Storyline: LeBron James Free Agency

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Adrian Wojnarowski: “The Cavaliers have to assume [LeBron’s] leaving or they’re gonna be put in an even more difficult position. It’s never easy to have him walk out the door but they have contracts like Tristan Thompson and JR Smith that they’re stuck with… He could have made this – if he wanted to be there and if he was going to be there he would have settled this [by now], and he hasn’t. So it’s obvious he’s looking – that doesn’t mean he won’t stay, but they’re gonna have to sweat it out if he does.”
2 days ago via RealGM

“Last summer, they could have acquired Paul George. ” said Adrian Wojnarowski on the Adam Schefter podcast. “I think Paul George wanted to know, ‘if LeBron commits to some years going forward, then I might be willing to commit.’ “When LeBron wasn’t willing to commit to an extension, that told me, they could have had Paul George without losing Kyrie. That’s a very different team: Kyrie Irving, Paul George and LeBron James. “When he wasn’t ready to do that then, Cleveland was worried and rightly so.”

If it seems far-fetched, it’s because it likely is, but it is not out of step for Kanter and his outspoken style of leadership. While an entire league wonders where LeBron James will land this summer and whether he’ll re-tilt the NBA, Kanter has pinned the league’s best player to his personal Pinterest page. “I’m trying,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s possible, whatever, but I’m trying. Let’s give him a shot. Why not? Might just get him. Never know.” He added: “I’m working, man. I need some help. I’m working on it. I think just because it’s New York. If he wins here he is the G.O.A.T. No question, he is the G.O.A.T. I think we have a good chance to get him, I guess.”
3 days ago via ESPN

“LeBron’s book is already set,” O’Neal said. “He done already passed up legends; he done already made his mark — he has three rings. His mentality now is probably: I want to get four before [Golden State Warriors guard] Steph [Curry] does. That’s probably his mentality now. But if I was him, I wouldn’t be trying to get four, five and six because it ain’t going to matter. It’s just something else to talk about, something else to add to the pages. He’s a legend, talked about as who is the best between he and Michael Jordan, so he’s set.”

“Right before they started the Finals against Golden State, I spent some time with Bron,” Haslem said to reporters during a visit to the Heat’s youth summer camp at South Broward High. “He was in Miami. Me, him and Dwyane got together and we spent some time together and we just chopped it up and we just talked.” James’ future was not discussed, though, with the visit actually coming between the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals. “That wasn’t part of the conversation,” Haslem said. “Obviously, he was getting ready for the NBA Finals.”

“Absolutely. I hope he’s coming,” Wentz said when asked if he’d be part of recruiting James if the Sixers asked him to help. “Ertz and I were there (at Game 4) the other night. Unfortunately, he lost and everything. I didn’t really care who won in that game. But just seeing that, seeing him live, we decided to make it a recruiting trip.”

If Rob and Magic Johnson ask, would you be willing to attend their free-agent pitch meetings this summer as they try to attract stars like LeBron James and Paul George? Kobe Bryant: Well, no. I mean, I’ll call, but I’m not going to be in the meeting. Listen, I’m not part of the organization in any kind of professional way, right? If the players themselves have questions, [I’ll talk to them]. Or if the Lakers want me to reach out and call a player or something like that – if they want me to talk to the player and give my two cents on what it was like to play here and what this market is like – I’ll certainly do that. But in terms of being part of the meeting in any official way? The answer is no. But Rob and Magic both have great flexibility when it comes to the cap and they have great young talent. And I’ve known Rob for a long time; this dude is as smart as they come, so he’ll figure it out.
1 week ago via SLAM

“Anything could happen. People don’t look at everything. (LeBron James’) son just committed to Sierra Canyon which is in the valley of LA. That’s where his son is going to go to school [with] Scottie Pippen’s son and Kenyon Martin’s son. So, that’s a move that they’re going to make … if everybody looks at it with a son at that age, you don’t want to be away from him during that period of time. During the time that we’re having, basketball is school time. I think that (Bronny) needs a father during that time and that’s it. I don’t think LeBron is that type of parent, I think he wants to be around his son a lot and see his son a lot play.”

