Archive

Report: LeBron opting out, becoming top free agent prize | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Report: LeBron opting out, becoming top free agent prize

The Associated Press
NBAFreeAgencyJamesBasketball30817jpgb0802
FILE - In this June 8, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James watches during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland. Two people familiar with the decision say James has told the Cavaliers he is declining his $35.6 million contract option for next season and is a free agent. James' representatives told the Cavs on Friday, June 29, 2018, said the people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
NBAFreeAgencyJamesBasketball39045jpgb70f8
FILE - In this June 3, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James watches during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif. Two people familiar with the decision say James has told the Cavaliers he is declining his $35.6 million contract option for next season and is a free agent. James' representatives told the Cavs on Friday, June 29, 2018, said the people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
NBAFreeAgencyJamesBasketball60022jpg667bb
FILE - In this June 6, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James shoots against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Cleveland. Two people familiar with the decision say James has told the Cavaliers he is declining his $35.6 million contract option for next season and is a free agent. James' representatives told the Cavs on Friday, June 29, 2018, said the people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday. (Gregory Shamus/Pool Photo via AP, File)
NBAFreeAgencyJamesBasketball33749jpgd4ecf
FILE - In this June 8, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James walks to the bench during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland. Two people familiar with the decision say James has told the Cavaliers he is declining his $35.6 million contract option for next season and is a free agent. James' representatives told the Cavs on Friday, June 29, 2018, said the people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

CLEVELAND — LeBron James made the first move. Now what?

Cleveland? Los Angeles? Philadelphia? A surprise?

Stay tuned. Decision III is this summer’s blockbuster, and it’s coming soon.

James told the Cavaliers that he is not exercising his $35.6 million contract option for next season and will become an unrestricted free agent, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on Friday.

The decision to decline the option for 2018-19 was expected by James because it gives him more options, which includes him re-signing with the Cavs, who can offer him the most money — a five-year, $209 million contract. James can also sign a short-term deal with Cleveland, something he has done each year since returning in 2014.

James had until 11:59 p.m. to express his intentions to the Cavs and his agent Rich Paul informed the team in the morning, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP because the sides are not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday.

The three-time champion is now the most coveted prize in an NBA free-agent class that includes All-Stars Paul George and Chris Paul. Teams can begin negotiations with free agents at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

The fact that he didn’t pick up his option could be good news for worried Cavs fans, who fear James may leave them for the second time in his career. If he had opted in, it would have likely meant the Cavs had worked out a trade for James.

And while the Cavs remain hopeful he’ll stay, there are other teams in the mix for the 33-year-old — and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be at the top of the list.

With the ability to sign two maximum-contract players, the Lakers can build a “Super Team” with James if they are able to also land George or work out a trade with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. On Thursday, George told the Oklahoma City Thunder he’s declining his $20.7 million option for next season.

James already has some shallow roots on the West Coast with two homes in the Los Angeles area and a film production company.

The chance to join one of the league’s most iconic franchises has an appeal to James and he said following this year’s Finals that he remains in “championship mode.”

The Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets are also believed to covet the four-time league MVP, who just played in his eighth straight Finals.

James will factor family — he has three children, and his oldest son is a rising hoops star — into the choice of where he plays next.

James just completed his 15th NBA season, and it may have been his best yet.

He played all 82 regular-season games for the first time, averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and a career-high 9.1 assists per game. He showed no signs of slowing down, if anything he had found a new gear.

James then carried the Cavs, with their flawed roster after a massive trading deadline turnover, through the Eastern Conference playoffs — they survived two Game 7s and swept the top-seeded Toronto Raptors — to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight meeting with the Golden State Warriors.

It was James’ eighth consecutive Finals appearance, a remarkable feat not matched since Hall of Famer Bill Russell and a handful of Celtics did it in the 1960s. Cleveland was overmatched but James had the Cavs in position to steal Game 1 before a late-game missed free throw by George Hill and mental meltdown by Cavs forward J.R. Smith, who dribbled out the final seconds of regulation thinking his team was leading, led to an overtime loss.

With MVP Kevin Durant heading the charge, the Warriors completed a sweep of the Cavs and James, who revealed following the series that he had broken his right hand in a fit of frustration following Game 1.

James had numerous reasons to be upset. He had done everything possible, and as he left Quicken Loans Arena following Game 4 along with his sons, there was an air of uncertainty heading into this summer.

Those unknowns remain, but James is closer to solving them.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.