INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) -While he teases New York's voracious media and desperate Knicks fans about his free-agent future, LeBron James and his current team have become an NBA powerhouse.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are rolling like never before.
At 14-3, they're off to the best start in franchise history. Undefeated through nine home games, the Cavs have won 13 of 14 - their best stretch since 1989 - and are blowing out teams with stunning regularity. They're ranked among the league leaders in every important statistical team category, and although it's their defense that defines them, the Cavs have offensive firepower more befitting a Western Conference squad.
And James, surrounded by the best supporting cast of his career, is playing with an intensity he has only shown in glimpses previously. He is positioned to win his first NBA title - in Cleveland.
Spike Lee, your thoughts?
t New York by 18 points during the LeBron Lovefest at Madison Square Garden. James, whose current contract expires in 2010 when he will headline a star-studded free-agent class, knows he'll get another round of questions from New York reporters looking to discuss something other than Stephon Marbury's ugly separation from the Knicks.
His answers are prepared.
``I'm happy with the fans here,'' James said after practice on Monday. ``I'm happy with the organization. There's nothing more for me to say.''
So, why doesn't he stop?
James could easily end the flirtation he seems to enjoy by saying he's done discussing it. But he figures that would be no use.
``They (the questions) are going to come,'' he said. ``As soon as I say I'm not going to talk about it no more, that's when they're really going to keep coming. I'm going to answer them and just move on like I've been doing.''
James' willingness to engage in talk about his future prompted harsh criticism from former NBA star Charles Barkley, who said James should ``shut the hell up.'' James countered by saying Barkley was ``stupid.''
James was asked if he had heard back from Sir Charles.
``For what?'' he wondered. ``I said what I had to say.''
The needless chatter has detracted from Cleveland's impressive start.
y victories over some inferior teams. Of Cleveland's 14 wins, only five have come against teams with winning marks. Still, that's a positive because the Cavs of the past had a tendency to play down to their competition.
This season, they've pounded the lesser teams, winning their last eight games by an average of 11 points.
``It doesn't matter who you are playing, you have to go out there and beat them,'' said James, confident he and his teammates can maintain their intensity. ``I think we're capable. We've been injury-free. We have everything in place right now, everything is flowing.''
It has come together faster than anyone expected.
After they lost to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, the Cavs, who were turned upside down by a six-player trade last February, had a quiet summer. General manager Danny Ferry traded for point guard Mo Williams, who has brought Cleveland backcourt stability and taken some of the scoring burden off James.
Willliams (15.7 points per game) along with Delonte West (11.4 points) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15.6) give coach Mike Brown another offensive option to complement James, who is attacking the rim more than ever. Cleveland's bench is not only deep but diverse as Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Wally Szczerbiak and Sasha Pavlovic have all contributed to wins.
e time, but the Cavs, who are holding opponents to 42 percent shooting, have finally embraced Brown's defense-above-all philosophy.
Ben Wallace, a four-time defensive player of the year with Detroit, is patrolling the lane the way he once did with the Pistons.
``It's a matter of going out and getting it done,'' said Wallace, who came over in last year's midseason blockbuster deals. ``We have what it takes to win a championship, we just have to stay healthy and have a little luck.''
Ilgauskas has been with the Cavs since 1996. He been through a 17-win season - the year before James' arrival - and experienced the franchise's first trip to the NBA finals two years ago. Cleveland's start won't mean anything without a finish.
``We had a good month, but we haven't won anything,'' he said. ``We haven't won the division. We haven't won the conference. There's really nothing to be proud of, to be honest with you. For us, we have bigger goals. We want to be playing in June. Anything other than a championship for this group is a failure.''
James insists his future decision will be based on where he can win multiple titles - not one, but several. He can't quiet the speculation about where he might be headed on July 1, 2010, so keep those questions coming. His teammates don't care if he continues to talk about his plans, either.
He's with them now.
In Cleveland. Not New York.
``We're not concerned,'' Williams said. ``Believe it or not, that's a long time from now. A lot of things can happen in those two years. We have a lot of goals in those two years. We're not concerned about what's happening there.''

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