LeBron James will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he opts out of a $35.6 million player option in his current contract with the Cavaliers for next season. “To me, I don’t think it’s a basketball thing,” said Wade, who is James’ close friend and former teammate. “Obviously, you saw this year he can get to the Finals no matter what the circumstances are. I don’t really think the basketball decision of saying, ‘Oh, let me go team up with three All-Stars.’ I think at this point in his life, it’s more so of a lifestyle thing of where my family is going to be the most comfortable and where I’m going to be the most happiest at. Because basketball wise, he’s so great that he can bring along and take along whoever.”

The prominent ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith reported recently that James planned to speak to six teams in addition to the Cavaliers. Philadelphia, Houston, Miami and the Lakers were all mentioned — as were the juggernaut responsible for James’s 1-8 record in his last nine finals games (Golden State) and his longtime Eastern Conference nemesis (Boston). I’ve also been advised that the ever-persuasive San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is bound to try to force his way into the conversation to sell James on the merits of South Texas.

My best forecast at this juncture? Fixate on Chris Paul. If Paul stays with the Rockets, Houston becomes a dangerous player, no matter how complicated it would be for the 65-win Rockets and their general manager, Daryl Morey, to orchestrate the requisite salary-cap gymnastics to bring James in. But don’t discount the idea that James could try to bring Paul with him to a team that can afford two superstars, such as the Lakers, because he and Paul really are that close.

James will have three full weeks now to dig into the various options, study the landscape for the most fertile locales for title contention and, perhaps most crucially, make clandestine connections with the starry likes of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and, yes, Paul and James Harden to explore the prospects of teaming up somewhere with stars of that ilk. But this is as far as I’ll go with guarantees before the LeBron Sweepstakes officially begin: James will not feel as though he owes Cleveland anything after these last four seasons.

LeBron James recruiting season is officially open, and Joel Embiid is wasting NO time in courting the King to jump to the city of brotherly love. We got Sixers superstar leaving Craig’s Friday night — a couple hours after the Cavs got swept out of the NBA Finals. — and asked him about the not-so-subtle tweet he fired off as the game was ending. Joel hinted on social media, but he was way more direct with our photog. As he walked out, we asked him to explain the “find a new slant” comment … and he said, LeBron needs to “find a new team … Sixers!”
2 weeks ago via ESPN

After being swept out of the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors with a 108-85 Game 4 loss, LeBron James said he has “no idea at this point” whether Friday was the last game he’ll ever play with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “The one thing that I’ve always done is considered, obviously, my family,” James said after putting up 23 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds while playing through a right hand injury. “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I’ve got a teenage boy, a preteen and a little girl that wasn’t around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I’ll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that. So I don’t have an answer for you right now as far as that.”

And in a nutshell, he said LeBron should go to San Antonio. “Go to San Antonio. I think him being coached finally by an elite coach in Pop (Gregg Popovich) … teaming up with a culture that’s already been formed and great role players. Another superstar in Kawhi Leonard if he were to sign back with them (Spurs), I think LeBron fits in well with them. I just think that team, with LeBron James added, if he were to go West, can compete with anybody in the NBA.”

No matter what decision LeBron James makes during free agency this summer, he will be in northeast Ohio come the end of July. In his hometown of Akron — where street signs bear his “King James” moniker, his high school gym is an unofficial shrine to his playing days there and a gigantic poster of him holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2016 is plastered to the side of a building — James will be opening a public school July 30. He is the school’s largest individual donor.

It feels like LeBron James is gone from Cleveland this summer, but beyond that it’s really all just speculation. When LeBron and his team get serious about this, everything is on the table, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on The Jump. “There is no scenario that he will not do. There is no pathway he will not check out. He believes at this point in his career he has got a blank check. That everything he’s accomplished, his legacy his secure. If he wants to do something radical, he’ll do it. If he wants to play it safe, stay [in Cleveland], he’ll do it. And frankly he doesn’t care what any of us think about it.”
2 weeks ago via VICE

Rodney Hood: Obviously their number one priority is LeBron and seeing what he’s gonna do. I think they do want me in their future. They’ve told me that. But obviously the money has to be worked out and so I really don’t know exactly what has to happen. But for me it’s just about doing what’s best for me and my family. I think Cleveland is going to do what’s best for that organization, and LeBron is going to do what’s best for him, and everybody can respect that.

