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And so the LeBron returns to Cleveland in 2014 speculation begins…

Feb 24, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

LeBron James Cavaliers Getty Images

This has been a buzz around some NBA circles for little while now, but it’s starting to leak into the mainstream.

First it was my friend T.J. Carpenter (radio host at ESPN’s WHB Radio in Kanas city), who plays for me a clip of one journalist quoting an off-the-record remark from Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins saying he was 100 percent sure LeBron James will go back to Cleveland (although no timeline was given).

Then there is the column Friday in the Miami Herald by Greg Cote somehow spinning the likelihood of LeBron opting out of his deal in 2014, his new agent living in Cleveland and praise for Kyrie Irving during All-Star weekend into a feeling LeBron has one foot out the door.

Say it isn’t so that you will be heading back to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, or we can start the clock now on about 16 months of ever-increasing rumors and speculation gradually morphing into assumption.

This same rumor is all over Cleveland.

Ugh. Really? We need 14 months of LeBron speculation again? It’s starting up again as the Cavaliers face the Heat on Sunday.

Let’s try to separate some fact from fiction.

Fact: LeBron will opt out of his contract with the Heat in 2014. If there is one thing you can bet on in this saga it is that LeBron will use this chance to opt out of his contract after three years and get a new one, a real max deal (remember the last one was slightly less than max).

But that new contract most likely will be with the Miami Heat.

Fiction: That anyone, including LeBron, knows for sure what he will do in 14 months. I’m willing to rule out he’s going to go play for CSKA Moscow, but after that pretty much anything can happen and is on the table for the summer of 2014.

LeBron will be 29 when he opts out and at this point in his career it is about legacy and rings (which go hand-in-hand). Which is why he most likely stays in Miami — it’s a good bet he has one or two more rings by 2014 with the Heat. He’d be hesitant to walk away from that, and throw in the fact the Heat can offer more money and years and there are a lot of reasons to stay. If he’s still winning and it’s about the rings and the legacy, he’s not walking away from that in 2014.

But you say Dwyane Wade will be 32 — and an old 32 the way he throws his body around — and Kyrie Irving is young and good? No doubt about Kyrie, that’s not in question. But Wade is averaging 20.9 points a game this season and is showing a veteran’s ability to coast at points and turn it on when he needs to. He is still a top 12 player in the NBA (and that is being conservative), it’s not like he and Chris Bosh are chopped liver.

And if they need to get new players in Miami, don’t you think the lure of playing with LeBron, the lure of playing in South Beach (and Florida with no state income tax), plus the Jedi mind tricks of Pat Riley can get more impressive talent to come there?

The Cavaliers will have cap space in 2014, but it’s not just Dan Gilbert that has lined up 2014 cap space just in case. Kobe Bryant will be off the Lakers’ books and only Dwight Howard (after he likely re-signs with the team this summer) and Steve Nash will be on the payroll. The Lakers can offer the chance to play with the best center in the game on a big-name franchise. Dallas likely has cap space and a great reputation with players thanks to Mark Cuban. Heck a lot of teams will have max cap space and a solid core. If LeBron wants out of Miami, he will have options.

But I don’t think he wants out.

Legacy matters and his image already took a hit jumping once. He’s going to be very hesitant to do it again. He knows he can win in Miami, and he knows Pat Riley will put a team around him that can do it.

A lot of people who know LeBron better than I think he will go back to play for the Cavaliers. Someday. That he will close out his career there.

But don’t bet on that time being 2014.

  1. thekingdave - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    It really isn’t as far fetched as you make it seem

    • dondada10 - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      No way LeBron leaves any time soon. He’s got a great team in Miami. Consider tax and weather, and it’s hard to go back to Cleveland.

      • hehateme2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        Why would ANYONE leave Miami for Ohio? LeBron has it made in the shade and is winning Championships here…. not there.

        Get it? Got it… good.

    • phillyreese215 - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      In 2014,yes it is……

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      It really isn’t. And Wade is declining. They already cannot improve the core of the team as long as it is constructed this way.

