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Only one factor will sway LeBron James, and that's Finals

Despite what you may have heard, Cavaliers' season will determine superstar's destination.

March 27, 2010|Mark Heisler

To get right to what everyone wants to know, where LeBron James is going ... no one knows.

You might think someone does, or you do, but no matter what anyone says, how often they say it, or how much the veins bulge in the neck of some whose initials are S.B. (Skip Bayless, an old friend), they don't.

With James, who's nothing if not unwavering, insisting he'll decide after the season, one and only one thing counts:

The Last Thing That Happens.

That's the very last thing, the final game of the Finals, which provides a single image that stands as the snapshot of the season ... Kevin Garnett throwing back his head and crowing, Kobe Bryant captured in mid-leap ... after which, everyone knocks off for the summer.

Of course, there's more at stake this season with James, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Atlanta's Joe Johnson heading a free-agent class capable of reconfiguring the league.

Unfortunately, the regular season isn't over, the postseason is still (help me) weeks off, making most of what you've heard (at least, elsewhere) hogwash.

With the Cavaliers rolling, with or without Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams or Delonte West, even beating the Spurs without Shaq and James, the consensus is LeBron will stay.

Of course, if they lose some games, we'll get a new consensus. Actually, the most interesting thing is always what people say that doesn't flow directly from the last thing that happened and the lemmings' rush to celebrate it.

James clearly prefers to stay in Cleveland, all things equal, but that means an equal chance to win a title -- a high bar he, himself, set and is testing for the seventh and, perhaps, last time.

It's not about a big city (LeBron thinks he's a world capital), pleasing Nike (it's the other way around) or money (infinity plus $1billion = infinity.)

It's solely about winning a title ... OK, his own title, so forget playing with (sorry) Wade and (as if) Bryant ... OK, and being somewhere cool too, so forget ruins like New Jersey or Clipper Nation.

In other words, the Cavaliers' 57-15 start doesn't matter.

A year ago they started 59-13, finished 66-16, and swept Detroit and Atlanta to reach the Eastern finals, amid speculation James would sign an extension.

Then Orlando rocked their world and LeBron found himself driving a broken pumpkin.

Reaching the Finals may keep James in Cleveland but teams that play for titles and lose don't go home so happy, either.

The cheering had barely died in Orlando after last spring's Cinderella run when management let point forward/clutch shooter Hedo Turkoglu, who wanted $10 million a year, walk, to get Vince Carter, who makes $17 million.

The Magic is doing OK but Vince is still Vince, capable of scoring 25 to beat the Lakers and noting he's available to try to take over any time they ask.

Wrote's David Aldridge: "That drives my TNT colleague Reggie Miller, who never had to be asked to take over a game, nuts."

With all that said, some shapes of things to come seem to loom in the mist:

Stoudemire -- Looks headed to Miami, which made a run at him at the trade deadline.

Heat President Pat Riley then acknowledged having pursued a star, whom he said he'd go after again in the summer.

Stoudemire, averaging 28 points a game since the All-Star break, put the Suns' extension offer on hold and suggested pointedly he'll opt out, telling's Scott Howard-Cooper: "It's a great time to be a free agent."

Oh, and Amare's new agent, Happy Walters, has told some potential bidders not to even bother making an offer.

Wade -- Looking as if he's happy about their shot at getting Stoudemire and plans to stay in Miami.

Bosh -- It's not good when his Raptors fall and he lashes out, defending Coach Jay Triano and urging teammates with casual (European?) attitudes to pick it up.

"Act like you care," said Bosh. "... If somebody's hurting your feelings, you go out there and you play basketball. ...

"I'm glad I'm not the coach. I wouldn't know what to do either."

Fortunately, Bosh is not only a player, but one at the end of his contract.

Best bet: New York with Johnson, or Chicago to play with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Johnson -- The Hawks' offense is also known as "Iso-Joe" but insiders say the team, losing money with owners still fighting in court, won't max him out.

Best bet: New York with Bosh, or Chicago.

No shot at the big guys -- Clippers and Nets.

A good season might have gotten the Clippers in this, but so far it's not going well.

With the Nets two seasons from Brooklyn, minority owner Jay-Z can't sell them, as in a recent rap noting if James signs elsewhere, "I'm paying Dwyane Wade."

Thanking him for the shout-out, Wade responded politely, "I'll talk to people I need to before making a decision. I don't know if Jay is one of them."

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