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LeBron James' free agency decision has already reached the silly season

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 6/20/2018 Jeff Zillgitt
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LeBron James’ 2017-18 season wasn’t even over a week, and the nonsense about his impending free agency reached a frenzy.

Gary Payton, the former NBA star and Basketball Hall of Famer, said LeBron James Jr. committed to Sierra Canyon High (Chatsworth, Calif.) – a sure sign that James planned to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Then, former NBA player Earl Boykins said the Nuggets were a realistic option for James. Hmm, doesn’t pass the smell test. Enes Kanter said the New York Knicks had a “good chance.” They may have a chance. Not sure it’s a good one.

Chris Bosh, James’ friend and former Miami teammate, “guessed” that James would go to Houston. Dwyane Wade, another friend and former teammate, said it’s more of a family decision than a basketball decision then followed up on Twitter: “I don’t have any inside information whatsoever about his decision.”

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The only ones who have that kind of inside information right now are James and his tight-knit circle, but that’s not going to stop speculation.

That’s part of the NBA’s silly season (free agency), and what makes NBA free agency the best in professional sports. Someone can hear something, post it on Twitter and it takes on a life of its own even though there may not be any truth to it. But it’s also reasonable enough to be believable.

Earlier this week, Twitter bubbled with news that James was spotted in Houston visiting high schools. Maybe James was in Houston. Maybe he wasn’t. James’ tight-knit group isn’t in the business of confirming or denying every morsel that pops up on the Internet.

This connecting-the-dots is often part of the James discussion. A former ESPN reporter suggested James would not return to Cleveland because of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s support for President Trump, who James has criticized often. But if you know a bit about Gilbert, he’s going to support any president who can help with his investment in the city of Detroit.

Anyway, if James’ decision is based on NBA owners’ political ties, his list of potential teams is trimmed even more.

Earlier this season, Philadelphia 76ers TV analyst Alaa Abdelnaby said his brother told him James was in Philadelphia over All-Star weekend visiting high schools.

James denied that, calling the report “disgusting.”

But what if James visited Houston or Philadelphia or Los Angeles or any other city to scope out schools and potential neighborhoods?

Relocating is a human experience many can relate to, and anyone who has done so understands the due diligence required. You reach out to friends, colleagues and acquaintances to learn as much as you can about that city. James is no different in that regard.

It would be irresponsible if James didn’t do those things to one degree or another. Just because James might visit cities and check out high schools, it doesn’t mean he’s planning on signing with that city’s team.

The world has changed a lot since James last decided to play for another team. The proliferation of NBA coverage has given voice to more former players who understand talking about James helps drive the discussion about his future. But if James doesn’t go to the Lakers and his sons don’t go to Sierra Canyon, who will care – or even remember – what Payton said?

News about James is a cottage industry – not just from traditional news media outlets – but social media as well, where those who are not reporters portend to have information. And sometimes, through a variety of circumstances, those people do have information. They have no accountability though if they’re wrong.

Amid the informed and uninformed speculation, James and his close advisors are more disciplined and guarded in their approach even compared to four summers ago. Information about James’ free agency may spill out in unconventional ways. But discerning the veracity of that info becomes trickier and more difficult.

If you see James in Italy this summer, it’s unlikely he’s going to play for Larry Brown in Torino.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter.

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