      I’m not even going to touch that “one or two more rings” (Kurt essentially saying they WILL win it every year with the not one, not two, etc. nonsense SMH).

      • Kurt Helin - Feb 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        Notice I said likely would win. If you don’t think it’s likely the Heat win a ring in the next two years, I’m not sure what league you are watching.

  2. jclii - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Did he just say Howard will re-sign with the Lakers? He’s going to Brooklyn.

    • bougin89 - Feb 25, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      What garbage contracts would the Lakers take back to make that happen? Oh yeah it’s not going to happen.

  3. ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    You should really do some investigating on LeBron’s “new” agent, Rich Paul and comments he’s made in the past few years about LeBron and Cleveland.

    At least report the reasons he would go there and not try to hammer reasons he wouldn’t if you are going to do the story. Either report the WHOLE story and not just your opinion, or don’t report it at all if you don’t think its worth actually discussing.

    • cosanostra71 - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      “Either report the WHOLE story and not just your opinion”

      Well, this is a blog not a news site. It is supposed to be opinion.

      • ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        Actually, its a sports reporting site in the form of a blog. And you can say your opinion, but you must also state EVERYTHING first not just what supports your opinion.

      • cosanostra71 - Feb 24, 2013 at 5:32 PM

        Well that’s just your opinion man.

  4. thekingdave - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    In 2009 the idea of Lebron heading to Miami in 2010 was far fetched and not even speculated upon until two weeks before free agency hit

    • phillyreese215 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      that was also before the new cba, where the free agent current team has more control over keeping their potential free agent player. up to 30 million more.

  5. 1972wasalongtimeago - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    In 1993, Greg Cote also wrote the Dolphins were better off other Scott Mitchell over Dan Marino.

    Scott Mitchell.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      With Scott Mitchell, not Other Scott Mitchell. Sorry

      • jthammerstix - Feb 27, 2013 at 8:41 PM

        you’re so dumb

  6. tomtravis76 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Is Dan Gilbert still going to be the owner? Lebron could leave and play for any team in the league, but he can’t go back to making money for Gilbert. You don’t go back to working for him after the way he destroyed Lebron in the media. Lebron made Gilbert lots and lots of money. Players should stay away from Cleveland unless its a last option to play.

    • ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Your grudge seems to be bigger than either of theirs. Windhorst has even said that Gilbert and LeBron have both said they regretted things and that it wouldn’t be an obstacle.

      • tomtravis76 - Feb 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM

        I have no grudge. Lebron made Gilbert alot of money and in the business of the NBA, players are allowed to leave teams when they are an UFA. Gilbert should have thanked Lebron James for his time in Cleveland and wished him well. Instead Gilbert bashed his former employee publically. Lebron did not deserve that after all of the money he made him. Gilbert was mad because his cash cow was taking his talents to South Beach.

        Gilbert showed Lebron what kind of man he really is, and Lebron should never work for him again. Lebron can do obviously whatever he wants, but what does that say to his kids, that their Dad could work for anyone in the world but he chooses to work for the man who didn’t appreciate him, spoke poorly of him after all the hard work he put in for him for seven years and only is going to use him once again? Seems a bit over the top, but it still is a teaching moment for him to his sons. Cleveland is not the only place that can pay him millions upon millions of dollars.

      • ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 11:25 PM

        Actually, Gilbert was mad because LeBron didn’t have the decency to talk to him himself. No one ever made the argument he couldn’t do what he wanted. And who said Cleveland was the only place that could give him money?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 24, 2013 at 10:46 PM

        So did you even read the response or just completely ignore it and rehash the same nonsense, just in a more wordy way.

        Let me capitalize it for ya…

        LEBRON AND GILBERT HAVE BOTH SAID PUBLICLY THAT THEY MADE MISTAKES AND WOULD DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN THE LAST TIME.

        No go ahead and ignore that and come back with a 4 paragraph response on why Lebron would never go back to making money for Gilbert.

