Well, not to sound snide but anything is possible. Try removing the speedo cable from the metering assembly. If the assembly is still hard to turn, you may have an issue there. I have read of metering assemblies failing. If the assembly now spins more easily, then you might have an issue with the cable. Have you tried to spin the inner bearing races themselves? Do they turn smoothly or feel slightly "notchy"? At this point, you just need to make it a process-of-elimination series of events. With 7K miles, I wouldn't think that the bearings would be toast (in the picture you posted, they seem OK) but then I don't know the history of the bike, either.
There are some simple thruths......and dogs know what they are - Joseph Duemer
Andy holds the lead. And he will, all the way to the Highway. Today is his day.