Much ado has been made about the four-time MVP's upcoming free-agency decision, as he has the ability to terminate his contract early (as do Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh), opting to become a free agent earlier than originally expected. If that happens, there will certainly be a massive scramble by the entire NBA to land his services, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers functioning as the de facto favorites.
But not so fast.
As reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard, James said the following when asked about free agency:
"I have absolutely no idea. I would love to spend the rest of my career in Miami with this great team and great organization as we continue to compete for championships. That's ideal."
So far, the Heat have given James no reason to call them anything other than a "great organization." He has yet to bow out before the NBA Finals, has adorned his fingers with two championship rings and is poised for a three-peat while joining Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as five-time MVPs.
But that said, it's still important for Heat fans to temper their expectations. While the first part of that quote sounds perfect, it's far from a ringing commitment from James.
Here's how he continued his answer:
But we don't know what may happen from now to the end of the season. That's the nature of the business. It's the nature of not knowing what tomorrow brings.
I mean, as a kid, I never thought the Bulls would break up. Never. If you'd of told me as a kid that [Michael] Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen wouldn't play together for the rest of their lives, I'd have looked at you crazy. And Phil Jackson wouldn't be the coach? I'd have looked at you crazy. But sometimes the nature of the business doesn't allow things to happen like you would want them to. But we'll see.
To me, it sounds like LeBron wants to stay with the Heat but is managing expectations by allowing for the possibility that he could leave. And, as much as Miami might hate to admit it, it is a possibility simply because so much could go wrong during the upcoming season.
What if Chris Bosh suddenly decides he wants more than a tertiary role and demands a trade? What if the OssaTron shock therapy doesn't work, leading to a serious decline from Dwyane Wade? What if the injury bug takes hold of South Beach?
Possibilities like these allow for continued speculation about LeBron leaving. Take CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel as an example:
I believe he will leave the Heat only if the product on the court heads south in the next 13 months. I believe he's the best basketball talent of all time, but not a guy who hangs around for the heavy lifting. When the going gets tough, LeBron gets going. To another franchise.
Personally, I think that's selling LeBron's mentality and dedication short, but the NBA season is indeed an uncertain beast. There are too many factors that are beyond the control of just one player, even if he's a once-in-a-generation talent like LeBron.
All in all, this should be considered positive news for the Heat. Even though the team's best player and biggest name is giving himself an out, he's still saying the right things and sounds fully committed to a run at a third title.