The Cleveland Cavaliers' march toward a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance has been saddled by an enormous elephant in the room -- the fact that LeBron James has the ability to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the season.
Rumors have been flying since early last summer that LeBron could eventually choose to take his talents to Los Angeles and play for the Lakers, but James himself has been incredibly secretive about the topic. He hasn't said anything one way or another, but according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, we do know that LeBron refused to commit to the Cavs long-term over the summer.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reportedly approached James when they were thinking of dealing Kyrie Irving to the Celtics. Via ESPN:
When Gilbert, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was presented with the Celtics as a trade partner for Irving, he went to LeBron and tried to secure a pledge from his franchise player to remain beyond the 2017-18 season. James, team and league sources confirm, wouldn't commit.
The biggest takeaway from LeBron refusing to make a commitment is that he likely wants to see how this season plays out before he makes his decision. Cleveland fans were probably hoping that when LeBron rejoined with the Cavs in 2014 that it would be for the duration of his career, but history has told us that James is going to put himself in the best position to win a championship. Depending on how the Cavs finish the season, Cleveland might not be that place.
James has also been linked to the Houston Rockets, which would create a mega-Big Three of LeBron, James Harden and Chris Paul, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. First LeBron will concentrate on making this Cavs team the best it can be, and he'll likely continue to put up mind-boggling numbers in the process.