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So in early May, Stephen A. Smith went on the record that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers' relationship had staled a bit, and that Doc jumping ship was legitimately possible. We laughed. Stephen A. likes to hear himself talk, and enjoys creating headlines we said.

Well it turns out that while Smith's crazy Blake Griffin aspect of the deal didn't happen, he was actually pretty much spot on with the Rivers side of it. Rivers was a bit worn down in Boston, and did indeed want a fresh start. He bolted to LA last month. And hell, if the Celtics and Clippers had their way, KG would also be in Los Angeles.

It was a good reminder that while Stephen A. is unquestionably a blowhard, the man is pretty plugged in to the NBA scene, and his leads are sometimes (at least partially) correct.

The reason I'm bringing this up? Well Smith discussed two key members of the vaunted 2014 free agent class — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony on his radio show yesterday. Transcribed by the Sporting News.

"There is no guarantee that Carmelo Anthony will stay in New York. As a matter of fact, it's at least a 50-50 proposition, if not worse, that he may elect to leave," Smith said on his local New York radio program.

New York's lack of progress toward a championship and LA's potential ability to sign two max players in July 2014—depending on what happens with Kobe Bryant—will be strong pulls for Anthony, according to Smith.

"At that point, Carmelo Anthony will strongly entertain the possibility of leaving to go to Los Angeles," Smith said.

Smith also covered the possibility of Anthony playing for Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, with whom he clashed in New York.

"Who says Mike D'Antoni's going to be there after next season, especially after the season the Lakers are expected to have (in '13-14)?" Smith said.

Smith also tossed in this juicy bit of hoops gossip: LeBron James could explore playing for the Knicks (as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers) after next season. Like Anthony, James can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat next July and would prefer New York over LA if he leaves South Beach, Smith said.

Smith, though, said that for James to add the Knicks to the mix, New York would have to "miraculously" create cap room, and that outcome seems unlikely, especially with Amare Stoudemire being owed $45 million over the next two seasons.

With all of the Smith caveats aside, a lot of what he is saying seems pretty realistic to me. Why would Carmelo want to stay in New York with a core of Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith that has little chance of ever competing for a title? If he could go to LA with Kobe and another max player, he'd be insane not to at least consider it (If the Lakers can find a taker on Steve Nash's expiring deal next summer they can re-sign Kobe AND bring in two max level players).

As for LeBron, aren't both Cleveland and New York (if Melo is there) more attractive options than Miami? He would either join Kyrie Irving and a cast of young big men in Cleveland, or Melo in NYC, as opposed to spending the latter part of his prime with a 32 year old Dwyane Wade and a 30 year old Chris Bosh. No brainer.

Of course, a year is a long time. Anthony may choose to stay "at home" in New York as opposed to heading west to join another guy who constantly needs the ball in Kobe. And if he does indeed stay, the Knicks would have to pull off salary cap magic to land LeBron (NYK would need to dump Bargnani, Chandler AND Amare to bring in LeBron, or they'd need to work out a sign-and-trade with Miami. Good luck with that.)

So of the two rumors, Melo leaving NYC is far more believable than LeBron joining Melo in New York. LeBron seems destined to either stay in Miami, or head home to Cleveland to make a 2nd run at bringing a title to his home town. Anthony on the other hand may be forced to make a Dwight Howard type decision, and leave more money on the table to head out to Lakerland and join Kobe and free agent X.

Whatever happens, gear up for LeBron free agent fest part 2. Considering his standing as a now four-time MVP and two-time champ, expect the 2014 chase to be even more intense than the 2010 version. If that's even possible.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

To read more of Mike's articles, click here.

Michael Dyer 7/09/2013 05:14:00 PM Edit
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