LeBron James hasn’t even been back with the Cleveland Cavaliers for half of a season, yet rumors are already circulating that he could leave his hometown team for a second time. A new report suggests that the four-time MVP won’t have a problem going elsewhere if the team doesn’t end up competing for a championship.
Through 31 games, the Cavs are just five games above .500 with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference. The team began the season as the favorites to win the NBA Finals, but the new “Big 3” of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving has yet to play like one of the best teams in the league.
Beat writer Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Tuesday that he’s been told that James “won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decisions if it means bolting.” While that doesn’t mean James plans on going to another team any time soon, a recorded conversation between James and Dwyane Wade on Christmas Day was posted on Reddit, suggesting that the two-time champ isn’t fully committed to staying with Cleveland.
In a video from the NBA’s YouTube account, James and Wade are seen embracing, following Miami’s 10-point victory over Cleveland. While the audio is somewhat difficult to make out, it appears that James is talking to his former teammate about possibly reuniting in the future.
"Like I said, if we aren't better this year, we're gonna re-unite again and do some bigger and better things, all right?" is what James appears to tell Wade.
Even if James and Wade have discussed reuniting, it doesn’t necessarily mean the two stars are interested in playing for the same team again. The audio has nevertheless sparked questions about what James's commitment to the Cavs, and what he might do in the next year or two, considering James can move on from his current contract.
James signed a two-year contract worth $42.1 million with the Cavs in the offseason, and the deal allows for him to opt out at the end of this season. The purpose of James signing such a short-term contract was not so he could leave Cleveland, but so he could sign an even more lucrative deal in the near future. With the NBA’s new TV deal and the salary cap expected to increase exponentially, James could have a chance to sign a contract worth close to $200 million in 2016.
Adding to the Cavs' woes was a Monday report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein that first-year head coach David Blatt was not getting through to the Cavalier players.
"We haven't been together long," said James, according to the report. "People want instant success so much in our sport and I think that's too hard to ask for when a team comes together for the first time. I understand it. I know what it takes and we're going to have moments where it doesn't look so good. We're going to have moments where it looks great. And then we're going to have moments where it just doesn't seem like it can get any better or get any worse. That's why you kind of stay even keel with the whole process and understand that if you believe in what you put in, believe in the work that you put in and the process, then things will shape its way out. It takes time."
On Tuesday, James turned 30 years old and sat out a road loss to the Atlanta Hawks due to sore knees. He converted just five of his 19 shot attempts on Sunday in a 103-80 loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons.
James has been closely scrutinized by the media since joining the Cavaliers in July, perhaps in similar fashion to his first season with the Miami Heat in 2010-2011. It may seem a bit far-fetched to believe the NBA superstar would bolt from the Cavaliers twice, and is contemplating a move from his new team after just 31 games.
The Cavs declined to comment on the report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.