The Los Angeles Lakers haven't been completely ruled out of the (potential) LeBron James free agency sweepstakes in 2014. Although James has been mum about his plans for next summer, he did drop one hint: wherever he plays, it will be "someplace warm."
In an interview published on Thursday by Women's Wear Daily, the talk turned to James' plans for the summer of 2014, when he can become a free agent.
"I miss the slower pace back home but have grown used to my new city's little perks like fresh fish and sweet fruits," James said. "It will definitely be someplace warm. I don't want to go back to cold winters."
Although his comments weren't definitive, they do seemingly rule out a return to Cleveland. Los Angeles, because of its ability to pay, and Cleveland, because of hometown roots, have been widely speculated to be the top contenders for signing James, should he decide to leave Miami.
The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Heat owner Mickey Arison to keep James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a competitive supporting cast in Miami. If James is truly after only winning championships, Miami may not give him the best chance for that beyond the 2013-14 season.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have the potential to be an attractive destination for James. Warm weather aside, the club will have the deep pockets to pay a king's ransom for James and build a competitive team - after this season, the Lakeshow has only $10.6 million on the books.
The pay day, the bright lights of a big market and salary cap flexibility to sign another big-name free agent might be enough to lure the talents of James from south beach to the hills of Hollywood.
Still, James is unlikely to say anything definitive about his summer plans anytime soon.
"I owe it to myself, I owe it to my teammates and I owe it to the Miami Heat to stay focused," James told ESPN earlier in September. "As a leader, I'm not even going to let that side of the business get me unfocused on what I'm trying to do and that's trying to win another championship."