Report: LeBron Thinks Staying With Heat Is “Best Option”

There’s already been tons of excitement over LeBron James’ impending free agency. After official word finally came that he would opt-out of his contract with the Miami Heat, a report surfaced that multiple teams were clearing cap space to sign he and superstar friend Carmelo Anthony. But reports on rumors are just that for a reason, and the most recent, realistic one is that James thinks his best option is to re-sign with the Heat.

The report is courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, and confirms the long-held assumption that LeBron will stay put in South Beach despite exercising his option to become a free agent.

But the hours following James’ decision — there’s that word again — to opt out of his contract was met by some across the league with startling indifference.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t go back to Miami,” said an Eastern Conference executive.

Added another, “Why would he go anywhere? He has everything he wants in Miami.”

Mannix also makes the cut-and-dry case for LeBron opting out in the first place: Namely, the chance to re-structure his contract so the Heat can tweak the roster surrounding him.

Why would James opt in? Think about it: If James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opted into their contracts, the Heat would have more than $60 million in salary committed to three players– with a projected salary cap of $63.2 million…

Thus, James opts out. But it hardly indicates a desire to leave South Beach. In fact, according to a source familiar with James’ thinking, returning to Miami remains the strongest option. James has tremendous respect for Pat Riley. He has developed a strong relationship with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. He enjoys playing with Bosh and Wade, and still believes that core can win. It just needs a little help.

With James seemingly committed to Miami, the question now becomes whether or not Wade and Bosh will follow his lead by opting out of their deals. The Heat’s Big Three have been a unified front since coming together four years ago, and a report that they would meet before LeBron made any decision on his future suggests all-for-one harmony. It’s fair to expect that Wade and Bosh will follow James’ lead.

But nothing is guaranteed here, and it bears mentioning that Wade stands to make more money by opting into his contract. Frankly, he isn’t worth the salary commitment going forward that James and even Bosh are. Will he take less money than his star teammates? The same amount? Or will he go the Kobe Bryant route of commanding Godfather-type money?

With developing news of LeBron’s preference to stay in Miami and Bosh’s known willingness to play at a discount to do the same, Wade becomes the Heat’s biggest domino. But that’s something for Riley, Spoelstra and company to tackle later. For now they should take solace in the fact that the world’s best player seems bound to stay in South Beach.

Will Miami’s Big Three remain intact?

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