Conventional wisdom on LeBron James all wet

Baltimore Sun

To get right to what everyone wants to know, where the Cavaliers' LeBron James is going … no one knows.

You might think someone does, or you do, but no matter what anyone says or how often they say it, they don't.

With James, who's nothing if not unwavering, insisting he'll decide after the season, one and only one thing counts: The Last Thing That Happens.

That's the very last thing, the final game of the Finals, which provides a single image that stands as the snapshot of the season.

You know, Kevin Garnett throwing back his head and crowing, Kobe Bryant in mid-leap … after which, everyone knocks off for the summer.

Of course, there's more at stake this season with James, Dwyane Wade,Amare Stoudemire,Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson heading a free agent class capable of reconfiguring the league.

Unfortunately, the regular season isn't over and the postseason is weeks off, making most of what you have heard hogwash.

With the Cavaliers rolling, with or without Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams or Delonte West, the consensus is James will stay.

Of course, if they lose some games, we'll get a new consensus. Actually, the most interesting thing is always what people say that doesn't flow directly from the last thing that happened and the lemmings' rush to celebrate it.

James clearly prefers to stay in Cleveland, all things equal, but that means an equal chance to win a title - a high bar he set and is testing for the seventh, and perhaps, last time.

It's not about a big city (LeBron thinks he's a world capital), pleasing Nike (it's the other way around) or money (infinity plus $1 billion equals infinity).

It's solely about winning a title. OK, his own title, so forget playing with Wade and Bryant. OK, and being somewhere cool too, so forget ruins like New Jersey or Clipper Nation.

In other words, the Cavaliers' 57-15 start doesn't matter. A year ago they started 59-13, finished 66-16 and swept the Pistons and Hawks to reach the Eastern finals, amid speculation James would sign an extension.

Then the Magic rocked their world, and James found himself driving a broken pumpkin.

Reaching the Finals may keep James in Cleveland, but teams that play for titles and lose don't go home so happy either.

The cheering barely had died in Orlando after last spring's run when management let point forward/clutch shooter Hedo Turkoglu, who wanted $10 million a year, walk to get Vince Carter, who makes $17 million.

The Magic are doing OK, but Vince is still Vince, capable of scoring 25 to beat the Lakers and noting he's available to try to take over any time they ask.

With all that said, some shapes of things to come seem to loom in the mist:

•Stoudemire: Looks headed to the Heat, who made a run at him at the trade deadline.

Heat President Pat Riley acknowledged having pursued a star, whom he said he would go after again in the summer.

Stoudemire, averaging 28 points since the All-Star break, put the Suns' extension offer on hold and suggested pointedly he will opt out.

Oh, and Stoudemire's new agent, Happy Walters, has told some potential bidders not even to bother making an offer.

•Wade: Looking like he's happy about the Heat's shot at getting Stoudemire and plans to stay in Miami.

•Bosh: It's not good when his Raptors fall and he lashes out, defending coach Jay Triano and urging teammates with casual (European?) attitudes to pick it up.

Best bet: the Knicks with Johnson or the Bulls to play with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

•Johnson: The Hawks' offense is also known as "Iso-Joe," but insiders say the team, losing money with owners fighting in court, won't max him out.

Best bet: Knicks with Bosh or the Bulls.

Mark Heisler covers the NBA for the Los Angeles Times.

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