LeBron James won't use his imagination when it comes to his impending free agency.
During his All-Star interview with NBA TV's Steve Smith, the four-time MVP was asked if he could picture himself playing for a different team if he and the Miami Heat complete their quest for a three-peat.
Shameless spoiler: Heat fans are going to be happy.
"At this point, I can't," he told Smith. "At this point, I can't."
Now, before all the James and Heat extremists return to building life-size-replica shrines of the King using only bubble gum and human hair, remember his "I can't" is predicated on a three-peat's completion.
The parameters of Smith's question are very clear, and James' response can change depending how the inquiry was phrased. Being the diplomatic interviewee that he is, James actually left a door open for the unpredictable.
"We don't know what could happen from now until July," a shrugging James explained. "What I've been able to do this whole season, to this point, is just worry about what's at hand. And that's winning a championship."
At no point did James offer an ironclad admission that he wouldn't leave Miami to sign somewhere. That was never going to happen.
James has been around the free-agency block before and is smart enough to know he needs outs. This isn't a 25-year-old kid planning to nationally televise his next decision; this is a 29-year-old man who won't allow his free agency to become a preemptive sideshow or close any doors that may or may not be available.
All this keeps in theme with a report filed by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, which posited that James understands his options aren't limited this summer.
"This time is going to be different," a source close to James told them. "If LeBron decides to look at other options it won't just be teams with cap space. He has 30 options if he wants them."
Forcing his way to a team without cap space would take some dauntless nerve, and it seems unlikely considering the public relations backlash that would come from him spearheading a trade.
But it doesn't seem like James has ruled anything out just yet. Not his return to Miami, not his departure from Miami—you know, unless he wins that third straight championship.
"Hopefully at the end of this year, I can put myself in a position where I can hold that Larry O'Brien Trophy up once again," he explained to Smith, "and then I will assess what I have to do with my future after that."
A future that remains beclouded by uncertainty and speculation unless the Heat manage to make good on their three-peat.
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