Cleveland isn't giving up on the possibility of re-sign…

4 years ago via ESPN
Cleveland isn’t giving up on the possibility of re-signing James next summer, but it is no longer investing blind faith in the hope he will stay. For James, a reluctance to commit comes with an emerging set of complications. Beyond Irving’s decision to ask for a trade, Cleveland has determined that it’s unwilling to simply be reactive to James’ possible departure.

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Of course, Cavaliers officials prefer to re-sign James to a long-term deal and chase titles together into his twilight, but the Cavs are treating his unwillingness to commit as a call to protect themselves long term in the Irving trade, league sources said.
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.
LeBron James is "deeply committed" to the Cavaliers and has been "helpful" in their pursuit of free agents, team owner Dan Gilbert and new general manager Koby Altman said Wednesday. James, according to reports by cleveland.com and other outlets, has been frustrated with the departure of former GM David Griffin and, until the signing of Derrick Rose, the team's tepid activity in free agency.
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."
Marla Ridenour: Gilbert on LeBron's future beyond this season: "We do not control all the cards. As Koby said, LeBron has been as helpful as he's ever been.
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."
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.
In registering his preference to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for a trade, league sources said, Irving divulged that he's become increasingly uneasy about a future that includes a roster constructed to complement LeBron James -- a roster that could well be devoid of James come free agency in 2018.
James, according to two sources, had no idea that Irving was unhappy with his role this past season or wanted out of Cleveland. James’s future in Cleveland is already uncertain after this season; he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and many around the league have believed for weeks that he’s likely to leave the Cavs for a second time and sign either with the Lakers or Clippers next summer.
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."
And, not surprisingly, opinions on his ultimate location were split among league executives in Las Vegas. Several felt confident he will head west to Los Angeles next summer, agreeing with the rumblings along those lines that have been going around the league for some time. Coincidental or not, this speculation was given an extra dose of fuel when James showed up at a Lakers Summer League game last Wednesday instead of going to the ESPYs.
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.
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.’”
While the 32-year-old Young hopes to maximize his earnings on a multi-year contract for a playoff team, the Lakers want to sign players to one-year deals to save cap space for the 2018 offseason when LeBron James, Paul George and Russell Westbrook might be available.
According to Mike Wise of The Undefeated, however, LeBron in a Clippers uniform is not something we will ever see. Wise gave details on the Freddie and Fritz radio show: I got from a very good authority -- a very good authority -- that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can't tell you who, but I'm going to tell you it's somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper.
But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground. Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz: I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it. I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline. He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.
Sam Amick: As @JasonLloydNBA reported, Cavs offer Chauncey Billups to run basketball ops but he hasn't decided. Two factors I'm told he has pondered. 1) LeBron could leave next summer in free agency 2) Cavs coach Ty Lue is a close friend & prospect of being objectively critical isn't easy
But what about the Cavs? There is a big-picture implication to Griffin’s departure, and it involves James, who can become a free agent following the 2017-18 season. This puts James’ long-term plans in Cleveland in jeopardy, especially if the Cavs don’t win the title next year. It is not out of the question that James leaves Cleveland again if he doesn’t believe a championship is possible in the short term. There was no guarantee James would stay with Griffin as GM, but the new executive has plenty of work to do – namely improving the roster – and just short time to do it.
"Who they bring in will play a big role in LeBron's decision next summer," said the source, who was granted anonymity to discuss James' reaction. "If they bring in someone who is stable, who has the ability to make things happen, then fine. No harm no foul. But if it's amateur hour, that's a different story."
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, West’s potential ability to improve the Clippers’ chances of landing the Cleveland Cavaliers star in free agency in the summer of 2018 was a significant factor in his hiring and in the willingness of owner Steve Ballmer to pay West between $4 and $5 million annually.
There’s all kinds of work to do before then, like re-signing James’ close friend/Clippers point guard Chris Paul this summer (which is still believed to be likely) and convincing five-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin to come back too (which is considered more dicey).
It's highly unlikely either James or George would leave Cleveland after a hypothetical championship. For that matter, a source with knowledge of James' thinking said it's far too early to say what gen might do next summer, but he is happy in Cleveland.
Those close to James insist that he will opt out of his Cleveland deal next summer and that he’s very interested in moving to Los Angeles, where he owns a home, where his kids are enrolled in a private school (just in case the family moves west), and where James’ business conglomerate has established a base of operations.
Sirius XM NBA: "I think there's a 50/50 chance that he's leaving after next season and heading out West" @Frank Isola "I think it's happening" @Brian Scalabrine pic.twitter.com/1RkxaSLfv4
Adrian Wojnarowski on LeBron James: Not only is there no guarantee he's coming back... I'm not sure there's an expectation he's re-signing there. I think they feel that he's very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the L.A. teams.
After that LeBron story was published, a front-office source texted me that morning adding that a big reason LeBron might look elsewhere is due to his still-rocky relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. LeBron’s comments in a video on Uninterrupted were posted hours later and confirmed LeBron’s — and his family’s — tensions with ownership. Gilbert’s infamous Comic Sans letter to James still weighs on his close circle today.
