Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Humbled Heat Face an Uncertain Future

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Humbled Heat Face an Uncertain Future

Article excerpt

As the Miami Heat gathered in the catacombs of the AT&T Center Sunday night, preparing to step onto the floor for what would be the final game of a disappointing ending to the season, LeBron James stepped into the circle and spoke to the team.

He told them, "Follow my lead," and he meant on the court, in their play. But even as James played a solid game, he seemed to sink down to his underachieving teammates' level as the game wore on, showing frustration and resignation. And by the time the final buzzer sounded in the one-sided NBA Finals defeat, it was hard to avoid thinking just where James would lead the Heat now.

The frustration, the empty feeling on this night were accompanied by the suddenly stark reality that James has an opt-out clause for the final two years of his contract with the Heat and there is a decision to be made once again.

"I will deal with my summer when I get to that point," James told reporters after the game was over. "Me and my team will sit down and deal with it. I love Miami. My family loves it. But obviously right now that's not even what I'm thinking about.

"You guys are trying to find answers. I'm not going to give you one. When I get to that point, I'll deal with it."

The thought of breaking up the budding dynasty and James either taking his talents to a new locale or importing a new cast of sidekicks seemed far more understandable once the Heat were humbled by the aging San Antonio Spurs in five games -- the last three all blowouts. Maybe it shouldn't be surprising, as James had to answer questions during the series about the possibility of turning the Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh into a Big Four -- adding Knicks free agent Carmelo Anthony into the mix.

"We're not discrediting what we were able to accomplish in these four years," James said. "We lost one, we won two, and we lost another one. …

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