LeBron James is opting out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
James, forward Chris Bosh and guard Dwyane Wade can all opt out of their current contracts. James passes on a $20.56 million salary for 2014-15 to test the open market, where a barrage of interest can be expected.
“Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that’s what we all would like,” James said last week. “That’s in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present. I have a position to be able to do that. … There’s a lot of times that you’re not in control of your future as a professional.”
According to Yahoo Sports, a meeting is scheduled soon between the stars to discuss options. One such possibility is all three taking less salary to lure another star — or improved, across-the-board depth — to the roster and be better equipped to handle balanced contenders. Heat president Pat Riley downplayed reports that Carmelo Anthony, who opted out of his deal with the New York Knicks, could be the team’s top target.
Riley, who called the Carmelo play a “pipedream,” sternly voiced displeasure with the idea that the Big Three, united via free agency in 2010 when James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, needed to test the waters.
“We fully expected LeBron to opt out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise,” Riley said in a statement. “As I said at the press conference last week, players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options.
“The last four seasons have been historic and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra have led the Miami Heat to one of the most unprecedented runs in the history of the NBA. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together. At the moment, we are preparing for the opportunities in the draft and free agency as we continue with our goal of winning NBA championships.”
Riley earlier refused to directly address rumors that James was mulling leaving the team. During his postseason press conference, James made it clear that he wanted time to consider his options. He had until June 30 to inform Miami whether he would pick up his option.
By opting out of his contract, James has gained great contractual leverage. Any team interested in James will keep its books open, and perhaps create additional cap space, knowing James will be on the market.
The possibilities include remaining in Miami. Depending on James’ motives, he could get far more money on a max contract — $120 million — than he could be joining another team. But James indicated following Miami’s NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs that he wants the best team, not the most money. Teams can begin hosting James July 1 and contracts can be signed starting July 8.
James’ wife sparked speculation that a reunion with the Cavaliers could be in the offing when she posted an image of the state map of Ohio with Akron highlighted and a message that read “The Countdown is Real. #330 (Akron’s area code)”
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