|Thursday, January 23
Updated: July 22, 5:47 PM ET
Source: 'LeBron will never play for the Cavs'
ESPN.com news services
The Cleveland Cavaliers might have opened up a bigger can of worms after the firing of head coach John Lucas.
Monday's move might have damaged relations with high school phenom LeBron James, the 6-8 senior from St. Vincent-St. Mary who is the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Citing a source close to the SVSM team, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Thursday that the firing did not go over well with James.
"I tell you what, LeBron will never play for the Cavs after this," the source told the newspaper. "LeBron really likes coach Lucas. He was mad when he heard about it."
James and Lucas' connection goes back to last summer, when James attended a private workout with some of the Cavaliers. The NBA suspended Lucas for two games at this season's start and fined the team $150,000 for a violation of league rules.
Lucas apparently also heard about James' reported feelings about his dismissal.
"I appreciate what LeBron said, but now I want my money back," Lucas told the newspaper, laughing.
James has no control over which team drafts him in June, but if he did not want to play for that team, he has some choices.
A team that drafts a player in the first round owns that player's rights until next year's draft if the team makes the player an offer by July 15. If the player does not sign, he can re-enter the draft and can be selected by any team. James could sit out a year, or according to the report, use the "threat" of not playing as trade leverage.
"Kobe (Bryant) and a lot of other guys have had a say about which franchises they wanted to play for, and this might make LeBron cross the Cavs off his list," the source told the Plain Dealer.
Cavs spokesman Ed Markey said neither he nor team general manager Jim Paxson could comment because NBA rules prohibit discussing players who have not declared for the draft.
The 49-year-old Lucas, who was in his second season with the Cavs and had another year remaining on his contract, was replaced by assistant Keith Smart.