With LeBron James’s return to Cleveland, ESPN’s Bob Ryan says Wizards are now Eastern Conference favorites


(Nam Y. Huh / AP)

LeBron James’s announcement that he was headed back home to Cleveland immediately caused a few easy reactions among Wizards fans. To wit:

* Is the Soulja Boy-era rivalry back on?

* Will home division games against the Heat no longer be filled with fans of the Cowboys and Yankees.

* Could Kevin Durant one day pen a similar “I’m coming home” essay for Washingtonian?

* Wait, are the Wizards now a threat to reach the NBA Finals next season?

These were all jokes. Sort of.

“What happens to the NBA if LeBron goes to Cleveland?” Michael Wilbon asked on “PTI” Thursday afternoon. “How does it change the league?”

“The word ‘vacuum’ comes into play,” answered Bob Ryan, filling in for a vacationing Tony Kornheiser. “There is an astonishing power vacuum, particularly because we have no idea [what's happening] with the Pacers. The Pacers are the biggest mystery team right now in the league.”

“We don’t know what the Bulls do, because they can’t seem to sign anybody ever,” Wilbon added.

“Are you ready for this? Are you ready for this?” Ryan than asked in a fit of inspiration. “The new favorite to win the East if LeBron vacates Miami? The Washington Wizards, that’s who.”

“That sentence has never been spoken on any show dealing with basketball,” Wilbon said, probably correctly. “The last time they were favored to do anything they were the Bullets, not even the Wizards. My goodness!”

As a point of fact, Cleveland, Chicago and Indiana would all appear to have better odds to win the East than the Wizards, at least as of this writing. Among Eastern Conference teams, the Cavs are 4-1 to win the NBA title, followed by the Bulls at 7-1, the Pacers at 18-1 and the Wizards at 33-1. But Ryan’s version sounds better.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · July 11