LeBron: Cavs have free-agency edge
CLEVELAND -- One month from the start of the NBA's free-agency frenzy, LeBron James has handicapped his field of suitors.
The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the pack, but he isn't close to making a decision and when he does sign, he wants it to be with a team that can win multiple championships and "not just because of LeBron James."
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In his first interview since the Cavs' season ended with a shocking, second-round loss to Boston, James told CNN's Larry King that Cleveland has "an edge" to re-sign him when the greatest collection of free agents in league history hits the open market on July 1.
King, who interviewed James at the two-time MVP's home near Akron on Tuesday, asked the superstar if Cleveland has "an edge going in."
"Absolutely. Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it's comfortable. So I've got a lot of memories here. And -- and so it does have an edge," James said.
Also during the interview, James said he can't wait for July 1 to arrive and that he has not yet decided where he'll sign.
"I'm far from close," he was quoted as saying in a transcript posted by The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "July is still a month away, less than a month away. I've thought about it, but I haven't began to strategize exactly."
Wherever he does sign, James wants it to be a place where he can win multiple championships.
"Well, I mean, to me, I think my ultimate, my ultimate goal is winning championships, and I understand that me going down as one of the greats will not happen until I, you know, win a championship," James told King, according to The Plain Dealer.
"The team that I go to or -- or, you know, whatever the case may be, will have an opportunity to win championships in multiple years and not just because of LeBron James," he told King, according to The Plain Dealer.
While Dwyane Wade's agent tried to downplay the idea of a "summit" where the top free agents will meet to discuss their plans before signing this summer, James left little doubt that he will talk with Wade, Chris Bosh and others, even proclaiming that he will be the "ringleader" for the talks.
"It will be fun to get all the free agents together and, you know, figure out a way how we can make the league better," James told King, according to The Plain Dealer.
He also said that he won't demand a say in who is coaching his new team.
"I'm not one to go into the off year and say this is who I want my coach to be. Now, there are some coaches, that, you know, if I had an opportunity to play for, I would be delighted. But I'm not as far as -- as picking a coach," James said, according to The Plain Dealer.
My ultimate goal is winning championships, and I understand that me going down as one of the greats will not happen until I, you know, win a championship.” -- LeBron James, in CNN interview
The interview will air Friday on CNN's "Larry King Live," capping the program's 25th anniversary celebration on the network.
Other than his postgame interview, the 25-year-old James has not talked to the media since the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs.
James also made his first comments about former Cavs coach Mike Brown, who was fired in the aftermath of Cleveland's startling loss to the Celtics. James said he was sorry to see Brown let go after five seasons.
"He was a great coach, five great years we had together and we turned a franchise that hadn't seen a lot of things in a lot of years," James said.
The New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets are among a group of teams expected to make a strong push for James, who is humbled by all the attention as well as recent comments by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wants him to sign with the Knicks, and President Barack Obama, who would like to see him step into Michael Jordan's shadow with the Bulls.
James seemed intrigued by the Clippers and the chance to play near Hollywood.
"They've got some really good players. Some really nice, solid pieces that, if they add a free agent here or a free agent there, it could be a really good team. It's a great city. But at the same time, it's not always about the city. It's about winning. If you put me and Bosh on the same team, if you put me and Dwyane Wade on the same team, a lot of teams would be much better. You know, the Cavs would be much better."
And while he'll consult with advisers, family and friends, James said the choice of his next team will be up to one person.
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"It's going to be me," he said. "I'm going to have to sit down and say 'Where do you want to play?'"
James has spent all seven seasons as a pro with the Cavs, who offered him a contract extension last year and can give him $30 million more than any other team in a maximum-length deal.
James has kept a low profile since Cleveland's season ended. He did not speak to reporters when he helped judge an amateur slam dunk contest during a public appearance on Saturday.
On Saturday, former NBA player Darryl Dawkins, who judged the dunk contest with James, said he believed that Cleveland's All-Star should follow his heart.
"He should go where he thinks he'll be happy," said one of the most powerful dunkers in league history. "Make the right decision for your family and get as much money as you can. If he leaves Cleveland, basketball as we know it here is going to go down. They have to do what they can to keep him here. I would like to see him stay in Cleveland, but he has to do what is right for him."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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