INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – When LeBron James woke up from a nap Thursday he checked his phone and couldn’t believe what he saw.
It was an alert to a story written by ESPN’s Chris Haynes, who covered the Cavaliers for The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com from 2014-2016, that said he would consider joining the Golden State Warriors if they were to open up room for a max salary this summer.
“The first thing I did I started laughing, actually. And then I thought about it I think it’s doing, it’s nonsense, and it’s a non-story,” James said. “I think it’s a discredit to what I’m trying to do here. It’s a discredit to my teammates and the coaching staff here. My only focus right now is trying to figure out how we can become a championship-caliber team in these next few months. It’s been so many stories about me in the last few months, in the last few days, about where I’m going and where I’m at and what place I’m in. I’m here, I’m right here, I’m right now and this is my present and this is where I’m at.
“If you don’t hear something coming from my voice, then it’s not true. I don’t give a damn how close they are, I don’t care if it’s my kids, or my wife or whatever. If it’s not from me, it’s not true.”
James’ initial response when asked about the story went on for nearly 3 minutes Friday afternoon.
“I think it’s just a discredit to my teammates because I’m the leader of these guys and for them to have to hear that stuff every single day about my free agency, I apologize to them,” James said. “I will handle my summer situation when my summer gets here, and I will not handle it now. You guys know, in my 15-year career I’ve been a free agent twice so far, or three times, and I’ve always handled it at the right, appropriate time and that’s at the end of the season, when it’s time appropriate. And I’ve never let anything on the outside get in the way of what I’m trying to accomplish.
“The Golden State conversation is a non-story, all the other conversations is a non-story. My focus right now is on this team and trying to figure out how we can get back to a fourth NBA Finals and compete for a championship.”
James also stressed that his remarks on Friday were not a result of any conversations with teammates, coaches or the front office, who might have been upset about the story.
“I know how it works. I know exactly how it works. There’s 30 teams right now that at the end of the day probably want to sit down with me at the end of the season, right? Correct. It’s so easy to make a story out of that,” James said. “I mean I could write a story today and say, ‘OK, well Sacramento is trying to, would love to pitch LeBron. But the fact when it comes that LeBron is willing to sit down, I saw that part? LeBron never said that and I don’t like even saying that it feels like … I ain’t never said that. I never said I would sit down with Golden State or sit down with anybody. I’ve never talked about any other team throughout my journey.
“But what I will not allow is for people to kind of use my name – as we already know they do – for something that is a non-story. The Golden state thing is a non-story.”
James was a free agent in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016, with the last 2 coming as a result of him opting out of options in his contract, is expected to opt out of the $35.7 million option on his deal this summer, which he alluded to on Friday that he in fact will do that.
But has his impending free agency become a distraction?
“I don’t think it’s disruptive,” James said. “But the conversation is going to continue to happen throughout the whole season. I get that. I get that. It’s going to be every single day. I get that, ‘Where’s LeBron?’ The LeBron-Meter. ‘Where’s he going to end up? What is he going to do?’ Like, I just want you guys to know that my focus right now is on the Cavs and how we can get back to the Finals for a fourth straight year. That’s my focus. And everything else is going to get talked about, but it’s not a distraction. But like, I think it’s just unfair to my teammates that come here everyday. I mean, I can handle it myself. But it’s unfair to those guys.”