LeBron wants chance at title when free agency arrives
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- While his free agency is still two years away, LeBron James won't hesitate to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers if another franchise offers the superstar a better chance to win multiple NBA titles.
"I think you do what is best for you and you do what is best for your career," James said Tuesday night when asked about his sense of loyalty to the Cavaliers before they played the Nets in New Jersey.
"...I go out and I play hard and that's loyalty," James added. "It's hard because it's a business. [The] franchise is going to do what is best for the franchise, you know. When a player does what is best for the player, it always comes back on us. I am going to look bad. If a franchise decides to give up on a player, it's OK. So we have to do what is best for us."
James has three seasons left on a four-year contract extension he signed in 2006; the contract took effect in 2007 and includes a player option for the fourth season. If James declines the player option, he will become a free agent in 2010. But with several teams, including New Jersey and the New York Knicks, attempting to clear out salary-cap space for a star-studded free agent class in 2010, there is speculation James will continue his career outside Cleveland.
Before Tuesday night's game at the Izod Center, James was surrounded by about 20 members of the media and the first question dealt with his upcoming free agency.
While it has been hard avoiding all the reports on his free agency, the 23-year-old James said he is paying attention to the here and now.
"I am focused on the team that I am on right now and winning a championship," he said. "So it gets funny at times, but I don't think about making a change at this point. I am focusing on the team I have here and the relationship I have with the Cavs."
At an early-voter registration rally last month in Cleveland, James made his strongest comments to date about wanting to stay in his home state.
"I love you Cleveland," he said. "I love Ohio and I'm not going anywhere."
James said he is satisfied with the moves the Cavaliers have made this past off-season, acquiring guard Mo Williams in a trade with Milwaukee and feels Cleveland can make another run at a title.
"I am from there," he said. "Home is home for me. you know that's what I was referring to at that time. No matter where you go or if you ever move somewhere else it doesn't matter, home is always going to be home and that's what I was basically letting them know."
Cleveland fans are worried about losing James after seeing free agents like Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome bolt the Indians for huge contracts the home team couldn't match.
James said winning a title will be the most important thing for him in free agency.
"Absolutely," he said. "When I decide to make that decision, you know, it is basically to put me in a position where I feel like I can win multiple championships. If it's staying here, then I will be here. If it's moving elsewhere, then I will have to look at all my options."
Heading into the Tuesday night's game, the Cavaliers were the NBA's hottest team, having won seven in a row.
"I think we have made strides since I have been here," James said. "We have gotten better every year and I think this year is probably the best team we've had since I have been here. You got to see how the season plays out. Just because you have a different team, with different players, doesn't automatically guarantee you a championship. I have to be smart about things and be patient."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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