On a program called First Take on ESPN, Smith, a former columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, believed LeBron James would talk to several teams — including the Sixers — this summer if/when he hits free agency. But that’s not the weird thing. “LeBron James is going to have a conversation with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They can offer him the most, and they are willing to do anything they can to keep him here, etc. etc., and obviously the wife is going to have a major, major say in things. So you got that going on. He’s going to have a conversation with Boston. He’s going to have a conversation with Philly. Obviously the Lakers. Houston’s in the mix as well. They are going to go after him. Make no mistake about it.”

Regardless of the circumstances, the makers of the “2K” video game series would have received some attention for putting LeBron James on the cover of their latest edition, because, well, he’s LeBron. However, there are a couple of aspects to that cover that generated major chatter Tuesday, when “2k19″ was revealed. For one thing, James is shown in close-up, as opposed to being displayed in a Cavaliers jersey, which only further fanned the flames of speculation that he is not long for Cleveland. Also of interest was that among the phrases surrounding him — which James chose himself — was “G.O.A.T.,” as in “greatest of all time” (not that many reading this post need that spelled out).

Rob Lopez: Woj on LeBron James this summer: “We know that he’s not going to give the Cavs much, if any, direction at all going into the draft or free agency about moves he’d potentially like… They’ll draft blind on draft night”

Though the WestGate Las Vegas sports book has given the Heat tied for the fifth best odds of winning the championship next season (20 to 1) because of a belief LeBron James could return to the Heat this summer, there is absolutely no expectation inside the Heat that James will return. Yes, the Heat would welcome James back if he shockingly decided to come back. But the Heat would need to trade off many of its appealing assets to make this work even in the unlikely event James wanted to return. And if Cleveland refused to do a sign-and-trade with the Heat, Miami would need to trim more than $55 million in salary while taking no money back to create the cap room.

However, once the 2017-18 NBA season is complete, one of the biggest storylines for the league will be where the Cavaliers superstar will be playing basketball next season. In a recent episode of “Jalen and Jacoby,” Denver Nuggets veteran forward Richard Jefferson spoke about James’ upcoming free agency and speculated that the Portland Trail Blazers could be a possible destination for James. “I can see him doing anything, because no one knows,” Jefferson said. “Marc Stein doesn’t know, I don’t know, you don’t know. No one knows. No one knew he was going to Miami, hence the television show, “The Decision.” No one knew he was going back to Cleveland. … Right now, I really think Portland is trying to do some things to move their entire roster. Obviously, LeBron has a connection to Oregon because of his relationship with Nike. Phil Knight being a really, really big LeBron fan, I think wants to get him up there. They could build a whole new campus up there. Portland has now entered into the unfounded, irresponsible speculation of free agency around LeBron.”

Part of the metric calibration I mentioned above is valuing the tradeoff between usage and efficiency. This relies on measuring the average extent to which players get less efficient in smaller roles, but each individual has a different degree of sensitivity to how much they’re being asked to do on offense. Star players are valuable precisely because they see less drop-off than role players in smaller roles. At the same time, they benefit less in terms of efficiency from playing alongside a high-usage teammate like LeBron. Still, these results seem to offer an important takeaway for any team that signs James this summer (including the Cavaliers). While some additional shot creators are necessary, particularly in a playoff setting, any team with James must be careful not to invest too many resources on players who are best with the ball in their hands. Instead, the focus should be on finding role players whose games will mesh well with LeBron’s.

It won’t bother James to be in Houston rather than a glamor capitol like Los Angeles. If the best players usually want the brightest lights and the biggest stage, Bron is 180 degrees different. It has always a personal conceit that wherever he is is a marquee market. He wasn’t even 21 as a young NBA player when he began convening an annual marketing conference—in his home town of Akron, not even nearby Cleveland—obliging his sponsors to show up there. It’s true that LeBron owns two pricey homes in Brentwood, suggesting that he is, indeed, thinking about the Lakers… but that may mean little in the end. “These days it doesn’t matter because you can be known and be a star from anywhere-–anywhere in the world,” Maverick Carter, Bron’s point man, recently told syndicated talk show host Rich Eisn. “I mean, could he sell a few more sneakers if he was in a gigantic market like Boston, Chicago, New York, or L.A.? Maybe. But not as much as if he wins. What matters the most is if he wins. When you win as an athlete, that matters the most.”

