Storyline: LeBron James Free Agency

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23 hours ago via ESPN

It is a delicious fantasy. And yet, in the modern NBA, where superstars change teams and seismic shifts in power seem to shake the league every summer, it’s certainly not impossible. Lakers history is filled with similar feats of engineering, most recently in 2008, when they plucked Pau Gasol away from Memphis to team with an in-his-prime Bryant for two NBA championships. So imagining LeBron James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources. Still, expect the atmosphere, and the intrigue, to be as thick as the winter storm battering Cleveland when the Lakers and Cavaliers play Thursday night.
23 hours ago via ESPN

Also sticking to past protocol, LeBron James himself has resisted any attempt to comment on his impending free agency. Before the season, he said he “won’t ever cheat my teammates or cheat the franchise … by talking about free agency all year long, because I’m not gonna give energy to something I can handle in the summertime.” “LeBron is focused on this season and winning a championship,” Paul said. “At the appropriate time, we will explore all the options. Now is not the time.”
23 hours ago via ESPN

The middle of the regular season is not the time for final decisions, but LeBron James’ position on maximum contracts hasn’t changed, sources said. Here’s what that means: Teams who hope to pitch James next July ought to plan to have the max to offer, which is projected to be about $35 million. For now, there are no plans for James to grant a Kevin Durant-esque discount to any team so that friends can get paid or a better roster can be constructed. Something else a team will need: stars. The last time a team was able to pry James away from his hometown, it took an incumbent star, Dwyane Wade, and a joining star, Chris Bosh.
23 hours ago via ESPN

There’s reason to pay attention to the Houston connection. LeBron James and Chris Paul have been friends since high school, won two gold medals together and recently led the players’ union through CBA negotiations with Paul as president and James as VP. They are in position to be free agents at the same time for the first time in their careers next summer. However, league sources called the concept that James and Paul want to spend their golden years as teammates an overstated assumption.

Rockets in the mix for LeBron James?

While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance. And once you really look at it, when you get past all the noise about the Lakers and even the compelling case for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, it makes all sorts of sense.

As for how Houston could find a way to give max salary contracts starting at $35 million annually to both James (who has a player option worth $35.3 million for next season) and Paul (who will be a free agent) without the necessary cap space, Morey would indeed have to become a salary cap gymnast. The NBA salary cap is expected to be $101 million next season, and the Rockets are, well, capped out. But Morey is one of the league’s renowned risk takers, the kind of relentless executive who might already have hypothetical trades lined up for players like Ryan Anderson and others who would have to go for the Rockets to be able to sign one of the greatest players of all time in James. It’s also seen as possible that, like Kevin Durant did last summer with the Warriors, Paul could take less money to make James’ salary fit.

Let’s start with rudimentary salary cap issues. The Sixers are one of a few teams who have significant salary cap space to use in the summer of 2018. They would need to make a few moves to get close to a $34 million max salary for James in year one, but it can be done. Let’s also point out that James on media day in September said nothing has happened that has changed his stance about finishing his career with the Cavaliers. He also said, “Anytime I’m able to be a free agent or my contract is ending, I’ll approach that when the summer comes.”

LeBron’s people don’t argue with the notion he may leave Cleveland, just not perhaps for a team near you with marketing point man Maverick Carter pooh-poohing the importance of “gigantic market(s) like Boston or Chicago or New York or L.A.” as opposed to winning titles. Not that the Lakers can’t revamp fast enough to field a contender with Bron, Paul George and their young players… but their last official with a time frame that optimistic was Jim Buss.

LeBron James' agent talks free agency

LeBron James’ business partner Maverick Carter said James — in the final year of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers — won’t start thinking about his next career step until about a week after the NBA season comes to an end. And when that time comes, location won’t play much of a role. “These days it doesn’t matter anymore,” Carter said during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show early Wednesday morning when asked specifically about the importance of where James plays. “The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad. The Knicks for a very long time and the Lakers since Kobe (Bryant) kind of aged out of being the best player or one of the best players in the league and basketball is doing as great as ever with teams in Oklahoma City and Cleveland. These days it doesn’t matter because you can be known and be a star from anywhere in the world. It doesn’t actually matter.

