LeBron: It's all about Heat
MIAMI -- LeBron James understands why there's already speculation that he could opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat after two more seasons, but the NBA's reigning MVP doesn't want any part of the discussion.
Responding to an ESPN.com report on Thursday that teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers already are plotting for the next time he potentially can become a free agent, James said his only focus is on helping the Heat defend their title.
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"I'm here, and this is what it's all about," James said after the Heat's 105-78 preseason win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. "I'm preparing for this season, preparing to defend our title and that's it. This is where ... I'm here now."
James, along with teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, each signed contracts as free agents in 2010 that allows them to opt out of those deals after the 2013-14 season or remain with the Heat for two additional seasons.
The last time all three were free agents, they were the most sought-after players on the market. Several teams throughout the league, including the Heat, began plotting as early as two years in advance for a chance to sign James. For that reason, James said Tuesday he understood why the speculation already has started regarding his future.
Multiple NBA executives told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst that they believed the Lakers could be in the running to pursue James, and could potentially have the salary-cap space to offer James a maximum deal should Kobe Bryant follow through with his plans to retire when his contract ends after two more seasons.
James, Bosh and Wade all accepted slightly less than the full amount of maximum contracts they could have landed in order to leave enough cap space for the Heat to sign teammates Mike Miller and re-sign Udonis Haslem. Heat owner Micky Arison told reporters before the start of last season that it would be more strenuous financially to keep all three players together as the league's more punitive luxury-tax rules kick in over the next few seasons.
Even more coverage of the Big Three and their adventures in Miami. Heat Index »
"That story, I don't know where it came from, but I understand why it came up because of who I am -- it's going to happen," James told reporters after Miami's first preseason home game. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I've got to continue to stay focused with these guys and make sure we're ready for any challenges that come."
With a team as high-profile as the Heat, one particular challenge might involve fending off speculation about the future of their star players two years in advance of potential free agency. James actually joked about the matter before the game with a few reporters who approached him. James immediately smiled, shook his head and walked toward the training room inside the Heat's locker room. Before he walked through that doorway separating the two rooms, he motioned toward Wade and jokingly asked reporters why they didn't ask about Wade's future.
After the game, Wade defended his teammate and suggested that James would be in Miami for the long haul.
"They (media) can leave my teammate alone, man," Wade said. "Get on with that. He's going to be here. We're straight. So they can go and mess with somebody else."
Bosh said they've each dealt with similar distractions leading to free agency the first time around and won't be fazed by the constant questions this time.
"It's old news," Bosh said. "We've been there before. All of us experienced that with 2010. That's pretty much it. We can't really worry about all that stuff."
James insists he's already bracing for the speculation.
"It's not frustrating," James said. "Guys are making stories every day. It doesn't matter to me. I'm true to my teammates. I'm here and this is what it's all about -- us building and trying to get better as a team. Anyone can write a story. If you have ESPN, then it becomes credible. So do what you've got to do."
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