“With his weekend, he had a great game Friday night, came in here and won the three-point competition and had a great game tonight. … He’s one of the best players that we have, and it’s awesome to have him here. He belongs here.”
Taken separately, the many examples of James’ appreciation for Irving’s game are innocuous. But nothing happens in a vacuum in the life of James. When you’re the best player on the planet, everything is scrutinized, dissected, analyzed and decoded.
James can opt out of his contract with Miami after next season. He could head back to Cleveland and play with Irving full-time, re-sign with the Heat for more money or other teams, like the Lakers, could be in play. James’ next big decision is still more than a year away, and gossip throughout the league is already in overdrive.
Reporters with Cleveland ties have been writing about James’ “likely” return to the Cavaliers since last season, and insiders around the NBA have been quick to point out that James has never fully embraced Miami and still considers Akron, Ohio, his true home. (He doesn’t like the traffic in Miami, or haven’t you heard?)
And, of course, there’s Irving, who now seems to be one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle. James and Irving have an association through Nike, and James has been closely involved with the guard since he was a junior in high school and attended James’ summer camp in Akron.
For now, the future of the Heat involves James, but the story of his impending contract decision isn’t going away. Just like his final two seasons in Cleveland, James’ future with the Heat will be major news from now until the summer of 2014.
Heat president Pat Riley wooed James in 2010. His next great task will be keeping him in Miami.