But it's not going away, and it certainly isn't going anywhere in the wake of this past week's development: The Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of Tuesday's NBA Draft lottery, will have enough salary cap space to sign a maximum-level free agent in the 2014 offseason. They also already have 2011 No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving and now, as the result of the lottery, the rights to the top overall pick in the June 28 draft.
Among the first questions asked to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in the wake of the lottery, on the official transcript provided by the NBA:
"Does this make up for losing LeBron?"
Because anything Cavaliers will always remain something LeBron, even as James pursues his second championship with the Heat, which would be two more than during his seven seasons with his hometown(ish) Cavaliers.
To his credit, Gilbert declined to make the moment about LeBron.
"I mean, to us, that is so long ago," he said of James' July 2010 free-agency departure to South Florida. "It's only three years, but in NBA years, which are like dog years, it seems like it was 15 or 20 years ago.
"We've just been so focused on building a team over the past few years. We can't look back. There's nothing we can do, and we're just happy about today."
Of course there's plenty the Cavaliers can do. They can make an all-out push for a 2014 playoff berth, which would make Cleveland a more attractive free-agency destination. Such a push could come by putting their good-fortune No. 1 pick into play for a win-now veteran, one who could also be used as part of 2014 free-agency recruiting.
And while it's too early to know who, we know the Cavaliers will be recruiting in 2014 free agency, especially with such limited scraps on the 2013 free-agency table.
The reality is this: LeBron insisted upon a 2014 opt-out in 2010 when he was unsure if Miami would prove to be a championship destination. Is South Florida 2014 the same as Cleveland 2014? No. LeBron has proven that he can win here, when he couldn't win there.
And, yes, other factors for a renewed commitment make perfect sense, too, the comparisons of South Beach vs. the south shore of Lake Erie, Pat Riley vs. Dan Gilbert, known quantities in Wade and Bosh vs. youthful hope of what Cleveland might mine.
But that's all part of it. Nothing should be discounted, from where Dwyane Wade's knees stand to where the Cavaliers' rebuilding process stands. Everything matters, perhaps nothing more than who is holding the Larry O'Brien trophy at season's end. This season. And next season.
It is why, from a Heat perspective, word of Dwight Howard possibly not re-upping with the Los Angeles Lakers should be taken as good news from a LeBron perspective. Without Howard, the Lakers would cease to be a potential LeBron landing spot in 2014.
After winning the lottery and immediately being asked about LeBron, Gilbert spoke of how losing LeBron felt like 15 or 20 years ago. To a degree, it also has felt like LeBron has been with the Heat for far more than three.
But the 14-month clock to July 2014 is ticking. And everything and anything matters when it comes to the biggest name in team sports and his next big decision. It just does. Even as the embrace in South Florida has never been greater.
IN THE LANE
SUMMER STORY: Before heading out to the larger NBA-run summer league in Las Vegas, the Heat first will stop at the Orlando Pro Summer League, with the schedule for that July 7-12 event set this past week. The Heat will play games against similar teams of rookies, prospects, free agents and developmental players from the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, as well as one additional game in a playoff round. Teams from the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers also will participate. The 40-minute games, which will feature a no-foul-out rule, will be played on the Magic's practice court at the Amway Center, closed to the public.
INSIDE VIEW: Give credit to Jeff Van Gundy, who, even while working for ESPN, appreciates that the viewing experience has grown tedious. "I was all for replay," the former coach told the Newark Star-Ledger, "but now I'm almost against it. Pace, rhythm, flow -- it's destroyed by excessive timeouts. When you're coaching, you don't think about how long these games take. When you watch them, it takes forever. I bet Paul George wanted to call timeout on LeBron's first dribble [Wednesday] night."
THE HEAT FACTOR: In discussing why he opted not to return to coaching, including with the Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson cited what the Heat already have in place. Appearing on Dan Patrick's radio show, Jackson said, "I told Jeanie [Buss, a Lakers executive and his fiancee] at one point when I went and talked to her about it, I said maybe we'd get out of the Western Conference. We're a good enough team and there's a talented enough team. But boy I'd sure hate to lose in the Finals again. I started thinking about how one has to beat Miami."
SMALL MARKET: So is the Heat a small-market team? Yes, according to NBA Commissioner David Stern. "We have four teams in the lower half of our TV households. It's not three of the four; it's four of four. Miami is 16," he said at the draft lottery of the Heat's television market size. "It just goes to show you that if you have good teams, people want to watch, and they're interesting teams. Miami wasn't the big market defined by the media as a big market until it attracted players and then it suddenly became a big market."
SAME STORY: Last season, Steve Novak couldn't even find room to launch 3-pointers against the Heat when the New York Knicks were eliminated in the first round. This time, Novak couldn't make himself a factor in the second round, back spasms contributing to him playing only 8:29 total against the Indiana Pacers. "It was definitely frustrating for me to not be a bigger part of it, but those were the rotations and the decisions that [coach Mike Woodson] went with," Novak said in his exit interview with Knicks media. "I do think I could have made an impact, but it's hard to look back and question it."
2. Players with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocked shots in a playoff game, with Heat forward LeBron James in Wednesday's Game 1 against the Pacers joining Ralph Sampson on that list.
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