      • brianjoates - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:38 AM

        The use of capital letters, this must be the right opinion. Capital letters are only used when someone is totally correct.

        David Stern stepped in and told Gilbert to shut up. Lebron James is the media darling, he is talked about as one of the greats of all time now and Dan Gilbert couldn’t hold onto him. Gilbert is the one who messed up, Dan Gilbert lost the best NBA player of this generation and he is winning titles/MVP’s for another franchise. Of course Gilbert would do things different, how is he doing with top tier free agents? When will the Kyrie free agency talk start?

        Lebron doing things different…why? He was talked into holding a “signing day” style press conference, which drew big ratings, made people some money as well as got the Boys and Girls Club a large donation. The NFL is now looking into a “signing day” for free agents. Fans want the drama in the off season. Lebron couldn’t go tell Gilbert he was not coming back, it would have ruined the TV special. Gilbert would not have acted professionally and respected the decision, he would have leaked it to all of the media. Everyone saw how he treated Lebron James upon his departure.

      • ljl2 - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:50 PM

        When exactly did Stern tell Gilbert to shut up? Gilbert didn’t do anything to mess up. That’s the thing people forget. Cavs did everything LeBron wanted. He just made a decision for something else. That isn’t anyone’s fault. He just chose “different.”

        Bringing up Kyrie’s free agency is ridiculous since he’s on a rookie contract and it is absolutely dumb not to sign the first extension which will make him be under team control for basically 7 years. Unless you bring up any other rookie’s looming free agency, you are just trolling and not adding to the conversation.

        Also, LeBron wasn’t talked into it. It has been documented he was down from the beginning. Does he regret it now? He has said he would do things differently (but hey, facts right?). The Girls and Boys club thing was a way of building in protection from criticism. LeBron does a ton of great stuff in the Akron area and has since he was drafted. I commend him on it. However, that night was a sham when you consider how much money he and the network made.

        He treated him like anyone would have treated a player who they gave everything to and then were screwed on international TV. To think no other owner would have responded in anyway is downright ridiculous.

        Get over your hate. Cleveland fans have.

  7. thekingdave - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Yes, the new CBA where the three superstar era with close to max deals goes the way of the dodo. So LBJ chooses to remain with a declining Wade or with Kyrie Irving plus Cleveland’s emerging core. I’m not saying its going to happen, just don’t understand why people like Helin are so flippant and dismissive of this. No one knows but LBJ. My jaw hit the floor when I saw the Miami report in June 2010. Just saying.

  8. siege102 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I think it’s hilarious that to dispel rumor and conjecture you use more conjecture by saying it is likely Lebron reups in Miami and Dwight reups in LA when those propositions are 50/50 at best right now

  9. isujames - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    In no way will Lebron go back to the Cavs and play for that D-Head/sore loser owner.

    • daerian - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:33 PM

      Cool. I’d rather see the Cavs keep building and win without (Re: Against) the turncoat. Don’t really like players that quit on teams, anyhow.

      • grayring - Feb 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        Did he force his way out like Dwight Howard, or did he exercise his free agent rights?

      • daerian - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:02 AM

        I don’t understand what Dwight Howard, or his exit from Orlando, have to do with LeBron. I haven’t seen anyone in these comments attempt to say he didn’t have the ‘right’ to sign with whomever he chose. Betraying your hometown fans, and the people who supported you since before you hit puberty warrants the title “Turncoat”, though.

  10. bhester1906 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Besides OKC. Literally ever team is going to clear cap space for Lebron. Hell, OKC may even try to pair him with Durant (Hell would freeze over first, though).

  11. purplekobra69 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Oh my god. Stay in Miami LeBron.

