LeBron James surprised many this morning when his agent informed the world he will exercise his early termination option in his contract with the Heat and would become a free agent on July 1. It seems he hasn’t talked to the other two-thirds of Miami’s Big Three, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, but planned to do so as he looks over his multitude of options in free agency next month.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports:
In the wake of LeBron James’ decision to opt out of his contract, the NBA’s best player is still expected to sit down with Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to discuss a future together with the team, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The meeting is expected to take place days before the official beginning of free agency, and there’s an expectation that the Heat’s “Big 3” will have a strong idea about whether they’ll continue together in Miami before James, 29, can hit the market on July 1.
James had two years and $42.7 million left on his deal when he opted out. He can re-sign a five-year $114 million maximum extension with the Heat, or sign elsewhere for four years — similar to ‘Melo and the Knicks.
He’s also expected, according to Wojnarowski’s sources, to meet with team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison before arriving at a decision. Since the Heat were annihilated in the 2014 NBA Finals, reports reveal James is a tad ticked off he didn’t have the necessary help around him to compete; the Heat lost all four of their games by more than 15 points.
Then there’s the opportunity for James to sign elsewhere, most notably with the Clippers, as Woj notes:
The most intriguing move on the mind of James and his camp, sources told Yahoo Sports, would be a sign-and-trade scenario with the Los Angeles Clippers in which James could play with close friend Chris Paul and under president-coach Doc Rivers. Nevertheless, Miami has remained the primary consideration for James, sources said. He wants to see Riley’s plans for improving the roster.
As for sign-and-trade scenarios, in which Riley would have to assist James in getting his maximum financial payout with a new team, the organization has been privately adamant that they’d never do it, league sources said. If James wanted to force his way to the Clippers, he’d have to create the fear within Miami that it could lose him for nothing to a team with the salary cap space to sign him.
James would have be adamant he was leaving with our without Miami’s blessing, and only then will Riley and Co. work on a sign-and-trade scenario. Keep in mind, this speculating is done in a vacuum because we’re still not sure what Bosh and Wade do; both have early termination options that needed to be decided on by June 30.
It’s also worth mentioning Houston’s interest, Cleveland’s hope he returns to town to avenge his lambasted exit, and the idea that James might want to team with friend Carmelo Anthony wherever he lands next.
With all those enticing opportunities, the Heat have to remain the frontrunners to re-sign him even now that he’s testing free agency. It will be on Riley, Arison, Wade and Bosh to convince LeBron Miami represents his best chance at adding to his championship total. With all his off-the-court money, it’s LeBron’s legacy he concerned with adding to and protecting as he’ll turn 30 in December next season.
Whether spurning two franchises in free agency will damage LeBron’s legacy is anybody’s guess, especially if he wins a title wherever he lands, but if James becomes a free agent-for-hire, he might not resonate with fans as much as some of his all-time peers who stayed with one team throughout their career.
There isn’t anybody else in the league who fans — perhaps unfairly — malign as much as ‘Bron, and while he’s more comfortable now than when he lost the NBA Finals in 2011 after his first year in Miami, becoming persona non grata in Miami, after the way he left Cleveland, has to be on his mind.
Where does LeBron play next season?
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