James himself even acknowledged it’s a possibility.
“I don’t rule that out in any sense,” he told reporters last February. “If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”
Today, it’s clear James is committed to his current employer, the world champion Miami Heat. He will be focused on the Heat all of next season as well. After that, in the summer of 2014, he can opt out of his contract. There is little doubt, sources said, that is exactly what James will do.
It makes sense, as the Heat’s title-winning ways could be somewhat short-lived. Dwyane Wade turns 31 on Jan. 17, and while still an All-Star, the overriding theory is he’s on his way down. Chris Bosh also has his moments, but not nearly as many as he once did.
James opting out in search of a younger team with a really good up-and-coming point guard … well, it would probably be a shocker if he didn’t.
And guess which team fits that description and has the ability to sign at least one player to a maximum deal?
Now, again, the Cavs have made it clear they aren’t sitting around and waiting on LeBron. They are, however, sitting around and waiting for their own young cast of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller to develop. Adding a man like James would immediately return them to title-winning contention.
As one general manager told FOX Sports Ohio, the best NBA teams in two years are likely to be the Oklahoma City Thunder and whichever team has LeBron.
But back to the Cavs. Irving, of course, is their aforementioned dynamic and emerging point guard. He’s already better than any point guard with which James has played – and at 20 years old, Irving is also the Cavs’ youngest player. So he’s likely to be even better in 2014.
By then, James will be 29 and in his 11th season as a pro. Playing with someone to ease his playmaking and scoring obligations would have to be extremely tempting.
Basically, Irving can become the type of genuine All-Star sidekick LeBron never had during his previous seven-year run in Cleveland.
Throw in a springy and quickly improving Thompson in the frontcourt, a promising scorer and distributor in Waiters in the backcourt, and at least one more to-be-determined lottery pick, and James may not be the only star considering the Cavs in 2014. He’d just be the best – and the one who would make the most sense.
As for LeBron returning to the city and organization he once spurned, both those around the league and those close to James say it wouldn’t be an issue.
Enough time has passed since his nationally televised “Decision” show, and the scathing letter from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that followed, that any apprehension no longer exists.
In fact, multiple sources close to James and the Cavs have told FOX Sports Ohio apologies have been delivered by both sides. Also, James is viewed as considerably more professional and mature than in 2010. When he does hit the market, he plans to handle it in a considerably more P.R.-savvy (and likeable) manner than last time, sources said.
None of this is to imply that a LeBron-Cavs reunion is guaranteed. Assuming he opts out in 2014, he is expected to take full advantage of the word “option,” and consider them all.
A return to the Heat is not impossible, sources said. Nor is the idea of considering where other organizations stand – such as New York, Brooklyn or the L.A. Clippers. But James has admitted he’ll always have a major soft spot for his hometown Cavs.
The Cavs have forgiven him, and in their search for talented player, can hardly afford to ignore the fact the most talented of them all is likely to be a free agent in a little more than a year.
Mostly, everyone knows that LeBron returning to the Cavs and leading them to a championship would be the ultimate story of forgiveness and redemption.
And while neither party may be considering it a certainty, it very well could just work out that way.