  12. thekingdave - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    @hehateme2

    Yes, because Wade will never decline, Irving will never improve, and Miami will always have a superior to roster to Cleveland throughout the course of history. This is proven fact. Got it. Thanks.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:40 AM

      How long has Cleveland been in the NBA? Miami has been around since 89 and have two titles, 3 finals appearances, like 10 division titles and several hall of famers associated with the organization? What the hell has Cleveland ever done? One finals appearance where they were swept? Yeah. Wow. That’s really something

  13. kb2408 - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    The same “expert” fans that say LeBron WON’T leave Miami are the same ones who say Dwight WILL leave the Lakers.

  14. money2long - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    if lebron were to go to cleveland it wouldn’t be in 2014. he is not leaving wade when he still has good years left. it’s more probable lebron go to cleveland as a last hoorah on his way out the league.

  15. 93warchant - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    seriously I really hope people in Cleveland and any cavaliers fan doesn’t think he would go back, why for a couple extra million dollars a season for a owner he can’t stand… over chillin in Miami playing for world championships. oh by the way I forgot he wants to be a billionaire … Cleveland keep your pocket change.

    • kgsmith - Feb 24, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Chillin in Miami? its 80 degrees on average down there.. why would he be cold? Playing for World Championships? I may be wrong, but he only has one.. Dwayne Wade has two..and Cleveland keep your pocket change? You do realize the Cavs are valued at just over $434 million right? I would take that “pocket change” any time, day or night..

      • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:41 AM

        Yeah but then you would actually have to live in Cleveland. I don’t even think Bob Feller was all that fond of the city

  16. beavertonsteve - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Perhaps LeBron will just BUY the Cavs in 2014.

  17. beavertonsteve - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Perhaps LeBron will just BUY the Cavs in 2014.

  18. thestudiokida - Feb 24, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    There’s a chance that LeBron will opt-in and play the full contract. What if Bosh & Wade opt-in and Miami signs a few good role players and/or veterans? That might open up a new 2-year window for the team. LeBron wouldn’t necessarily opt-out and sign long term because who knows where the team will be in 3-4 years. And I don’t see him opting out just to sign a 2-3 year deal with Miami.

    LeBron likes short contracts and I think it’s smart. He’s not a crappy player getting overpaid who wants the security of a 5-year contract. He knows he’ll be good and get paid no matter when his contract is up.

    • ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      They can opt-in…but they can’t sign a few good role players. That super-tax is a problem. It won’t be about what an individual player wants.

      • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:43 AM

        Mickey Arison doesn’t really care about the tax and hasn’t for years. Plus master Riley will always find a way to reel in the talent

      • ljl2 - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        He hasn’t because the new CBA tax hasn’t kicked in yet. Every owner will care. It keeps you from actually being competitive. Its not just the tax dollars, it is how much and the restrictions that go with it. But hey, we’ll see.

  19. shanelsweet - Feb 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    The only reason why Cleveland has a chance is because that area is his home town. It’s where he grew up and where he still has family and friends.

  20. hojo20 - Feb 24, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Current temps: Miami 82 Cleveland 32 Lebron can always visit home during the summer.

    • ljl2 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      Forgot the games are played outside and you never leave the city your team is based in..

  21. bigwii - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    LeBron will go where he thinks he has the best chance to win and after next year it might not be Miami. If all 3 opt out look for big changes because of the new CBA rules on luxury taxes. The owners want talent more spread out too so Cleveland makes sense but who knows at this point. Windhorse the guy who’s covered him since high school said he will definitely opt out and if he does its not to resign in Miami because he would make more money if he opted in because in the new CBA max contracts aren’t as much as they were when they signed those deals. So it will be to go somewhere else to try to win he’s not exactly the lost loyal guy just ask his own hometown. He’s going to go where he thinks he can win so all you Miami “fans” might want to consider that all this wasn’t going to last that long anyway and all that trash talking and stuff was for nothing once the big 3 break up and you go back to being a average team again. Tax breaks don’t mean anything players on the heat still have to pay them when they play in cities outside of Florida anyway. Look for L.A. Boston Cleveland to be the front runners for him if he does opt out because they will have what he’s going to want. L.A. is L.A. Cleveland is his hometown and has young players like Irving, and Boston has Rondo, young talent(sounds crazy but its true), and cap space. The only way Miami keeps him is if one of the other 2 leaves and even then it might not be enough age and luxury tax rules might do them in so look for the Heat to start making moves next year to try to get younger that’s their only shot. All you Heat “fans” who only cheered for them after they got the Big 3 sucks you wasted all your money on Heat gear when your going to have to spend it all over again when LeBron goes somewhere else. All those teams you booed and said sucked and all that trash talk will come back to get you when all those teams continue to be good and you all look dumb that is if your still Heat fans after the Big 3 breaks up.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:45 AM

