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LeBron says we shouldn’t compare his free agent decision to Dwight Howard’s

Mar 16, 2012, 10:13 PM EDT

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and Miami Heat forward LeBron James talk during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Orlando

After a great deal of deliberation, Dwight Howard decided to opt-in for the additional year on his contract, staying in Orlando for at least one more season. It obviously was a difficult decision, evidenced by the fact that Howard changed his mind seemingly a thousand times before signing the necessary paperwork to stay with Magic.

During his press conference Thursday afternoon, Howard brought up LeBron James and his infamous decision to leave Cleveland while discussing how his own choice was what was best for him.

“Nobody wants to be hated,” Howard said. “I don’t think LeBron wants to be hated, but he did what he felt was best for him. The way he did it could have been wrong, but he did what was best for him. And he has to live with it, just like me.”

The fact that Howard was comparing his situation (at least on some level) to that of LeBron’s was mentioned to James at the Heat’s shootaround in Philadelphia on Friday. James seemed to want no part of the comparison, and pointed out how his situation was very different than Howard’s.

From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“I think his situation is totally different from mine,” James said. “Everyone keeps comparing all these guys’ situations to mine. I fulfilled my contract in Cleveland. I was an unrestricted free agent, and I was a free agent. I could have done whatever I wanted to do; I could have signed back with the Cavs or leave.

“Dwight’s situation is they were going down to the deadline. I mean, all these other guys going down trade deadline or getting traded, or saying they want to opt in or opt out, my situation is totally different from everyone else’s. I think the best thing about him is he’s happy. The organization is happy that he’s staying and they can move on with their season. But none of their situations — not Chris Paul, not Carmelo Anthony, not Dwight Howard — none of their situations is like mine.”

Wade said that it simply is how it is, that James is doomed to have such moments repeat themselves.

“In all fairness,” Wade said, “he’s the only one who went through free agency.

We all can agree that the way LeBron left the Cavaliers — essentially by ripping the hearts of the team’s fans out during a nationally televised special — was less than ideal, to say the very least. But when he’s talking about players like Howard or Carmelo Anthony and how the way they approached their impending free agency is nothing like how he handled it, James is absolutely right.

Anthony and Howard created a circus-like atmosphere around their teams in the final years of their respective deals; Anthony successfully forced a trade to New York mid-season, while Howard’s inner uncertainty and his constant flip-flopping was undoubtedly a huge distraction.

But James? He played out the final year of his contract, and there was no trade deadline drama where he was concerned.

When it was all said and done, James ultimately did leave Cleveland, which forced the franchise to rebuild through the draft completely from scratch. And the way he did it was brutal, adding insult to injury to Cavs’ fans.

LeBron does have a point here, though: He didn’t hold his team hostage during the final year of his deal, so maybe we should stop comparing other star’s mid-season decisions to his, which didn’t take place until after he fulfilled his contract and he entered free agency.

We’re absolutely positive that Cavaliers fans must feel much better about the whole thing when looking at it from that perspective.

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