So if James, who owns a house in Los Angeles, wants to go in that direction when his NBA career starts winding down, doesn’t playing there make perfect sense? “I understand people keep saying that and thinking that. But the reason it doesn’t make sense is because if he does play in L.A. or he plays on the moon he can only shoot movies for three months,” Carter said. “It doesn’t matter. Even if he played in L.A. and wanted to be in a movie, he can’t shoot from basically September to June.

How this season finishes and whether the Cavs can dethrone the Golden State Warriors will loom large when it comes to figuring out James’ future. As Carter said, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. “He never starts thinking about it before the end of the season, Carter said. “Whenever their season ends and hopefully it’s in June for his sake and the sake of his family because he goes crazy at home, usually a week after. Decompresses, lets it all calm down and then a week after. Sometimes he can take a little longer but at least a week after.”

Beck: I don’t know, and no one else does either. I do believe, based on people I’ve spoken with in the last six months, that there’s a reasonable chance he leaves Cleveland again. I’ve had team executives swear—as long ago as May—that LeBron’s departure was a near certainty. The general belief around the league is that, if he does leave, he’ll land with the Lakers. How much of that is belief/speculation vs. inside knowledge is hard to say.

In many ways, the Cavs’ positioning is remarkable, given James’ likely free agency next summer and the overwhelming view from outside the organization that things were coming apart at the seams in the offseason. “I think he loves it here,” said Wade, who along with James and new general manager Koby Altman agreed to interviews with cleveland.com to preview the Cavs’ 2017-18 season, which begins Tuesday against the Boston Celtics. “I could see his mood and being around these guys and everyone that’s here,” Wade continued. “Obviously we’ve gotta win ball games, everything’s gotta go right and we gotta stay together to continue to have that mood, but right now he’s in a great place.”

Well, OK then, LaVar. But there’s just one problem: LeBron plays for the Cavaliers. Not for long, according to LaVar. He’s convinced LeBron will join Lonzo in Los Angeles next season: “I know it’s gonna happen,” Ball said. “Let’s just keep it real on the business aspect. [LeBron] is one of the best players probably, over Jordan … but the fact is he hasn’t won enough. You been to the Finals too many times and haven’t won enough. “But the other thing that makes you better is if you do a three-peat and you won for three different teams. You went to Miami and won. You went to Cleveland and won. Now come to L.A. and win, and guess what? Now you’re the greatest player ever if you win two or three in a row.
3 months ago via ESPN

“[My feelings on Cleveland] haven’t changed, that’s why I sit here today still in this uniform, still ready to lead this franchise to a championship,” James said. “Any time I’m able to be a free agent or my contract is ending, I’ll approach that when the summer comes. I don’t ever cheat my teammates or cheat the fans or talk about free agency all year long because I’m not going to give energy to something I can handle in the summertime when I should be focused on what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to help this franchise compete for a championship.”

LeBron James to Lakers next summer?

Accordingly, I’m publicly terminating the pandemic of speculation surrounding LeBron James’ playing plans past this season. For months, many in the media declared or composed presumption the Lakers would be the beneficiaries of his talents when he became a free agent July 1, 2018. I’m eradicating all conjecture and uncertainty! I’m comfortable now in stating unequivocally, LeBron will leave the Cavaliers a second time and join the Lakers, and return the team to LA Lore status.
3 months ago via ESPN

Multiple league sources suggested to ESPN that a major motivating factor in the Lakers’ signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal this offseason was because Caldwell-Pope is repped by Rich Paul, the same agent as James. Now the Lakers can spend a year communicating with Paul, showing him how they run their organization, sharing meals, etc., and it will all be protected under the Caldwell-Pope prism, even if it could prove influential as to what James ultimately decides to do. As for teams being even more covert in their preemptive pursuit of James, a league source familiar with James’ past free agencies said more teams would view it as a “waste of time” because James is known for wanting to have the control rather than be wooed.
3 months ago via ESPN

