Mike Brown knew where the conversation was headed.
That is why he said he was in a rush, preferring to conduct the conversation as he walked the concourse at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, site of the NBA Summer League.
This way, Brown could avoid speaking on the subject for too long. He was in town scouting his team’s young talent as he prepares for his second stint as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even though he is on cusp on a new beginning, Brown can’t help but avoid the past. With teams focusing on the future, the hottest topic of the 10-day event was the same from the summer of 2009.
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Where is LeBron James going to play next?
Brown, who coached James from 2005 to 2010, chuckled when asked how he would advise Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in handling the upcoming 11-month circus before James becomes a free agent next summer.
“I have no advice for Spoelstra,” Brown said, with a laugh.
“He’s won two championships. I should be calling him for advice. He’s a great coach. They’ve got a great chance to win a third one. They’ve got a great team, and they’ve done a terrific job of putting the team together.”
Despite James winning consecutive championships and most valuable player of the year awards, the focus is on his next move.
You don’t hear many discussions about the Heat possibly becoming the first team to threepeat since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002. Few are talking about James, 28, perhaps ending his career in Miami.
Instead, there is speculation of James playing everywhere from Dallas to Los Angeles to New York to even returning to Cleveland.
“I guess it’s a byproduct of the way the league is right now,” Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said “There’s always going to be speculation. That’s sort of the nature of the league. But he’s property of the Heat right now and no one can really talk about it.”
This should all sound familiar.
James endured a similar struggle during the 2009-10 season, his first experience as a free agent. The chatter took up the second half of the season, setting up an offseason that linked James with the Knicks, Mavericks, Bulls and Nets.
The whirlwind ended with James choosing the Heat, a decision that was aired on national television.
The summer of 2010 was the first time James experienced such courtships.
It is why he said he is more than ready for the frenzy, even though he has no interest in feeding it.
He has stayed out of the public eye, with the exception of an appearance at the ESPYs in Los Angeles earlier this month.
“What I’m prepared for right now is to come back a better player and try to defend our crown,” James said in his final interview with local media in late June.
“That’s my only thing, is to put on that Miami Heat uniform every single night and play at the highest level I can and be the leader of this team … and try to go for a threepeat. I’m not too much worried about free agency or any of that next summer.”
The speculation began early as last fall when a story appeared on ESPN.com saying the Lakers would pursue James in 2014. Those rumors have gained steam.
One Eastern Conference general manager called the speculation “foolish,” but also said teams have to start preparing for free agency “three years in advance.”
“The way that free agency is happening right now, there’s always going to be speculation,” said the GM, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “What’s going to happen is you’re always going to have some teams and they’re going to try to put themselves in position (for James).”