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The new LeBron James derby has 1 key difference

The conditions of this year's LeBron James chase mirror 2010's in a lot of ways, but there's one very different quality that changes a lot ... and it isn't a TV special.

Andy Lyons

One thing many NBA watchers forget is that when the Three Amigos were created in Miami in July 2010, it wasn't in one big bang. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh committed to the Heat together before LeBron James' decision.

The trio had met before free agency began, and with common representation, so everyone had an idea what everyone else was thinking. But The Decision was all LeBron: no one, not even Wade and Bosh, seemed to know that James would pick Miami. LeBron himself maintained that he hadn't decided until the morning of the ESPN special, a day after Wade and Bosh publicly committed to Miami.

Now LeBron is hanging out on his own world as everyone scrambles here on Earth to figure out what he's going to do. The revelation that his agent, Rich Paul, has taken meetings with a number of teams this week is only fueling the 2010-like panic. LeBron has been on vacation with his family, catching tuna and tweeting greetings.

Meanwhile, the NBA and all its scribes seize up like phonophobic at a fireworks show. This is the power of LeBron, as it always has been. It's 2010 redux. Everyone stops what they are doing -- like the Lakers and Rockets chasing Carmelo Anthony, or the Cavaliers building the next Cleveland contender from scratch -- for a glimmer of a hope in winning the King's grace.

Consider that even Bosh and Wade are held in thrall to LeBron at this point. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. That's a positive sign for the Heat. So long as Bosh and Wade back-burner their own fates while LeBron determines his future, Pat Riley has a chance to retain his three stars and improve the Miami roster. But it's an odd situation to be sure. Good money is being spent around the league. The top teams are setting themselves up for next season and beyond. And two of the top five free agents are just hanging out, waiting for their ringleader to move forward. It's incredible.

And LeBron should take every minute he needs. The Heat's decision a year ago to let Mike Miller leave instead of paying more on the luxury tax to keep him doesn't seem to have sat well with James. Here LeBron is, taking less money to ensure he has a good team around him, to ensure that Riley can add the right players and Micky Arison doesn't have to pay too steep a tax bill ...  and for that sacrifice, the Heat let one of the league's best shooters go for what appeared to be financial reasons.

If LeBron feels as though he's done more sacrifice than Arison, then this pressure is totally warranted. The news that LeBron will be taking the max salary is no surprise; he watched three teams get sold at record prices in the past 13 months. To hell with cutting any owner a break.

In 2010, LeBron's priority was winning championships at all costs. Now he's apparently determined not to give up cash to make fielding a contending team easier to stomach for his team's owner. It's a lesson Kobe Bryant has been preaching basically forever: the system is rigged in the owners' favor, so don't blame him for getting paid while he can. Don't blame him for exercising whatever implicit power he can conjure.

And as always, LeBron has all of the power: implicit, explicit, subtle and loud as an M-80. The one thing that's changed -- the lesson about cutting owners a break -- will cost the Heat's Arison. Now we wait to find out if it will cost Arison some more dough or if it will cost him LeBron.


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