MIAMI -- LeBron James is “frustrated” to see Chris Paul go through the uncertainty of his trade status with the New Orleans Hornets, but stopped short of suggesting his controversial decision to leave Cleveland in free agency last year is having a ripple effect on other NBA stars.
“I know Chris personally. You never want to see a good friend go through what he is right now,” James said Monday during the Heat's media day at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I'm frustrated for him, because I know who he is as a person. In my case, I had an opportunity to decide if I wanted to stay in Cleveland or go somewhere else, and I decided to come here. I'm happy with my decision.”
James was a free agent in the summer of 2010 after playing out the final guaranteed season of his contract. But Paul has one season remaining before he can reach free agency. So for now, Paul's immediate future isn't totally in the hands of the perennial All-Star point guard.
On Monday, league sources told ESPN.com that the Hornets' latest attempts to trade Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers are in danger of falling apart. Last week, commissioner David Stern vetoed a trade that would have sent Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-team deal that involved Houston. Because the league currently owns the Hornets, the commissioner's office must sign off on any potential trades involving the team.
Paul's representatives reportedly have informed the Hornets that he does not plan to sign a contract extension and would likely leave New Orleans once he becomes a free agent after the season. Orlando center Dwight Howard will also become a free agent at the end of the season and, like Paul, has been using his leverage to seek a trade from the Magic.
After listing the Lakers, New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks as his preferred destinations last week, Howard on Monday softened his stance on leaving Orlando. James considers Paul one of his closest friends in the league and the two are represented by the same sports agency. James and Howard have starred in commercials together in recent seasons and have also been Olympic teammates.
James' move from Cleveland to Miami had a major impact on both franchises, with the Cavaliers dropping into the draft lottery while the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals. It was also viewed in some league circles as a key factor that led to hard-line owners seeking more control over player movement. The league reached a new deal on a collective bargaining agreement last week after a 149-day lockout.
James said it doesn't bother him that he was heavily criticized for how he handled his free agency, but that there seems to be less backlash on stars requesting trades while under contract. Carmelo Anthony's trade demand last season that resulted in his move from Denver to New York also drew wide-spread scrutiny.
“It doesn't bother me at all,” James said. “It would have bothered me last year. If I would have gotten criticized for what I did, and guys came out and tried to do the same thing. I'm at a good place right now. So not too much bothers me anymore.”
James also said he doesn't think his situation should have any influence on what Paul or Howard are going through with their current teams.
“I think everyone is their own man,” James said. “I was my own man and I had my own decision. My case shouldn't help or steer Dwight's decisions or Chris' decisions or any other free agents' decisions that come up this year, next year or years to come.”
Ultimately, James said he wants to see players and teams make the best deals they can make under emotionally tough circumstances.
“I hope all the other players and teams as well are happy with the decisions they make, with either trading guys or free agents leaving,” James said. “I think the game is very exciting right now. It was very exciting last year when guys left or guys stayed, and it will continue to be exciting.”
James then stopped and smiled before reflecting on his move to Miami.
“But it's been a little crazy since the summer of 2010, I'll say.”