LeBron James genuinely doesn't know what he's going to do with his future.
No matter the rumors floating around or assumptions being made, James offered lengthy consideration of his uncertainty and desire for flexibility at his final news conference of the season Tuesday. Both of these feelings are genuine.
Between now and the end of the month, James will take five meetings before he comes to a decision on free agency:
• First, he will get away with his family and talk to his wife about their priorities.
• When he returns from vacation, he will gather his tight inner circle. They will discuss weighty topics they haven't broached in months because the group made personal agreements not to.
• Then he will have a meeting with the Heat, specifically team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, owners Micky and Nick Arison and general manager Andy Elisburg, to hear their plan.
• After visiting with the Heat, James will contact Carmelo Anthony to hear his plans.
Until this process plays out in full, making a projection on what James will do is not much more than a guess. The only thing that is clear within his circle right now is that nothing is fully clear.
This means three things to the NBA:
After finding a championship formula in Miami, which led to four consecutive Finals appearances, not to mention a beautiful, warm-weather city to call home, James is still undecided on whether to stay. The Heat have hoped that James would be so pleased with these past four years that this phase would have been just a formality.
That is just not the case -- but it is not catastrophic, either. The Heat have built plenty of trust and capital with James and have established a track record of stability and success that is almost unmatched in the league. The ability to follow through on promises made is rare in the NBA, and the Heat, for the most part, have kept them. Miami also has an unmistakable advantage just by playing in the Eastern Conference.
However, a victory for the Heat at this stage likely means getting James to commit for one more season. Again, this is not ideal. When that infamous "not five, not six ..." speech was delivered, James was under the impression that he would be staying in Miami for a second long-term contract. Despite a strong and historic run, James isn't ready to commit to that given the current state of the team.
The Heat are the favorites; this is not in question. But there is a window of doubt due to the way the season ended, Wade's health and some bitterness James harbors that Micky Arison put the brakes on spending over the past year.
With that in mind ...
How did the Heat get James in 2010? They were the most proactive, aggressive and biggest-thinking team. They went out and landed Bosh, and then James crossed the bridge and made a decision to join him and Wade in Florida.