INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - While he teases New York's voracious media and desperate Knicks fans about his free-agent future, LeBron James and his current team have become an NBA powerhouse.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are rolling like never before.
At 14-3, they're off to the best start in franchise history. Undefeated through nine home games, the Cavs have won 13 of 14 - their best stretch since 1989 - and are blowing out teams with stunning regularity. They're ranked among the league leaders in every important statistical team category, and although it's their defense that defines them, the Cavs have offensive firepower more befitting a Western Conference squad.
And James, surrounded by the best supporting cast of his career, is playing with an intensity he has only shown in glimpses previously. He is positioned to win his first NBA title - in Cleveland.
Spike Lee, your thoughts?
The What-will-LeBron-do-in-2010 wheel will get another spin tonight when the Cavaliers, riding a five-game winning streak, host the Knicks. Last week, Cleveland beat New York by 18 points during the LeBron Lovefest at Madison Square Garden. James, whose current contract expires in 2010 when he will headline a star-studded free-agent class, knows he'll get another round of questions from New York reporters.
His answers are prepared.
"I'm happy with the fans here," James said after practice Monday. "I'm happy with the organization. There's nothing more for me to say."
So, why doesn't he stop?
James could easily end the flirtation he seems to enjoy by saying he's done discussing it. But he figures that would be no use.
"They [the questions] are going to come," he said. "As soon as I say I'm not going to talk about it no more, that's when they're really going to keep coming. I'm going to answer them and just move on like I've been doing."
James' willingness to engage in talk about his future prompted harsh criticism from former NBA star Charles Barkley, who said James should "shut the hell up." James countered by saying Barkley was "stupid."
James was asked if he had heard back from Sir Charles.
"For what?" he wondered. "I said what I had to say."
The needless chatter has detracted from Cleveland's impressive start.
The Cavs are on pace to shatter the club record for wins (57) in a season, but their record has been padded by victories over some inferior teams. Of Cleveland's 14 wins, only five have come against teams with winning marks. Still, that's a positive because the Cavs of the past had a tendency to play down to their competition.
This season, they've pounded the lesser teams, winning their last eight games by an average of 11 points.41.3764 -81.64001