Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James spent considerable time discussing President Donald Trump and ex-teammate Kyrie Irving during Monday’s media day session, but there was one line of questioning the four-time NBA MVP tried to lay to rest now and for the rest of the season: free agency.
James owns a $35.6 million player option for 2018-19, and rumors have persisted since last season that he’s planning a move to Los Angeles next summer. In a single statement on Monday, he suggested he still intends to finish his career in Cleveland, and then left open the possibility he could leave.
When James returned in 2014 to the Cavs after a four-year affair with the Miami Heat, he repeatedly tried to assuage fans’ fear that he might leave again. “They shouldn’t be nervous at all,” he told CNN at the time. “I plan on finishing my career back home. And, you know, that was a business decision.”
So, Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon asked James point blank: Have your feelings changed on the subject?
“It hasn’t changed,” said James, “and that’s why I sit up here today still in this uniform, still ready to lead this franchise to a championship, put us into position where we can be successful.”
In his next breath, though, James did a delicate bit of dancing, as if he’d practiced this routine before facing the media, in hopes of avoiding further questioning throughout his final season under contract.
“Obviously, you guys know me. Any time I’m able to be either a free agent or my contract is ending, then I’ll approach that when the summer comes,” he said. “I won’t ever cheat my teammates or cheat the fans or be in a situation where I’m worried or talking about free agency all year long, because I’m not going to give energy to something I can handle in the summertime when I should be focused on what I need to do on a day-to-day basis to help this franchise compete for a championship.”
That’s quite the answer. As much as James might prefer not to be asked about his impending free agency, that doesn’t mean the rumors and questions will subside. Because we know James all too well at this point. When the summer comes, if the winds of change are blowing, he isn’t afraid to leave.
James cited the recent free-agent additions of Derrick Rose and Jeff Green as well as the trade of Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder as proof new general manager Koby Altman is committed to winning titles. If that translates to the court, then the Cavaliers should feel confident he will re-sign.
If not, well, we’ll have to wait until next summer to find out if his feelings for Cleveland have changed.
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