Commentary

What James hasn't said speaks volumes

You think LeBron's CNN interview means he's staying put? It's just a whole lotta nada

Updated: June 2, 2010, 11:56 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

Stop the presses.

Or in this case, don't even bother turning on the TV on Friday night to watch LeBron James' taped interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

King, who interviewed James at his home near Akron, Ohio, on Tuesday, asked the superstar free agent 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 told King.

LeBron James
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireIf LeBron James really wanted to stay in Cleveland, he would have said so by now.

Thanks.

Thanks for nothing.

If someone can read into that quote and determine that James is staying in Cleveland, they're just engaging in wishful thinking, at best.

If anything -- sorry, Cavaliers fans -- it shows that James is searching for the best way to let everyone down easy when he finally decides to leave the comforts of the Midwest for the bright lights and a new challenge in the big city.

New York has the best chance, with both the Knicks and Nets angling to sign this summer's prized free agent in possibly the NBA's most talent-rich free-agent pool ever.

The King interview marked the second time James has been presented with a chance to tell the world he's sticking around and wants to win a championship in a city that hasn't won one in any sport since 1964.

He said nothing.

The first time came after the Cavs were surprisingly knocked out of the postseason by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In his postgame comments, James refused to say he was staying put and that his goal was to bring a championship home.

It would have been so easy. He would have been hailed as a hero of Lake Erie.

Instead, James -- as he has for nearly four years now -- danced around questions about what free agency would bring.

That's more revealing than what LeBron has said in postgame comments and the King interview. Clearly, it's not what he said; it's what he didn't say. And LeBron has never said he's staying.

James 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.

-- LeBron James, in a taped interview with CNN's Larry King

Ultimately, his decision can't be about money. He could have signed a maximum contract four years ago, but opted instead for three years. James, 25, who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Cavs, was offered a contract extension after last season. He turned it down.

The Cavs can give James $30 million more than any other team in a maximum-length deal. By now, most players would have said, "Where's the pen?"

Yet James still won't commit to his hometown team.

Many want to believe this is the big tease -- that James just wants to be courted. He wants teams to wine and dine him and tell him how great he is. Others believe -- since he opted for the pros out of high school -- he's doing this to finally have that recruiting experience.

None of that makes sense.

Why go through all that just to stay in the same place? You'd have to be serious about bolting to go to these lengths.

Plus, James is rolling the dice by not signing a contract for all that guaranteed cash. He could have been injured. Or worse, suffered an accident and missed out on all that loot. So you know money can't be the issue -- especially since the Cavs can pay more than any of his other suitors.

And with all the money James has from endorsement deals, he can eat at the best restaurants and travel anywhere in the world already. He doesn't need some NBA owner to foot the bill to feel cool.

The only thing that makes sense is that he's leaving Cleveland. He doesn't want to say it yet because he knows so many will be hurt, and he will be criticized for wanting more than just playing in an off-Broadway play his entire career.

Many thought Shaquille O'Neal was making a mistake when he left Orlando, especially after taking the Magic to the Finals.

Instead, Shaq proved he was justified in leaving that second-tier town for Hollywood. He not only made movies and music, but won three championships for the Lakers in Los Angeles.

So in the end, pass on the King interview, because we've heard it all before -- nothing.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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