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Report: LeBron James’ associates insist he could again leave Cavaliers in free agency

LeBron James, P.J. Tucker

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (23) looks to pass against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. Suns’ P.J. Tucker (17) watches. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


LeBron James wants the Cavaliers to know he could leave them again.

After a report last season that LeBron wasn’t tied to Cleveland for the rest of his career, here’s another.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio (hat tip: Ty Duffy of The Big Lead):

One of the things LeBron’s inner circle religiously says is that, “Yeah, he’s back, but don’t you think for one second that he’s going to sit idly by and watch the franchise take him for granted and put too much excess weight on his shoulders the way that they used to when he was in Cleveland the first go-round. Think that he’s permanently going to stay in Cleveland if you want to. Do not try him.”

Yes, he is committed to trying to bring a championship back to Cleveland. And it does seem to be something that he would never do again. But don’t rule anything out when it comes to LeBron James.

I’m not saying this. I’m telling you specifically what I was told by people close to him, and I’ve been told that for months.

What everybody close to him continuously reminds me of is, “Don’t you dare take this guy for granted or think for one second he’s trapped into staying in Cleveland just because he came back. Don’t put it past him to get so annoyed that he’ll leave again if he feels like he’s being taken for granted, ran into the ground and essentially misused.” That’s what they say.

LeBron framed signing with the Cavaliers – whose young talent better positioned them than the Heat for success in coming years – as returning to his Northeast Ohio roots. He went on and on about coming home.

How could he possibly spin leaving again?

He probably couldn’t in a way that would keep the public in his corner. But I suppose it’s possible he reaches a point where he’s willing to accept a major backlash to sign elsewhere.

That said, I doubt this about an exit strategy. I think it’s much more so about wielding power. If the Cavaliers believe LeBron can’t leave – and they reportedly did last offseason during Tristan Thompson contract negotiations – how can he control the organization?

It’s in LeBron’s best interest to convince the Cavs he might leave.

Would he bolt Cleveland? I don’t know.

But if I were the Cavaliers, I wouldn’t want to find out.