But there are two key things to keep in mind on this front.
First, if James truly wants to return to Cleveland and needs to resolve any lingering animosity or issues with Gilbert, don't underestimate the role former Cavaliers teammate and current front-office executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas could play as a buffer between the two forces.
And second, the fact that James doesn't appear to have any history with either the new Cavs coach or general manager doesn't mean much in the grand scheme. James' authority and influence has only strengthened since he left the first time, when his entourage essentially had carte blanche even then.
So just how does Riley compete with the seemingly magnetic force between James and Cleveland?
One way is to accept that the return just might be inevitable, but attempt to hold it off for a couple more seasons. The Heat have tried to sell James on the merits of remaining in Miami on a short-term deal that gives the team a chance to make one more run at a championship but also gives him the flexibility to re-examine his options in another year or two.
That's basically the extent of Miami's championship window with Dwyane Wade as any sort of vital threat as a sidekick. The logic is that James, 29, would be 31 at the end of a two-year deal and would still be young enough to sign a five-year, full max contract that's free and clear of the collective bargaining agreement 's over-36 rule.
If a two-year deal with a player option for the second year is what it takes to keep James, then it's worth it for the Heat. People often forget, but Michael Jordan also played his final two championship seasons in Chicago on a pair of one-year contracts worth more than $30 million a pop.
"Whatever it takes," Riley said entering free agency regarding the lengths the Heat would go to convince James to stay. "Whatever it takes to keep these guys together, that's what we're prepared for. Let's stay here and try to keep this thing going."
Wade and Chris Bosh continue to wait as James contemplates.
Bosh, who has a standing four-year, $88 million offer from Houston, has been vacationing in Africa this week, riding camels and exploring safaris. Wade has been in Las Vegas hanging out with former Heat teammate Dorell Wright. Wade had dinner with James this week and dropped in on his camp Thursday.
Bosh and Wade don't seem to be approaching matters as if their professional lives are about to be turned upside down by a James departure to Cleveland. Otherwise, they're better actors than ballers.
When a Miami television news station caught up with Wade in Vegas on Thursday and asked how a recent talk with James went, Wade replied: "It went good."
Wade was pressed further about the future of the Heat's Big Three as he entered a vehicle.
"I ain't got nothing to say, man," Wade said. "Life is good."
Both Wade and James reportedly flew back to Miami together Thursday night, with James planning to go to Brazil for Sunday's World Cup final.
Heat fans in Miami took to sports talk call-in shows Thursday, with many seeming resigned to the increasing speculation that James has all but decided to go back to the Cavaliers. Reports on social media sites had James supposedly announcing his decision on his official website Thursday afternoon.