We hesitate even giving rumor-mongering like this a bigger forum, considering that this is clearly what the author was after all along, but it's a Wednesday and it's January and no player from Tuesday night's NBA action checked into a game wearing his shorts on backwards. So we're going to pass along the "report," from Fox Sports' Sam Amico, that LeBron James might consider rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers someday.
Not as his career winds down, mind you. And not assuming nemesis and Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sells the Cavaliers, or the young team puts together two or three more studs via the draft and free agency and starts spitting out 60 wins again. No, Amico is quoting unnamed sources and telling you that James (frustrated at the Pat Riley-ness of the Miami Heat) would consider going to Cleveland at age 29 when his contract runs out with the Heat. Because these sources know exactly what James will be considering some 30 months from now.
It's a delightful read. Here's a quote:
Now, there is talk that James is less-than-thrilled with certain aspects of the Heat organization. Sources in Miami say that while James still thoroughly enjoys playing alongside fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he doesn't particularly care for the heavy-handed and disciplined style of team president Pat Riley.
James can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2013-14 season, and speculation is he will strongly consider it if Riley remains in his current role. And the team James would be eyeballing most in free agency, say those close to the situation, would be the Cavs.
Who, exactly, is "close to the situation" here? Some former LeBron hanger-on, desperate to pretend he's peddling truth off the record? Some Cavalier employee who probably thinks he knows what's in James' head without actually talking to the guy? The same sort of people who were probably wrong in thinking he'd follow the money and sustain his pampered turn in Cleveland and re-sign with the Cavs back in 2010?
Cue the brick wall, give me a purple blazer and Seinfeld affectation -- who are these people?
There's no question that James does not like being held accountable for the same things that lesser humans have to be chided about. And there's no question that James wants nothing to do with the Riley-style practices Riles protégé Erik Spoelstra would love to put his team through when it's not traveling three or four days out of the week or playing at home that night. No player, down to Magic Johnson or the most strident of Riley's Knicks or Heat go-getters, enjoyed or even welcomed a Pat Riley-styled practice. James still has a lot of growing up to do in order to chase Michael Jordan down, but he's not rare in this regard.
But "those close to the situation"? Talking about James eyeballing anything in 2014 here in the first month of 2012, much less thinking about the Cavaliers? This isn't to take shots at Cleveland. The team is playing fine basketball, doing what it can to win while rebuilding, and it took in a well-deserved bit of luck with the Baron Davis deal -- mixing an unanticipated amnesty clause and some lottery ball chance into cap relief and an absolute stunner of a top pick in the fantastic Kyrie Irving.
No, this is to rip on these clearly Cleveland-area sources and the writer for writing about this as if anyone (including James) has any idea what the landscape and eventual destinations will look like in 2014. That's not even taking into account the perks that come with plying your trade as a millionaire in the city of Miami, championships or not. The fact that it would be Cleveland up for consideration, considering the enmity that remains in that city and within the organization, doesn't even add to what is already a column at its saturation point and soaked in wrong. Name any team -- LeBron might give up and jump at the drop of a hat in 2014 … but it's two-thousand freaking twelve!
And, again, this isn't musing as to whether or not James would want to end his career with Cleveland, as "Pardon the Interruption's" Michael Wilbon brought up last week. That's not nearly as far-fetched. This is Amico quoting what are obviously Cleveland-area sources "close to the situation" and telling you that LeBron James -- in his prime at age 29 -- "would be eyeballing" the Cavs most of all as a free agent in 2014 because Pat Riley is a big meanie.
You don't want to say "never" with any player, especially while anticipating the end of their particular run as an active athlete. Nostalgia can run rampant, and players can make strange choices when some hopeful GM suggests a charming bow to top off an exemplary career. Scottie Pippen retired as a Chicago Bull. Shaquille O'Neal, most closely identified as a Laker, finished off his career as a Boston Celtic. Tracy McGrady is playing out the string down in Georgia because, like someone settling into their southern retirement fantasy, it suits him. Great for all of them. Seriously.
So you don't want to slough off James, someday, moving back to the team that plays closest to his hometown in Akron. Owners -- or, at the very least, ownership stylings -- can change. A 38-year-old LeBron will still be better than most 30-year-olds in 2023, to say nothing of the storyline and eventual ticket sales and ratings attached. Assuming we still have TVs in 2023.
That's guesswork surrounding the end of a career, though. Not strange musings from an Ohio-based scribe whose stock in trade has always come in peddling rumors in the 2000-Internet style.
The Miami Heat have 49 games left to play in this season. The team has yet to figure out if it can overcome a thin bench and inconsistent play from the point guard and center position. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James still have yet to mesh on the court. The group still has to figure out if it can win four rounds of playoff basketball, as it nearly did last year, with James and Wade taking turns instead of working off of each other naturally. There are so, so many storylines to gab about with this team.
This, and I don't care if you're working out of Ohio and writing straight to your core readership, is not one of them.
2014. "Those close to the situation." Pat Riley's super-tough windsprints in a season that goes a month between practices featuring a team that Pat Riley doesn't actually coach. Dan Gilbert handing LeBron James a pen.
Expletive deleted. Geesh.