Brian Windhorst: "If you're gonna attract LeBron James next summer or if you're gonna keep LeBron James if you're the Cavs, you have to have the ability to say you can beat the Golden State Warriors. Right now, Los Angeles Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers can't even begin to say that. The team with the best chances are the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they stay in that position, they'll have a good chance to keep LeBron for the rest of his career."
Rumblings across the league suggest that LeBron will consider taking his talents out West, as Bill Simmons and I discussed this week on The Bill Simmons Podcast. The LeBron noise echoes what The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote last year: With a Finals victory for Cleveland secure, James could get to “run off with his buddies again somewhere warm.”
Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center.
The new deal, which still must be ratified by the owners and players' union, alters the "over-36 rule" to the "over-38" rule. Previously, teams could not sign players to four- or five-year contracts if the player turned 36 before Oct. 1 of one of the years of the deal. By moving the rule back two years, James is in position to sign a five-year contract in 2018 when he is 33 years old, sources told ESPN. James' health, the overall player market and other factors make it impossible to know what he might sign for in 2018, but projections show he could sign for up to $210 million if he stays with the Cleveland Cavaliers and signs for five years at the maximum number. Before the rule change, he would have been able to sign for only three years and an estimated $90-100 million less at age 33.
James remains under team control through next season. He will be eligible in the summer of 2018 to sign a five-year deal worth about $209 million, according to one source with knowledge of the new CBA. The exact dollar figure won’t be known until the cap for the 2018-19 season is set, but each side already has a working idea of what the numbers will look like.
Now, the next big-time free agent the Cavs will have to try and re-sign is James, who, if history repeats itself, will opt out of his contract in the summer of 2018. So much can happen between now and then, but right now James has his favorite pro coach in Lue, a wingmate in Irving whom he's said will be MVP one day, and teammates under contract for years who are either represented by his agent (Rich Paul), or were brought to Cleveland at his urging, or both.
Bobby Marks: On the LeBron James contract. James joins Melo, KG and Dirk as players with a no trade clause. 8 seasons and with current team 4 yrs to be eligible. James previous stint in Cleveland applies to a no trade clause.
"We are very fortunate to have a championship group together," said Griffin. "One that has grown organically to trust, and sacrifice for one another - on and off the floor. At the core of that group is LeBron. His leadership, passion and tireless commitment are the hallmarks of our success and have inspired our entire franchise. His connection and dedication to his community and this fan base are absolute. We share his determination to win at the highest level and can't wait to get back to work, together to defend our title."
According to Paul, next season James will make $33.3 million, topping Michael Jordan’s NBA single-season record of $33 million with the Bulls in 1997-98. His third season, if he opts in, is for $35.6 million. It has long been a goal of James to 1) Lead the NBA in salary for a single season; 2) Break Jordan’s record for the NBA’s all-time No. 1 salary. With the Larry O’Brien Trophy now residing in Cleveland, he’s accomplished his most important tri-fecta.
""I just want to let y'all know I'm re-signing back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, my hometown team," James said on Uninterrupted, his Internet and social-media video platform for athletes. "I can't be more excited than this opportunity once again, man, to defend our crown, defend our title. We all know last year as a magical, inspiring-- all the words you can come up with-- it was an unbelievable season. I just can't wait to get the group back together-- the team, the franchise, more importantly, get everybody together, the fans.
Rick Noland: LeBron James on Uninterrupted: "I can’t be more excited for this opportunity, once again, man, to defend our crown, defend our title. We all know last year as a magical, inspiring— all the words you can come up with— it was an unbelievable season. I just can’t wait to get the group back together— the team, the franchise. More importantly, get everybody together, the fans. Without you guys, without your passion and commitment, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did this past season. I’m ecstatic.I can’t wait to see my guys. I can’t wait to get back out there in the wine and gold and just get the band back together.
ESPN Cleveland: Windhorst: Jordan and Kobe are the only players to make 30 mil or more in a year. LBJ could make 31 this year if he signed a 4 year deal
James is one of several members of the Cavs from last season's championship team that remain unsigned, including J.R. Smith and head coach Tyronn Lue. James is currently traveling and spending time with family. He will meet with agent Rich Paul and go over his contract options at some point but there is no rush, sources said.
Team officials have reached out to the camp of James for an answer to no avail, sources say. However, there are some officials within the organization who don't view the situation as a concern. James will eventually put the pen to the paper, but his hesitancy is unclear at the moment. The day of the championship parade, James told cleveland.com he was returning to defend the city's first professional title in 52 years.
Ramona Shelburne: James, sources said, is not willing to take less than the maximum contract he can sign with the Cavs, who are so far above the luxury tax threshold that they could only offer Wade their $3.5 million mid-level exception. Being over the luxury tax threshold also means the Cavs couldn't do a sign-and-trade for Wade.
