LeBron James is nothing if not a student of the game. As the Los Angeles Lakers remain in a state of dysfunction with training camp for the 2022-23 season fast approaching, though, it sure is easy for Cleveland Cavaliers fans to read a bit too much into The King’s latest tweets about an all-time franchise great.

James started his Sunday by randomly feting former Cavaliers All-Star guard Mike Price, calling the four-time All-Star “BEYOND UNDERRATED.”

Price quickly returned the adulation, too.

Cleveland acquired Price in a draft-night trade with the Dallas Mavericks after he was selected with the No. 25 overall pick of the 1986 draft. He went on to play the next nine seasons with the Cavaliers, emerging as one of the best shooters and all-around offensive players in basketball.

Price made his first All-Star Game in 1988-89, averaging 18.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game while shooting 52.6% overall and 44.1% from three-point range. He was an All-Star three more times from 1992 to 1994, spearheading a run of eight playoff appearances in nine seasons for the Cavaliers.

James has shown appreciation for Price before, but this time it comes with the context of his fraught status with the Lakers. The four-time champion will be a free agent next summer unless he signs a contract extension he becomes eligible for on August 4th.

Recent reports indicate James is unlikely to re-up with Los Angeles before hitting free agency a year from now, when Cleveland could create maximum cap space to add a star free agent around its young core of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

Could James’ praise for Price be completely innocent? Absolutely. But his long history of subliminal messages amid the Lakers’ state of disrepair certainly won’t quell whispers about LeBron James’ potential return to Northeast Ohio.