LeBron James isn't going anywhere...for now. Beyond that, he makes no promises, nor has he made any decisions.
Presently riding the second-longest winning streak in NBA history with the Miami Heat, on pace to win his fourth MVP award and well within reach of his second championship ring, The Chosen One has no idea what he'll choose to do come 2014, when he's eligible to be a free agent again.
Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, despite several teams already gearing up for his availability, the King isn't on the cusp of making any decisions:
Sources close to James insist that there is no plan in place for 2014 and no decisions have been made.
Of course, teams hardly have the same luxury -- they have to plan ahead, because of the complexities of salary-cap and roster management. Going into next season, it will be fairly obvious, just as in 2009-10, which teams are plotting to make a run at James. While teams cannot talk publicly about players on other rosters, their intentions are often well known.
In addition to the Heat, three teams are mentioned most often as potential bidders: the Cavs, Lakers and Bulls.
The Decision part two is still more than a year a way, and while we can't stay with any sort of definitiveness that James will flee South Beach, we also can't say with any certainty that he won't.
As Windhorst notes, the new CBA could quadruple Miami's luxury tax bill in 2014 if James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all decide to re-sign, making it extremely difficult for the Heat to keep this team together.
We can safely assume that Micky Arison would give LeBron the world to return, but he might not be so apt to re-up with the Heat if both his buddies aren't allowed to do the same. Footing a steeper luxury tax bill also impedes Miami's ability to surround its Big Three with talent similar to what is next to them now.
Clinging to the hope that the Heat win one or two more titles before next summer to lure LeBron back presents some sound logic, but at that point, he could also view the Heat as a vessel that brought him as far as it can.
No matter what happens between now and 2014, there's still a chance James leaves sunny Miami for what he considers more suitable pastures.
Where might those "pastures" be?
The Cleveland Cavaliers will obviously be a favorite. They don't have any guaranteed money on the books for the 2014-15 season at the moment. Assuming they retain the restricted free agent Kyrie Irving (they will), the Cavs will have at least $40 million annually to play around with (provided they don't exercise any of the other five team options they have).
Before you rule out James returning to the city he helped destroy, ask yourself: Who doesn't love a good prodigal-son-returns story?
LeBron would have the opportunity to return home, back to his roots and bring the city of Cleveland the title(s) he was initially supposed to.
But as compelling as him setting up shop in the locker room Michael Jordan used to haunt with the Chicago Bulls?
Windhorst mentions them as a possibility as well. They, however, have $42 million in salary committed to the 2014-15 campaign and would have to move someone to make adequate room (Taj Gibson?). The allure of playing where Jordan once did and next to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (no Carlos Boozer!) is bound to intrigue him.
Don't rule out the Los Angeles Lakers either. In Hollywood, he would have the opportunity to team up with Dwight Howard (if the Lakers re-sign him) and maybe even Kobe Bryant (unrestricted free agent).
Tinseltown has just under $10 million on the payroll that summer. Even if Howard returns (he will), then that will leave the Lakers with $25 million-$30 million worth of spending power.
And this isn't including any dark-horse candidates who emerge between now and then. The possibilities are endless.
Which LeBron knows, also like he knows he doesn't have to make a decision now.
Instead, he'll wait until the year ahead paints a better picture of where the league and any interested teams are going.
Then, and only then, will he decide where it is he's taking his talents this time.
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