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Forget all other scenarios, LeBron James is fit for the Clippers

T.J. SIMERS

He has already shown a keen interest in Hollywood, so it's not far-fetched to think he could join the Clippers next season.

December 09, 2009|T.J. Simers

I'm listening to Colin Cowherd's radio show Tuesday morning, and he's talking with someone about LeBron James maybe ending up in New York or New Jersey, and I keep waiting for Cowherd to say something brilliant.

He usually does, but he's off his game, and so now I'm the one who will have to make the argument that there's an excellent chance James will be playing for the Clippers next season.

Right now there are seven teams in salary-cap range to make a run at James. Among them, the Clippers offer the most attractive supporting cast to a guy who is probably pretty intent on winning a championship.

He can stay in Cleveland and make more money than anywhere else, but how much would they have to pay you to live in Cleveland?

Throw out Minneapolis and Oklahoma City, too, because no one wants to live there. The Knicks are loaded with stiffs, making it impossible to win any time soon and he will be halfway through his contract before New Jersey is playing in something other than a dump.

That leaves, Miami, Chicago and the worst sports franchise known to mankind.

Does James want to play with another megastar like Dwyane Wade? Doubt it.

Hard to argue with Chicago right now, but for someone like James, who has already shown a keen interest in Hollywood, why not the entertainment capital?

The Clippers have seven players under contract for next season, potential young stars in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon to go along with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Al Thornton.

If the Clippers still have to drop someone to clear more salary room for James, that's easy -- bye Al.

In a recent interview, Donald Sterling was talking about having a ton of money and wanting to spend it on a superstar. He thought he had a deal with Kobe Bryant. Why shouldn't he think there's a chance to land James?

If James leaves Cleveland, he will get about $16.5 million next season, no matter who signs him. That's the way the NBA works.

Talk about a basketball legacy for the ages -- how would you like to be known as the only player in NBA history to make the Clippers a winner? At the same time you get to square off with Bryant for basketball supremacy, up close and personal.

Now there's a Nike commercial for the game's top two competitors with Staples Center as the backdrop.

OK, so I realize right now you are doubled over in laughter, so to give you time to regain your composure, I'm going to vent for a few paragraphs here, explaining why Pete Carroll is on the run and why I'm writing now about James' future with the Clippers.

Now as most of you know, I've been a big fan of Uncle Pete's, but like any family member -- especially from the wife's side -- he's a little odd, acting like a spoiled child when Mark Sanchez left and a punk when getting the chance to embarrass Rick Neuheisel.

Those are exceptions, though, and as a rule he's one of the best sports attractions we've got around here. He's also a walking reminder how important enthusiasm, fun and passion are in life.

He's feisty, as well, and ordinarily doesn't mind tangling with Page 2. I've always admired that because he's almost always wrong and doesn't seem to care.

He's been a winner on the field, though, and this is really the first time we've seen him humbled, beaten and trying to talk up something like the Nut Bowl.

In Steve Bisheff's book, "Always Compete," he writes, "What this book will show is how [Carroll] operates the No. 1 college football program in America, from spring practice all the way to when the final seconds tick off in the Rose Bowl, and then on to National Signing Day."

I presume Bisheff will be writing another book now about how a coach operates the No. 24 college football program in the Bowl Championship Series at season's end -- from the loss to Washington on to Arizona and then maybe watching the final seconds tick off in the Rose Bowl while sitting on the couch with Carroll.

In the meantime, I thought it'd be interesting to see how Carroll is handling such disappointment. I'm still wondering.

A week ago, Uncle Pete wouldn't allow me to ask questions during his news conference, saying he didn't want to answer them in front of others, but would happily talk one on one any time.

So I tell USC's PR guy I'd like to talk to Uncle Pete on Monday, figuring the day after BCS bowls are set, no one else wants to talk to someone with four losses.

The PR guy gives me Uncle Pete's number and says Uncle Pete wants me to call after 11.

But he doesn't answer. I try again 15 minutes later. If he's got Matt Barkley on the other line, I worry he might never hang up.

I leave a message. He doesn't call back. He has no problem taking CharlieWeis' call. By the way, is there any one more despicable, lower and downright mean than Weis, and replying "Page 2" is just not acceptable.

I don't hear from Uncle Pete on Monday, so at the end of the day I have to turn to the Dodgers' Dennis Mannion, and you know how happy he's about that.

I text Carroll on Tuesday because the paper insists I write two columns a week. I remind him he'll have to come out of hiding for the Nut Bowl.

He replies, "Hey dude," and while I was growing up, a "dude" was kind of a nerd in Westerns. What's he trying to tell me?

He says he's working on recruiting, trying to make everyone think it's the players, I guess, who killed USC this season. I reply it all came down to coaching, and he replies he's too busy to talk.

"Now I know why Neuheisel is beginning to grow on me," I reply in a text, but just between you and me, not enough yet to call him.

But it does send me to a Clippers game to find something to write about, no one with the Clippers allowed to comment on James, of course, but a feeling here that while it never crossed Cowherd's mind, these guys have thought of nothing else.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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