephenson to decide if he will stay with the team or go. Stephenson has already been offered a 5-year, 44 million dollar contract by the team but he has initially decided to decline the offer. If the Bulls or other teams like the Lakers fail to land Anthony, Stephenson may attract attention from them along with a higher salary.
So far the Pacers have signed three free agents during the free agent period which began with negotiations on July 1st. Guard C.J. Miles comes over from Cleveland while forward Damjan Rudez comes from Croatia to both help the Pacers’ scoring off the bench.
Along with those two the Pacers also retained center Lavoy Allen, who saw limited action after joining the team in February in the trade that sent Danny Granger out of Indianapolis.