While it makes sense that Stern would want strong franchises in every NBA city, it was a bit odd to hear him say so publicly when the intense interest in this year's free agent market is going to be good for the NBA no matter what happens.
When you read Dwyane Wade's comments to the Chicago Tribune, however, it becomes a lot clearer why Stern would prefer to see James remain in Cleveland. Wade tells the paper that he, James and Joe Johnson will sit down and discuss their plans before signing any deals.
"We've discussed it prematurely, at different times. (But) you don't know what guys are thinking and where they're going. I think we'll all sit down, and before one of us makes a decision, all of us will have spoken to each other and (listened to the) thinking. A lot of decisions (will be based on) what other players are willing to do and what other guys want to do. So it's not just a 'me' situation here. We all have to look and see what each other is thinking."
There's no reason to think it will stop there. Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and every other decent player on the open market will probably check in with one another to make sure they aren't the guy left standing when the music stops this summer.
They can do that because so many teams have so openly played their hands to create cap space to accommodate free agents and, thus, given up all the leverage in the negotiating to the players.
The players have all the power, the teams are merely vehicles for their whims. That's not a bad thing, they are the guys responsible for putting butts in the seats, but it is hardly a state of affairs that makes labor strife less likely in 2011.
Stern and the owners want to possess all the power in the league. He doesn't want a situation where free agents decide on their own to team up and stock a few teams while leaving carcasses at other stops around the league. The league wants the players to be competing against each other for their dollars because, in the long run, that's going to suppress salaries down the pecking order.
No such luck this time around, unless, of course, you want to explain to your fan base why you passed up on a chance to sign a pair of free agents who can get you deep into the playoffs.
We're t-minus 35 days, people, and things are really starting to get interesting out there.