by Marcel Mutoni

When deciding whether or not to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, free agents have one concern, and once concern alone: Will LeBron James still be in the mix after next summer?

According to ESPN, James is telling players that he’s not going anywhere. Players like Trevor Ariza, who refused to pull a Hedo Turkoglu on the Houston Rockets and spurned the King’s advances:

In a last-ditch effort to recruit Trevor Ariza away from the Houston Rockets, LeBron James told Ariza he would remain with the Cavaliers past 2010, according to a person close to Ariza… “Trevor asked LeBron if he would be in Cleveland after next season,” the source said. “And LeBron said, ‘I’ll be there. Of course, I’ll be there.’”

Ariza, who had accepted a five-year, $33.5 million offer from the Rockets last Thursday, also received telephone calls from James and Shaquille O’Neal. When James told Ariza he’d be a Cavalier past next season, Ariza was less than convinced. “He thought it was just a recruiting tool,” the source said. “LeBron definitely said it, but until he signs the contract it doesn’t mean much.”

Nice try, LeBron.

In the end, though, Ariza’s decision not to reneg on his verbal commitment to Houston might have a lot more to do with his role on the court next season as opposed to James’s plans for the future.

The Rockets guaranteed Trevor a prominent role in their offensive scheme, whereas the Cavs reportedly couldn’t even promise him a starting spot.