Unlike many NBA stars, LeBron James grants media interviews roughly an hour before each game. This access can be both a blessing and a curse. Last week, for example, James showed reporters his iPod and the three Barry Manilow songs in it, kicking off a charming and popular story about his diverse musical tastes that surely had some of his fans scanning iTunes the next day. But it’s also an opportunity to talk about anything but the game. When it comes to James, this often includes the most popular off-court topic in the NBA these days: His future when his contract expires in 2010. It figures to be a common inquiry this week when the Cavaliers make a trip to New Jersey and Detroit. Research and projections done by The Plain Dealer reveal that currently there are 18 teams in position to offer James, or just about anyone else for that matter, a maximum contract in July 2010. It is a fluid list that could change dramatically and will likely shrink because teams will be drafting and signing players to new contracts between now and then. The Nets and Pistons are two teams that have made moves to clear salary-cap space for 2010, which is shaping up to be the most prolific free-agent season in NBA history. James, as it is well-known, is the centerpiece of that market. Which is why likely this week and probably for the next two seasons, James will constantly be asked about his future. Especially when visiting places that have made it a priority to clear that valuable cap space. "Every day it seems like [the media] has me going someplace else," James said two weeks ago when the Pistons traded Chauncey Billups, significantly clearing their books for 2010. "I’m very happy here, I have said that over and over." James made his strongest comments yet on the speculation at a rally encouraging people to register to vote last month when he said: "I love you, Cleveland . . . I love Ohio and I’m not going anywhere." That statement, though, did nothing to stem the tide of speculation and it will probably continue this week. And then the week after, when the Cavs make their first visit of the season to New York. For Cavs fans, there are two things to keep in mind when navigating what will surely be emotional times when it comes to their hometown star. Out of all those teams, none can pay James more than the Cavs. Second, as of now, the team most of the speculation surrounds, the New York Knicks, is not one of the teams with the needed space. The rules of the NBA collective bargaining agreement permit the Cavs to exceed the salary cap to sign James, though they, too, are scheduled to have cap space in 2010. In addition, the Cavs can sign James for six years while others can sign him for five. The Cavs can also give him raises of 10.5 percent per year after the first season; other suitors can offer 8 percent raises. Based on a projected $64 million salary cap, James could sign with the Cavs for about $133 million in 2010. Other teams could sign him for roughly $102 million. But it isn’t just about the money, which is the way the Cavs have been looking at it all along. As they have said for the past year, and will likely continue to say as James faces round after round of questions, they are hoping to attract their star to stay not just with money but with a competitive team and environment. "For LeBron it is about more than just dollars," Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry said. "As an organization we have committed to building a championship-level team for years to come. There’s a lot of attention and speculation about his future. LeBron has conveyed that he enjoys playing and living in Northeast Ohio." Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James fielding contract questions - Cleveland.com Wow, did MJ get this treatment?