NBA Commissioner David Stern is hoping that the next time he presents LeBron James with the MVP award, James is still wearing a Cavaliers' uniform.
Stern reiterated to reporters in Cleveland Monday night that he'd like to see James, the top potential free agent of the 2010 class, re-sign with the Cavs this summer.
"Hopefully he'll stay," Stern said prior to Game 2 between Cleveland and Boston. "That's the way the system is designed."
Stern expressed similar thoughts last October regarding James' future. Of course, Stern, a New York product and lifelong Knicks fan, would never come out and say he'd like to see James continue his career in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
But Stern also takes pride in the fact that the NBA is a league where small-market teams compete for championships and that those teams have had success in retaining their superstars during the prime of their careers. The list includes David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler. The current collective bargaining agreement provides teams with the ability to pay more and add an extra year for their own free agents.
"That's the way it should be," Stern added. "It allows teams to keep their own players."
James, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Atlanta's Joe Johnson are among the top potential free agents this summer. Of the four, Bosh is considered the most likely to leave, while Wade, who won a title with the Heat, is likely to re-sign. James refuses to make a public commitment to the Cavs, fueling speculation that he would prefer to sign with a big-market club, specifically the Knicks.
However, James has said that ultimately his decision will come down to which club gives him the best chance of winning multiple titles. The Cavs have had the best overall record for two consecutive years while the Knicks have suffered through nine straight losing seasons.
James' arrival would instantly transform the Knicks into a playoff club, but it might take him three or four years to turn them into a championship contender.
Stern was in Cleveland to formally present James with a second consecutive MVP trophy. For years, Stern has angrily dismissed the notion that he favors big-market clubs and that it is in the best interest of the league to have a strong team in New York. Two of the lowest-rated NBA Finals in the 1990s involved the Knicks.