Found October 19, 2012 on Fox Sports Florida:
MIAMI _ The speculation last season was LeBron James would return to Cleveland in 2014. He even added to it by not ruling out the possibility. But James wasn't adding anything Thursday to the latest story about where he could end up if he opts out of his contract in the summer of 2014. ESPN.com quoted unnamed NBA executives as believing the Lakers are gearing up for a run at James if Kobe Bryant has retired by then. There was a reason why James, who bolted the Cavaliers in 2010 for Miami, said nice things about Cleveland when he visited there last February. James, from nearby Akron, Ohio, wants to be liked again in a city that now hates him. As for the latest story, it's no surprise the Lakers would go after James if a Bryant retirement gives them cap room in 2014 and the King is again a free agent. The Lakers always go after the best players, and they often land them. But the story offered nothing from any sources that James has even an iota of interest in the Lakers. And it's far too early to speculate that he might in two years. "You're writing a story that's two years in the making, and this guy has an opportunity to do great things," Heat guard Ray Allen told FOX Sports Florida before a 105-78 preseason win over Detroit at AmericanAirlines Arena. "It's like at that point, what would make the Lakers so enticing? He has an opportunity to build a dynasty here. So that's a funky story." One supposes James could one day get the urge to star in a Hollywood movie at least better than "Shazam," the clunker Shaquille O'Neal was in after bolting to the Lakers as a free agent in 1996. But for now James is much more concerned about winning more titles for the Heat. "I'm here now I'm not worried about that," James said after Thursday's game when asked about the ESPN.com story. "That story, I don't know where it came from. But I understand it came up because of who I am. It's going to happen, but I'm not going to worry about it. I got to continue to make sure I stay focused with these guys and make sure we're ready for any challenge that comes upon us. James faced plenty of questions in his final seasons in Cleveland about where he might end up when he became a free agent in 2010. But it's a totally different situation now. The Cavaliers were unable to win a championship and it was hard for management to obtain top players to put alongside James. But James broke through last season to win his first ring in his second season of being teamed with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. "It's not frustrating," James said when asked if it's frustrating that speculation has resurfaced again about his future. "Guys are going to make stories every day. It doesn't matter to me. I'm true to my teammates. I'm here. And this is what it's all about, us daily trying to get better as a team and trying to defend our title. So anyone can write a story. You have ESPN, and then it becomes credible and you do what you want to do." James, who is just the NBA's 13th-highest paid player this season at 17.545 million after he, Wade and Bosh all agreed to take slightly less than the maximum in 2010, can opt out of his contract in 2014 or 2015 before it expires in 2016. It would made sense for James to opt out in 2014 even if he wants to stay with the Heat because he could make more money by signing a true maximum deal. But it's far too early to speculate James could end up with the Lakers. Yes, it could give James a chance to play with Dwight Howard. But it all becomes moot anyway if Bryant, who has indicated he will play two more seasons, decides not to retire in 2014 and the Lakers don't have cap room. "They can leave my teammate alone, man," Wade said of rumors James could bolt to the Lakers in 2014. "I'm going with that. He's going to be here. We're straight. So they can go mess with someone else." Bosh also dismissed the rumors. "We can't really worry about all that stuff," Bosh said. "We're too busy doing special things right here, right now. If people want to write stories about that, that's all good and well. I hope people are entertained." Like it or not, speculation about James' future won't be going away. There is some concern about the health and the age of his top teammate, but Wade, 30, sure looked good Thursday with 21 points in 24 minutes against the Pistons. And there are questions about how committed the Heat will be to keep the Big Three intact after the more punitive NBA luxury tax kicks in next season. Now, the question is simply what will be the next story to surface about where James might land in 2014. You'd think Mark Cuban, whose Dallas Mavericks could then have oodles of cap room, would want to get in on this. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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