LeBron James pleaded ignorance before the Heat's preseason win against the Pistons tonight when asked about a report linking him to the Lakers, and he tried to further quell speculation after the game, as Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida notes (Sulia links).
"This is where I’m here now,'' James said, when asked if he has interest in joining the Lakers. "I almost used foul language. I’m not worried about that. That story, I don’t know where it came from. But I understand it came up because of who I am. It’s going to happen but I’m not going to worry about it. I got to continue to make sure I stay focused with these guys and make sure we’re ready for any challenge that comes upon us.’’
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported earlier today that an NBA executive believed the Lakers had timed almost all of their contracts to end in 2014 so they could make a run at James, who can opt out of his contract with the Heat that summer. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register passed along comments from Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss confirming that the team has structured most of its deals to end by the summer of 2014, though Buss didn't mention James by name, as he is barred from doing so by tampering rules.
While he's focused on the present, James said he's not frustrated by the prospect of renewed public curiosity about his future, as there was prior to his choice of the Heat in 2010.
"Guys are going to make stories every day," he said. "It doesn’t matter to me. I’m true to my teammates. I’m here. And this is what it’s all about, us daily trying to get better as a team and trying to defend our title. So anyone can write a story. You have ESPN and then it becomes credible and you do what you want to do."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stressed a focus on the present in the wake of the reports, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes, while Dwyane Wade, who could also opt out of his deal in 2014, took the rumors head-on, as Tomasson notes via Sulia.
"They can leave my teammate alone, man,'' he said. "I’m going with that. He’s going to be here. We’re straight. So they can go mess with someone else."