Finale of first day of free agency cracks East wide open for Pacers as LeBron James signs with Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are ecstatic this evening.  And so are the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks.

LeBron James abdicated his position a few hours ago as the Beast of the East by signing a four-year deal with the Lakers.

For the first time since 2010, the East will send a team to the NBA Finals that does not feature James and a collection of cronies, gadflies, role players, and occasional – almost – peers.

That opens the door for teams like the Celtics (if healthy), Pacers (if they can find another piece or two), Sixers (if Ben Simmons takes a leap toward superstardom), and the Bucks (if the Greek Freak becomes the next Beast).

Many will moan that the East will lapse into total irrelevance as LeBron heads west, and they may be right, but better to be a good team among mediocres than a very good team surrounded by greats.

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Knowing they will be able to avoid LeBron until the NBA Finals will bring some urgency to the front offices and players of the top teams in the East.

The team best positioned to attack might just be the Pacers, who signed a role player in Doug McDermott today, and have cap space to get aggressive if the right trade can be consummated.

For years the Pacers have been criticized for their unwillingness to spend as they always found a way to be good without ever threatening great.

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That conservative approach might play serious dividends now as they are one of the few teams in the NBA with cap space.

Now the question is whether the Pacers have the vision and stones to be able to attack the suddenly attainable goal of being the Eastern Conference franchise good enough to play in June.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at

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