CLEVELAND — Coming out of the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend, one of the biggest storylines in the league has been LeBron James potentially returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But while James told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic that he hasn't ruled out a future return to Cleveland, the feeling from the Cavs' end might not be mutual.
On Tuesday, Substack's Marc Stein released a podcast discussing the latest news to come out of the All-Star Weekend, which was held in Cleveland. And in doing so, the veteran NBA reporter revealed that while James might have interest in a return to Northeast Ohio, the Cavs might not ultimately be interested in such a reunion.
"In conversations that I've had with people in Cleveland, I think it's just assumed that the Cavs would jump at the chance to get LeBron back," Stein said. "And I really don't think that's the case."
The speculation regarding James potentially returning to Cleveland comes amid a season in which the Cavs have emerged as one of the NBA's most promising young teams, while the 4-time MVP's current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, have thus far fallen short of their championship contender expectations.
In Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland lays claim to a pair of All-Stars -- both of whom played alongside James on Team LeBron in last weekend's All-Star Game. The Cavs also possess the current Rookie of the Year frontrunner in Evan Mobley, giving Cleveland a core of young talent that the Lakers currently lack.
Speaking to Lloyd over the weekend, James -- who said he considered himself to be Cleveland's third All-Star alongside Garland and Allen -- only fueled speculation that a third stint with the Cavs could be in his future.
“The door’s not closed on that,” James told Lloyd. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”
James, for what it's worth, will be a free agent following the 2022-23 NBA season, although it's also conceivable that the 18-time All-Star could orchestrate a trade before hitting the open market. And while Stein is skeptical that Cavs chairman Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman would really pass on the opportunity to bring James home, he also acknowledged that it's a more complicated conversation than many might realize.
"Now, when it came down to it, if the Cavs were actually presented with a tangible offer of 'trade for LeBron' and if you could do it without giving up any of the key young studs, would they really say no to that? Are you really going to say no to the favorite son in Ohio history after he brought them a championship that that city was starving for for five decades? It would take serious, serious stones for Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman to say, 'no, we aren't doing that,'" Stein said. "I will believe it when I see it.
"But as of now, this far out, I don't think the Cavs would want to bring LeBron back. Look, he's left them twice and management there has had to hear it thrown in their face for ages -- the Cavs haven't made the playoffs without LeBron since 1998, this franchise has never done anything without LeBron. Well they've done something now. They've put a nice little team together, they're the surprise team of the league. They've got Mobley, they've got Garland, they've got Jarrett Allen. They've got a great future and LeBron doesn't control their franchise. When you had LeBron James in there, he overrode everything and everyone kind of had to do it his way. I don't know that Dan Gilbert is ready to go back to that kind of life. And only Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman have the answer there."