CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James could become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and while teams cannot begin recruiting players until July, that does not mean fans will not get an early start on that process.
On Monday, three billboards emerged along Interstate 480 in Northeast Ohio with the phrase, “#PHILLYWANTSLEBRON” in red, white and blue lettering in an effort to recruit James to Philadelphia, where after a long rebuilding process, the 76ers have a roster full of talented young players.
“It is, absolutely,” James said when asked if the billboards were flattering.
“You could say it’s a distraction. It’s not. It’s actually very flattering that I’m sitting here at 33 and in my 15th year and teams, or guys, I don’t want to say teams because that becomes tampering, but people in their respective city want me to play for them. That’s cool, I think. That’s dope.”
Initially, James played coy with the media when the billboards were discussed at shootaround ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I know all about it,” James said. “There’s a lot of potholes on 480. You’ve got to be careful with the cars. You’ve got to be very careful. That’s why I don’t do much driving. I sit in the backseat.”
Then, with his trademark wry smile, James copped to the fact that he knew of the billboards.
“I haven’t seen it. I heard about it,” James said. “I saw it yesterday just in case I talked to y’all.”
Despite coming up on the losing end of The Finals for the fifth time in eight trips last summer, James made NBA history against the Golden State Warriors. James averaged a triple-double of points, rebounds and assists over the five games, a first for the NBA’s championship series.
James averaged 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists while shooting .564 from the field and .387 from three-point range against the Warriors.
Now in his 15th NBA season out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James is averaging 26.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.5 steals over 37.1 minutes per game in 59 starts for the Cavaliers (35-24).
Despite rebuilding their roster with three deals at the NBA Trade Deadline on February 8, the Cavaliers find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference standings and with a 1.5-game lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division.