Many have their money on destinations like the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets who have the firepower to become another great NBA superteam, but former Cavaliers teammate Richard Jefferson joined ESPN on Thursday to discuss LeBron’s offseason plans and where he might end up. What he had to say should pique the interest of Portland Trail Blazers fans, even though his reasoning is more than a bit silly: “Right now I really think that Portland is trying to do some things to move their entire roster and start [building around] Lebron.” Jefferson told ESPN’s David Jacoby. “Obviously LeBron has a connection to Oregon because of his relationship with Nike. Phil Knight being a really big LeBron fan, I think wants to get him up there. I mean, they could build a whole new campus up there. Portland has now entered into the unfounded, irresponsible speculation of free agency around LeBron.”

After those comments, Jefferson continues to joke with Jacoby about why the LeBron would join the Blazers. “He said a positive thing about Damian Lillard, I think, in like… 2008. I’ve seen him wear a blazer on multiple occasions. Red and black are [colors] he’s had on his shoes… There are a lot of things I don’t think people are following here and I think, for me – and this is completely unfounded and I have not talked to anybody – but i really think Portland will be his destination.” Obviously, everything Jefferson is saying here can be taken with a grain of salt. It’s a joke, folks, and all of the reasons he listed LeBron would be likely to join Portland are thin at best.
3 weeks ago via ESPN

With LeBron James icing down in the locker room after playing all 48 minutes to assure a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reflected on the win in an adjacent room and said he is not allowing James’ potential free agency this summer to swallow up the moment. “Like him, I think he’s said this, we’re just focused — and it’s the truth, it’s not avoiding the question — we’re literally focused on (the now),” Gilbert told ESPN. “It’s just so intense in the playoffs and getting to the Finals and now the Finals, I don’t think — and I know he doesn’t — I don’t think even our guys are talking (about anything other than) what’s in front of them.

The best the Cavs can hope for is that James can find it within himself to pull the team out of this hole, complete an eighth consecutive trip to the Finals and then fail to find the free-agent options as appealing as he may have hoped. “He’s not going to the Lakers, because they know they can get Kawhi [Leonard] next summer,” the agent said. “If I’m the Sixers, I have to think about what it means to bring in LeBron and take the ball out of Ben Simmons’ hands. Simmons is useless when he’s not controlling the ball. Is LeBron going to give up the ball?”

Paul Pierce was on the phone talking about his 2010 Celtics and the second-round series against Cleveland. He seemed to take particular joy in the video of LeBron James walking off the court in the Garden and removing his jersey on the way to the dressing room — the prelude to a departure for Miami two months later. “We could be seeing history repeat itself,” Pierce said through laughter. “That’s the funny part about it, because if Boston beats them, we all know he’s gone. He may be gone anyway.”

The answer, at least the top target, is clear as day, with James expected by all to decline his player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and enter free agency. Brown can’t admit that LeBron’s the top target, at least not by name, but he still sort of did. “I’m not here to tell names,” Brown said on the topic, before acknowledging that the answer is an easy one to arrive at. “To me, the answer becomes clear.” After a long, somewhat awkward pause before the next question, Brown continued. “It’s true though, right? I mean, like, we don’t have to turn this into calculus. It’s quite clear.”
More HoopsHype Rumors
June 20, 2018 | 12:00 am EDT Update
The Spurs’ front office and Leonard’s representatives had been in communication since the season ended, and Leonard has been in contact with coach Gregg Popovich, league sources said. Leonard spent most of the second half of the season rehabbing his injury in New York, where his medical team was based and where he trained with Spurs staffers. He has returned close to full health from the lingering quad injury.
June 19, 2018 | 11:49 pm EDT Update
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said. The Spurs are unlikely to be motivated to facilitate a deal to the Lakers, league sources said.
3 hours ago via ESPN