It may seem an odd time to stress about 2014.
After all, LeBron James and the Miami Heat are in the midst of a 23-game winning streak, the second-longest in history and one that is likely to continue with upcoming games against the four worst teams in the East: Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic.
It is that first contest, however, that will restart the conversation about what James—now cruising toward his fourth NBA MVP—plans to do in the summer of 2014, when he can opt out of his Heat contract two years early.
Odds are that he will, regardless of whether or not he plans to return.
That's because even in walking away from more than $42.7 million, James would stand to recoup that and more over the course of a long-term deal. But it's not just about money, especially if he signed for the maximum, which he did not do when joining Miami.
As James recently noted, his true value to a team can't "really be compensated for, anyways, because of the CBA....If you want the truth. If this was baseball, it'd be up, I mean way up there."
That's true, but James is minting money with his off-court endorsement activities, activities that appear to be increasing as his image continues to improve.
So this would be about flexibility—another opportunity to weigh his options, albeit without making the public relations mistakes that marked his 2010 recruiting tour, culminating with "The Decision."
So what could affect his—lowercase—decision in 2014?
(All quotes for this piece were collected through the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics were accurate as of Tuesday afternoon.)