On Thursday, ESPN.com published a piece suggesting that the Los Angeles Lakers will make a run for Miami Heat forward LeBron James in the 2014 offseason, when James will be able to opt out of his Heat contract.
The piece was entirely speculative, quoting a number of NBA team executives who think the Lakers will try to replace Kobe Bryant (who said this summer he will probably retire in 2014) with one of the few players who can compete at his level.
But that theory rests on an important assumption, that James will fore-go the two player options on his Heat contract for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 and test the free agent market. And James says leaving the Heat is the furthest thing from his mind.
"I'm here, and this is what it's all about," James told ESPN.com on Thursday. That isn't exactly a denial that he would ever leave, but it will have to do for now.
"That story, I don't know where it came from, but I understand why it came up because of who I am," James added. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I've got to continue to stay focused with these guys and make sure we're ready for any challenges that come."
The ESPN reporter who broke the story, Brian Windhorst, is the same writer who asked James last season if he could ever envision playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers again.
Teammate Udonis Haslem was even more adamant regarding Windhorst's trial balloon. He took to Twitter Thursday night to refute it. "Y'all can stop wit dis Bron playin in LA talk [sic]," he tweeted. "Dat man dade county certified. Once 305 always 305!"
"He's going to be here," teammate Dwyane Wade echoed to ESPN. "We're straight. So they can go and mess with somebody else."
Under his current contract, James can either accept player options for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons or become a free agent in either year, as can Wade and Chris Bosh. He can certainly get more money from another team in those years, as all three took lower salaries in order to team up in Miami.
Anything is possible when it comes to LeBron James, but floating the idea that he would opt out in two years to join Dwight Howard in LA (even though Howard is only under contract with the Lakers for this season) is far-fetched at best. James, Haslem and Wade were right to dismiss the story for what it is: a distraction before the Heat attempt to defend its championship.