CLEVELAND - LeBron James isn`t overly concerned about holdout Anderson Varejao`s statement that he no longer wants to play for the Cavaliers.
"I think we all know he loves his teammates," James said Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena prior to a game against the Boston Celtics.
James is savvy enough to realize Varejao`s statement, which appeared Monday in a story on ESPN Insider, probably came at the urging of agent Dan Fegan, who is unhappy Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry has not caved in and signed his client.
"Things can sometimes be twisted the wrong way," the 22-year-old said. "I don`t know if there`s a lot of truth to that (statement about not wanting to play in Cleveland). I haven`t spoken to Andy (recently). When I have spoken to him, he wants to be here."
Fegan and Varejao, a restricted free agent, asked for a six-year, $52 million contract when they last talked to Ferry. The Cavaliers reportedly countered with $32 million over six years. Given that disparity, it would not be surprising if Ferry started more aggressively pursuing a sign-and-trade for Varejao, but only if Cleveland gets something of value in return.
"If he has a problem with the front office, he`s young enough he can go somewhere else and play," James said.
Speaking evenly and unemotionally, the young superstar said he`s no longer worried about the Varejao situation - "I`ve been done with that," he said. "We`re 14 games into the season" - and added that anyone who plays with him will win.
"Whoever`s on my team is going to be successful," said James, who began the night averaging 31.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists. "That`s just the way I play the game of basketball."
NEED A THESAURUS
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is running out of adjectives to describe the play of James, who has recorded triple-doubles in three of his last four games prior to Tuesday.
"He`s just a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous talent," Brown said. "As crazy as it sounds, I know and he knows he can play even better than he`s playing."
The coach has been impressed by James` improved defense, but what he really likes is the unflappable attitude the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder has displayed.
"The last three, four weeks, he`s been off the charts," Brown said. "I don`t know if there`s a single thing that`s rattled him the last five, six games."
WHAT'S UP, DOC?
Boston coach Doc Rivers, a former television analyst who is never at a loss for words, also couldn`t say enough good things about James in his pregame meeting with the media.
"I still don`t think we understand how young he is," Rivers said after praising the small forward for several minutes. "We`re still really hard on him. We forget his age. It`s scary, but he`s going to be a lot better."
When asked if someone could average a triple-double for an entire season, as Oscar Robertson did in 1961-62, Rivers said, "I`m sure somebody can. If there`s a candidate, he`s in the other locker room."
What the veteran coach found most impressive about James` recent outings, however, was the fact he averaged so many points while still getting at least 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
"It`s not just a triple-double," Rivers said. "It`s 37 points and a triple-double. That`s gaudy."
Though the Cavaliers are the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Celtics have gotten far more national attention after acquiring All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason.
"Nobody in here is afraid of anything," James said inside the Cleveland locker room. "It`s not my worry."
James, however, has no problem with the fact some people are touting Boston, and not the Cavaliers, as the team to beat in the East.
"It`s a new year, man," he said. "There`s not one team that`s the team to beat. Last year is over with."
In this age of one-on-one streetball, Rivers loves the fact Garnett and James still put winning above all else. "The game`s a competition," he said. "It`s not a show."
* Rivers chuckled when asked if Tuesday`s game was a "statement game." "Game 7`s (in the playoffs) are statement games," he said.
* Former Cavaliers big man Scot Pollard entered Tuesday having appeared in eight games for the Celtics. He was averaging 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 7.3 minutes. Pollard, who is known for constantly changing his hairstyle, showed up at The Q with a full head of hair and a beard.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I wish he could have landed here." - James on Garnett going from Minnesota to Boston.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.