      Anything to try to make the heat look in than favorable conditions eh? Mighty nice conspiracy theory there though

  22. miamatt - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Assuming things don’t catasrophically blow up in the next 14 months, I see the entire Miami trio opting out and then re-signing with the Heat. I don’t agree that LeBron will opt out to get a “real” max-deal. He has already stated this year that “stars are going to have to take less money to compete for championships” (paraphrasing here). Not only that, he has already shown he is willing to take less (chump change at 17.5 mill haha) for the sake of the team. Smart money has him, Wade, and Bosh, doing just that one more time.

    As far as Cleveland is concerned, one major thing working against that possibility is that it represents yet another new beginning- and that is something of which LeBron is acutely aware. Teams don’t just come together over a summer and have it all figured out right away very often (hat tip to Boston 2008 on that). The other thing is that yes, they have Irving who is amazing, but, in the last ten years, what has that franchise gotten right outside of drafting LeBron and Irving no.1 in the two luck lottery years? You can’t compare that front office to Pat Riley’s syndicate.

    Until it happens, though, I won’t be wasting one second of my time worrying about whether or not he leaves because NOBODY is going to know for sure until it happens. Even in the worst case scenario (for Heat fans) it has been a hell of a ride and you can’t ask for much more than that.

  23. jessethegreat - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Sounds like WWE speculation. First, the hometown guy trying to win the championship on his own. Then heads on down with Bosh and D Wade as the heel to steal championship(s), then turns back into the home town hero again.

    It’s too much, but the NBA hAs to hope this happens for more coverage/ratings.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:46 AM

      Steal championships? What?

  24. scalfor3 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I really hope this happens. Mostly because it would be hilarious to see Miami’s (mostly) bandwagon fans, so quick to defend Bron and mock Cleveland at every turn, all of a sudden find the shoe on the other foot.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:49 AM

      What can Cleveland mock about anything Miami? How about those 97 World Series champion Cleveland Indians! Oh right. They choked it away in the 9th and lost in extra innings. But at least Cleveland has the hottest women on earth. Oh right. They don’t. Well at least the browns are annual contenders. Oh damn. Sorry mistake by the lake. I don’t mean to offend at all

      • thekingdave - Feb 25, 2013 at 6:53 AM

        Cleveland has heart. A soul. An identity. They actually give a damn about their professional teams consistently, even though they are repeatedly crapped on. You are the most lackadaisical fan base in America. This is not up for debate. You are Frontrunner City USA.

      • scalfor3 - Feb 25, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Thank you jimmymarlinsfan for illustrating my point. Miami fans arrogantly have acted like having LeBron play for their team is their goddamn birthright. As if LeBron’s decision was some form of manifest destiny. As if Cleveland fans had no right to be mad at Lebron, despite Bron leaving them at the alter on national TV, because they somehow didn’t deserve him in the first place. I don’t really care about Cleveland one way or the other, but it would be hilarious to see LeBron leave Miami the same way he left Cleveland just for the sheer hypocrisy of Miami fans bitching about LeBron being “disloyal” to them.

  25. stephenolszewski - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    For anyone that says Gilbert is an idiot for being mad LeBron left, I’d like to see the person that’s happy that just lost $200 million of net worth on his franchise.

    Now I will say that it was a asinine comment to say they’d win a ring before Miami not sure how many people thought Mo Williams,Antawn Jamison,and JJ Hickson were going to manage that one…

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