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert hired a private law firm to investigate whether Miami Heat president Pat Riley tampered to bring James to South Beach in 2010. The NBA dismissed Gilbert’s claim and absolved the Heat. If James does go somewhere else next summer, you have to wonder if Gilbert will choose to look into tampering once again. Even beyond James’ upcoming situation, anytime you hear of a multimillion-dollar deal agreed upon at 9:01 p.m. PT when free agency opens up, tampering will be questioned. Anytime a trade comes out of nowhere, tampering will be questioned. Said one assistant coach to ESPN: “I don’t know if it will ever stop.”

At the top of the Lakers’ wish list has to be LeBron James, as the four-time MVP has reached the NBA Finals the last seven seasons and reports around the league suggest that James could be interested in signing with Los Angeles. If the Lakers are able to convince James to make the move then he will likely be involved in the recruiting process to get another star to join him, and according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Westbrook could be his first choice: Whispers around the NBA suggest James would love to team up with the explosive guard.

LaVar spoke with ClutchPoints this week to talk about the family’s new show on Facebook along with a few other few other topics including LeBron James potentially coming to the Los Angeles Lakers next year and whether he’d be a good fit playing alongside his son, Lonzo Ball. “Let me tell you this, it would be a great fit, and LeBron is coming to L.A,” LaVar told ClutchPoints. “What’s in Cleveland? You want to be a superstar, man. Superstar franchise. “It’s going to be like this, and I’m talking about reality. He’s going to say, ‘You know what? I went to Miami. Won a championship. Brought one back to my home town. I’m the only one to go to three different places and bring a championship.’
4 months ago via ESPN

Boston was forthright about the injury in talks with Cleveland before the teams agreed to a trade on Aug. 22, sources say, but Cleveland’s doctors may come to a different conclusion about Thomas’ prognosis for the coming season — the last before LeBron James enters free agency as a flight risk again. If recovery from various hip ailments, including a bone bruise, does not proceed smoothly, there is at least a slight chance Thomas would miss most of the 2017-18 season, sources say. (Thomas disagrees.)

Chris Broussard: “They think this is all just a bunch of drama and talk, and we all know LeBron likes drama. So, again, we don’t know. But if I had to make a pick, I would say he does stay in Cleveland. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d predict that he stays in Cleveland. But at this point, I don’t think LeBron knows what he’s going to do. We know that this has been his M.O. for the last several years. Even when he went back to Cleveland from Miami, it was on a short-term deal. He wants to keep to his options open for various reasons – to keep Dan Gilbert on edge, to keep [the front office] trying to make the team better and just for other personal reasons. LeBron likes playing in this situation. I think that’s his M.O. and I don’t think we should assume that he’s definitely leaving Cleveland because he won’t commit there long-term.”

Chris Broussard: “However, there is reason to believe that he would leave. Heading into the draft, we know that Cleveland had a deal on the table where they could’ve gotten Eric Bledsoe and Paul George for Kyrie Irving in a three-team deal [with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers]. Dan Gilbert went to LeBron and wanted him to sign long-term. He said, ‘I’ll do the deal if you sign long-term.’ And I’m told that Paul George was willing to [opt-in] to the final year of his contract. He wasn’t ready to commit long-term, but he told Cleveland, ‘Look, if you do this, I’ll pick up my option,’ so he would’ve been there for two years. And LeBron, still, did not commit long-term. Now, again, I’m not saying this means he is definitely gone, but it’s certainly a red-flag.”

Chris Broussard: “And with the Lakers, there are so many questions. Let’s see what Lonzo Ball is. Let’s see what Brandon Ingram is. Let’s see what Paul George is willing to do. I don’t see LeBron going there by himself, without another star, so what happens if Oklahoma City gets to the Western Conference Finals and loses in seven games? Does Paul George stay? Again, I think there are too many questions, at this point, for LeBron to know where he wants to go.”