Marc Stein: Teams are still calling to check on the unsigned LeBron James, but I'm told agent Rich Paul politely informs them James is staying a Cav
James, the MVP of the 2016 Finals, could sign a two-year contract worth $56.3 million in July and opt out next season when he could sign a long-term deal with full Bird rights when the salary cap is projected to jump from $94 million in 2016-17 to $107 million in 2017-18. However, if James took that route, he is not able – under the current collective bargaining agreement – to a sign a five-year deal worth $200 million in the summer of 2017, three league executives told USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the free agency period hasn't started.
It’s because of an obscure clause in the collective bargaining agreement known as the “over 36 rule.” The rule is complicated, but in essence, it prevents teams from giving four- or five-year deals to players who are unlikely to play the life of the deal with no salary cap consequences.
If James opts out following the 2016-17 season, Cleveland will have full Bird rights and can sign James to a five-year deal worth $202.6 million. The Cavs will be the only team that can offer him five years and 7.5% raises next July. The contract would start at $35.2 million for 2017-18 and keep rising until it hit $45.8 million for the 2021-22 season.
But James has other options, too. Since Cleveland does not have full Bird rights on James now – just early Bird rights – it can only sign him this offseason to a four-year contract worth $137.7 million. If James decided to leave Cleveland after next season, he could sign a four-year, $150.4 million deal with another team.
ESPN Cleveland: Windhorst: I believe LeBron will sign another one year deal with the #Cavs. That sets him up for a big contract next summer.
If James agreed to a four-year deal now, it would be worth about $138 million, costing him nearly $100 million (in terms of the value of the contract) over what he could get if he signs a one-year deal with the Cavs now and then signs that big contract next summer. So if waiting a year to hit that $31 million number is OK with James, signing another short-term deal may still be his best option. There is also the stability of the Cavs to consider. Things can change so quickly in the NBA – injuries can ravage a team, coaches can fall out of favor, chemistry can grow stale.
Chris Broussard: On 7/1, James becomes free agent for 3rd straight year. Tho James said he'll return 2 Cavs, Paul gave no timetable for signing of new deal. With huge salary cap increase, James is eligible for max salary of roughly $30 million. Exact amount not known until July 7.
Those technicalities include perhaps leaving $3 million on the table if he wants what is his now-customary one-year contract plus a player option with the Cavs, as he's signed the past two summers. James is not expected to pick up his player option for next season, which is $24 million. If James takes another one-year contract from the Cavs, he would make $27.5 million for next season. This is because the Cavs don't have salary-cap space and don't have James' full Bird rights, which limits the size of the raise he can get. Another team with cap space -- and there are more than 20 of them -- could give James $30.8 million for next season.
The only way James could get $30.8 million next year from the Cavs is if he took a two-year deal under league rules. In this case, he could sign for two years and $64 million. James has been planning to take one-year contracts until the summer of 2017, when an even higher salary cap and potential new collective bargaining agreement rules would enable him to sign one of the largest deals in professional sports history if he wanted to.
"I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates," James said. "Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I'm happy. I've got no plans to go nowhere." James can become a free agent if he decides not to exercise the one-year, $24 million player's option in his contract. He will all but certainly decline the option on June 29 so he can get a raise from the Cavs -- he can make upward of $30 million next season under a new contract. Free agents can begin negotiating with teams July 1 and can sign July 7. His agent, Rich Paul, echoed his comments to cleveland.com as the parade was starting to roll, adding that he had yet to fully dig into James' next contract and left open the possibility that James could seek a longer deal than his usual one-year deals with a player option for a second.
As James explained before the parade, where he would be serenaded, over and over, by an astounding million-plus people along the route, "this is the happiest time in my life right now."
Not that it should come as a surprise, but LeBron James fully intends to return to the Cavs to defend the NBA championship they just won next season. "I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates," James told cleveland.com, moments before he boarded a float at The Q for the Cavs' championship parade through downtown Cleveland. "Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I'm happy. I've got no plans to go nowhere at this point."
James, 31, can become a free agent if he decides not to exercise the one-year, $24 million player's option in his contract. He will all but certainly decline the option on June 29 so he can get a raise from the Cavs -- he can make upwards of $30 million next season under a new contract. Free agents can begin negotiating with teams July 1 and can sign July 7.
Marc Stein: Dirk Nowitzki faced a Wednesday deadline to make his opt-out call. LeBron James, by contrast, has until June 29 to make his free agency decision.
So there’s no doubt James eventually will have a wandering eye, and he’s on record as saying the Garden is his favorite building and that he wished he could play all 82 games there. It’s just a matter of when. If he doesn’t opt out, he would make $24 million next season. If he opts out and signs another two-year deal with an opt-out, he’d make $30 million next season with the cap’s huge rise. It’s a no-brainer. For now, he can gloat about proving all his critics wrong — those who came out in force after the Cavs fell behind the Warriors 3-1.
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The Clippers owner also paid the town of Inglewood $66.2 million for the land where Intuit Dome will sit. The Clippers will get some of that back, though. Intuit, the software company that makes Turbo Tax, will pay the team more than $500 million for a 23-year naming rights slot. That deal only enhanced Ballmer’s optimism. “This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy,” Ballmer added, clapping his hands. “Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”
Storyline: New Clippers Arena