MIAMI — LeBron James, seeking to limit distractions during the Miami Heat’s quest for a three-peat this season, said Monday he doesn’t intend to further address how he’ll handle his potential free agency next summer.
James, speaking during the Heat’s annual preseason media day, said he appreciates the situation but doesn’t want to feed speculation about it going forward. You guys have to ask the questions,” James said. “But I’m not going to address it. Once we get to that point [in June], then I’ll address it. But I don’t think it’s appropriate right now.
“My concern is putting our team in a position to win another championship. That’s my only goal, that’s my only mind frame right now.”
James is entering the fourth season of a six-year contract that gives him the chance to test free agency after this season. Should James opt out, the Heat are hoping the four-time league Most Valuable Player bypasses free agency and signs a long-term deal.
“I’ll tell you right now how I’ll handle it,” James responded when the second question he was asked was also about free agency. “For me, being a leader of this team, I owe it to this organization, I owe it to my teammates to really not get involved and not talk about it.”
Yet it’s a familiar process for James, who three years ago with the Cleveland Cavaliers saw his looming free agency overshadow much of the 2009-10 season across the league. James left the Cavaliers after seven seasons and signed with Miami during a blockbuster summer when the Heat also added Chris Bosh and re-signed Dwyane Wade.
James openly addressed his free agency during the first few months of the 2009-10 season — even commenting on the attractiveness of potential destinations such as New York — before he declared the subject off limits later in the season.
Wade and Bosh also hold contract clauses that allow them to opt out of their contracts after the season. Last week, Bosh told reporters he believes there’s a chance the Heat’s top three players might not return intact should Miami fall short of becoming the fourth team in NBA history to win titles in three consecutive seasons.
Wade We don’t have guys waiting to get out of this situation. This is a very good situation to be in. Obviously it will be a lot of media attention around LeBron’s decision. But we all know inside this locker room that LeBron is committed to this team.
” — Dwyane Wade
Coach Erik Spoelstra, who signed a multiyear contract extension Sunday, said the Heat have overcome so much adversity over the past three seasons that they’re prepared to handle just about any potential distraction.
“What we talk about all the time is, ‘Let’s just focus on the now,'” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been trained and conditioned for this type of moment more than any other team. Our guys aren’t naive to the business of basketball. And you have to respect everybody’s point in their career when they become a free agent.
“We absolutely respect a player’s opportunity to be free when they earn that opportunity. It doesn’t come along very often. We have to focus on now and not become obsessed with the future.”
Wade said the speculation regarding James’ future outside the Heat’s locker room doesn’t offer an accurate indication of the mood within the team. Wade and Bosh have said this summer that they are happy in Miami and expect to be with the team moving forward as long as the Heat continue to compete for championships.
James has talked about being comfortable in Miami, too, and recently suggested he’d consider retiring to South Florida when his career is over.
But that’s as far as he’s gone on the subject, saying little about his immediate future.
“You have concern when you feel people want to go elsewhere,” Wade said. “I don’t think nobody here is looking to go elsewhere. So that’s not a concern. We don’t have guys waiting to get out of this situation. This is a very good situation to be in.
“Obviously, it will be a lot of media attention around LeBron’s decision. But we all know inside this locker room that LeBron is committed to this team.”
Wade, who will turn 32 in January, then made light of the situation when asked whether his play and overall health would factor into James’ decision to remain with the Heat. “LeBron James’ decision is LeBron James’ decision,” Wade said. “Whether I’m healthy or whether I’m not healthy, he’s going to make a decision that’s best for him and his family. Don’t try to put that pressure on me. Stop that right now.”
James said he still has plenty of unfinished business in Miami.
He poked fun at his lofty comments from the Heat’s 2010 signing day pep rally in Miami, this time saying he wouldn’t be satisfied with his accomplishments in Miami until he wins “… not 11, not 12, not 13, not 14 [championships] … until I win that, I’m not satisfied.”
For now, James said his teammates aren’t concerned about what happens next summer because they’re too focused on joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics as teams to win three straight titles.
“It would be different if we had a young ballclub that didn’t know how to handle the media and get suckered into questions,” James said. “It won’t be a problem. Guys understand where I stand, and that’s all that matters.”