There is no consensus among NBA executives on who got the better end of the deal that shipped four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving from Cleveland to Boston on Aug. 22, but there is when it comes to how they see the trade impacting LeBron James’ decision to stay or go next summer. The deal doesn’t change a thing. The prevailing sentiment among the league executives B/R contacted remains that when it comes time to exercise the option on his final contract year with the Cavaliers, James won’t. “He’s out,” a Western Conference scout says. “Foregone conclusion,” one Eastern Conference general manager adds. “I don’t see him staying in Cleveland,” another thinks.

Trying to persuade James to stay home won’t be easy. Altman is also handcuffed by the mammoth payroll that won’t budge enough for a marquee free agent even if Thomas bolts. Even so, with James, Thomas and Love, the deep Cavaliers still have a roster capable of advancing to a fourth-straight NBA Finals and possibly winning. It will be tougher with Irving joining forces with All-Star forward Hayward, forwards Al Horford and budding star Jaylen Brown, and heralded rookie Jayson Tatum. But Boston will desperately need to be one of the NBA’s best scoring teams after losing some defensive standouts in Crowder, center Amir Johnson and more notably Avery Bradley.

Bron was leaving Coral Tree Cafe in Brentwood on Sunday when we asked about the prediction Griffin made on the “View From the Cheap Seats” podcast … that LeBron will leave Cleveland for the Knicks. “Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period,” Griffin said … “I could see him going to New York before L.A.” So, how did Bron feel about that? “I don’t even know what you’re talking about, shawty,” LeBron told our female photog … right before hopping into his clean white Porsche.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin explained his contrarian theory on the View From The Cheap Seats podcast, saying he thinks James’ side has something “brewing” but it isn’t a plan to play in Los Angeles as many suspect. “I could see [LeBron] going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling,” Griffin said. “The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game. … Even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

A store in Akron is trying to help convince James that he needs to stay home with these shirts and hats made by 7th Floor Clothing (a company that says they were the ones who made “the official Kiss The Trophy dad hat” that James wore after winning the title in Cleveland).

The dramatic Cleveland Cavaliers offseason has basically put the entire team’s future into question. Kyrie Irving wants to leave. LeBron James will be a free agent after this season, and some fans already think LeBron’s time in Cleveland is nearing an end. Kevin Durant and rapper Lil Dicky, who once featured KD in a music video, discussed just that on Wednesday.

It seems that NBA players are starting to believe the hype, with veteran Matt Barnes making his case during an appearance on ‘The Herd, With Colin Cowherd’. During the interview, Barnes suggested that the Lakers could be the ideal fit for James, in order to get a chance to work with Johnson on his post-playing career: No better place. Yeah, no question. I think with him, he bought a big old house out in Brentwood. LA is the place to be. I heard he wants to be in management after and I think no better person in the game to help model and shape him than Magic Johnson.

James can also be a free agent next summer, should he opt out of his contract. Sources close to James say he does not know what he will do after this season. “LeBron remains deeply committed to this organization,” Altman said. “He remains deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city. He has deep roots to this city. And it means a lot to him to be here and compete for championships for years to come. That’s his goal, and so we have shared goals.”
5 months ago via ESPN

Billups didn’t speak with James until after he decided to turn down the job and James’ plans for 2018 when he can become a free agent didn’t directly factor into the decision. “The whole LeBron leaving the next year, to be honest that didn’t bother me that much,” Billups said. “Here’s why: when you have an opportunity to really put something together and put your imprint on it — rebuilding is a beautiful thing if the (owner) is going to have the patience with you. What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild. It was more that than Bron. Bron and I have always had an amazing relationship.”
5 months ago via ESPN

They are acting as if they intend to. Cleveland is seeking a bundle of assets, but the highest priority right now is snagging a blue-chip young player, according to sources across the league. That is not necessarily a signal they think James is leaving. They would like to get everything: one or two veterans who can help LeBron dethrone Golden State, that blue-chipper, and picks. They want to prepare for a worst-case scenario of LeBron leaving without shoving him out the door by acquiring players he deems unready. Even so, the blue-chipper appears to be their guidepost, sources say.

