CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Will he stay or will he go?

Once the Larry O’Brien trophy is handed out, the future of LeBron James and the Cavaliers immediately jumps to the forefront – in between the fawning over the heroic feats of Kevin Durant joining the 73-win team that he couldn’t beat to win his first ring.

James can opt out of the third year of the $99.86 million deal he signed nearly 2 months after the Cavs defeated the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals next summer.

With the Warriors now on the brink of completing a sweep in the series, James was asked about his future and if the impending dynasty in Golden State will alter his future plans on Thursday.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel good. I actually feel better,” James said. “I don’t feel good right now, but I feel pretty good where my game is right now. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it, how long I want to stay around.

“I definitely want to compete. I want to compete for championships every year, and so we’ll see what happens.”

Where that will be after 2018 is anyone’s guess.

With the salary cap expected to continue to rise, James will most assuredly once again exercise the opt-out in his current deal – either to re-sign with the Cavs or take his talents elsewhere for the remainder of his career.

It’s already being speculated that James, who turns 33 in December, has his eye on Los Angeles – the Lakers or Clippers – and that speculation just doesn’t get pulled out of thin air.

The current state of the Lakers is about what the Cavs’ state was after James left the first time, so putting that franchise under the leadership of Magic Johnson back together might not be as daunting as it appears. James’ good friend Chris Paul is currently with the Clippers so you see how some of the dots connect already.

James wants to become a force in media and entertainment and playing in LA would make that easier. His company, Springhill entertainment, is LA-based and he owns a home in Brentwood.

A move west would be curious since the Eastern Conference has gone through him the last 7 years and it doesn’t appear that will change anytime soon – unless he leaves the conference.

Understand that when James returned in 2014, it wasn’t because of Dan Gilbert’s apology when he flew down to meet with him in Miami. It was for family, legacy and his hometown of Akron.

James’ relationship with Gilbert is strictly business and professional, that’s it.

Case in point – on his radio show Thursday morning Dan Patrick dropped a bombshell concerning James’ return in 2014 citing a source “who knows firsthand about this” that “LeBron did not want to play for Dan Gilbert the second time around. He wanted to go back to Cleveland. He didn’t want to play for Dan Gilbert,” Patrick said.

“So what I was told to me last night is LeBron was willing to go back to Cleveland, but he wanted the Cavaliers’ ownership to buy the Pistons, and the Pistons’ ownership would take over the Cavaliers.”

James did not set multiple championships as his goal in his now-famous essay about coming home. He stressed the importance of “bringing one trophy back to northeast Ohio.”

He fulfilled that promise last summer.

James has also become comfortable with his legacy.

He’s spoken openly in recent weeks and months about having nothing left to prove, not paying critics any mind and preparing to pass the torch of Cavs leadership to Kyrie Irving.

As for the current state of the Cavs, the team is maxed out with another record payroll this year and Gilbert will have to cut another hefty luxury tax check.

Remember that James came back and he made the Cavs title contenders again but Gilbert is not making money off of James.

The Warriors, who felt they were robbed of a second straight title in 2016 because Draymond Green got suspended for Game 5 and they lost Andrew Bogut to a left knee injury much like how James and the Cavs feel they got shortchanged after losing Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the 2015 Finals, aren’t going away and will now be a force for years to come.

James knows it.

“There have been times throughout my career where I just played teams that were just in the midst of something that can last for a long time,” James said. “And obviously this team is built to be able to do that with the talent that they have. So we’ll see what happens. Obviously you never know what’s going to happen, but as it stands right now, they look pretty good, as far as the future.”

James isn’t frustrated or angry either. He said Thursday that if he ever becomes an owner, “I’m going to try to sign everybody.”

But once Golden State finishes off James and the Cavs, the questions will begin.

What will James do long-term? Will James step up his recruiting for more help or will he become passive again? How can or will the Cavs retool their roster to provide the Warriors with better competition next June? Is there a player of significant value that can be acquired in a trade and if so who has to go to make room?

What happens this summer will start to fill in some of those blanks.

The championship celebration was fun while it lasted but the clouded future surrounding James and the Cavs is about to dominate the conversation for the next 12 months and there’s no guarantee James will stay in Cleveland.


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