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving took a moment during Tuesday night’s Fashionable 50 event by Sports Illustrated in Los Angeles to acknowledge the rumors swirling about his team. SI’s Maggie Gray asked Irving, “How different could the Cavaliers team look in just a couple years” considering the latest rumors regarding LeBron James’ leaving to join the Los Angeles Lakers after his contract is up in 2018. Irving could be a free agent after the 2018-19 season. “Like I said, we’re in a peculiar place,” Irving said. “The best thing we can do is handle things with class and professionalism. Obviously we have a great owner that’s willing to spend a little money on guys that he believes in. At this point, we just see what happens throughout the summer.”

That said, there exists a healthy amount of skepticism that James will be willing to play for a team that, even with his addition, doesn’t seem like it will be capable of competing on a level playing field with the Golden State Warriors. Thus, making that move would end his consecutive NBA Finals streak end at eight — assuming, as the entire league suspects, his Cavaliers will make it back there again next June. This is why some could see James hanging on for at least another year in Cleveland to better survey what’s out there if he did decide to leave the Cavaliers.

Add in the fact that Griffin and the Cavaliers parted ways only three days before the draft, with Griffin engaged in ongoing talks with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls about possibly landing stars such as like Paul George and Jimmy Butler, and it’s safe to say that Gilbert is giving James every reason to let his eyes wander these days. The familiar dysfunction is enough to breathe life into all the possibilities that surround James elsewhere, chief among them the notion that he might take his talents to Manhattan Beach to play for the purple and gold next July.

As if Ball’s play wasn’t enough, or all those Lakers fans in attendance who spent the night screaming for James to come their way next summer or the fun fact that James himself was wearing a purple tie-dyed shirt, there was the sneaker subplot that made it even more compelling. As has been well-chronicled, Ball and his outspoken father, LaVar, are trying to buck the basketball shoe system by way of their Big Baller Brand. Rather than sign with the titans of industry, such as James’ Nike brand or Adidas or Under Armour, they have been going their own way by making their own shoes and apparel with the hopes of landing a massive payday down the line.
5 months ago via ESPN

When Ball made his summer league debut Friday, his father LaVar Ball said that if the Lakers ever managed to team up James with his son, they would win a championship together. James can opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers next summer. “Heck yeah!” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “Lonzo and LeBron? Come on man! That’s real deal. You don’t want to give him the best player in the world. You don’t want to give Lonzo the best player in the world and don’t get no championship? Shoot.”

But that’s only the beginning. Simmons sees a much bigger picture that could come together. “What if I told you that 12 months from now, LeBron James, Paul George, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins will all be on the Los Angeles Lakers together?” he says. “Conspiracy Bill has some things that he doesn’t like about what’s going on. I think the LeBron James–[to]-L.A. [story], he hasn’t come out and denied it. Everyone’s talking about it in the league, it became public last month. He knows they’re talking about it and hasn’t said anything. Hasn’t said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m so tired of hearing this. I want to finish my career in Cleveland.’”
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December 15, 2017 | 10:06 am EST Update
Anthony’s return to New York shouldn’t produce the same emotions from fans because both sides shared a mutual disdain for former team president Phil Jackson and understood that the relationship had simply run its course. Plus, unlike George, Anthony didn’t leave just as he entered his prime but rather just as he was exiting it. “At the end of the day, it’s business to me. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not ecstatic to be going back and playing there,” Anthony said. “Like I said, I got a different feeling with New York. A different relationship, different bond with the city, with the fans, with the people. It’s a little bit special for me.”
J.R. Smith said he wore a “Supreme” shooting sleeve on his left arm Thursday because “I thought it looked dope and matched our uniforms.” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. wore one on his leg but team trainers told him to take it off at halftime because of league uniform rules. Smith said he didn’t know Oubre had to take his off, and said no one with the Cavs told him to do the same. Smith said he didn’t know if he’d be fined by the NBA.