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.”
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.
—On a day when LeBron James opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat, guard Ray Allen indicated he would like to return to play another year alongside James.
In two seasons with the Heat, Allen and James have formed a close bond. After the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Heat for the NBA title, James and Allen vacationed together last week.
If Allen does return for his 19th NBA season, he wants to play with James in Miami or another team. Allen had considered retiring and intimated as much after the NBA Finals.
The 38-year-old Allen appeared in 79 regular-season games and all 20 in the postseason with the Heat, averaging 9.3 points per game.
—Point guard Isaiah Thomas will be a restricted free agent in July when the Sacramento Kings officially make a $1.1 million qualifying offer to retain refusal rights.
General manager Pete D’Alessandro confirmed to the Sacramento Bee that Thomas would receive the offer, keeping him out of a crowded free agent crop of point guards. Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game last season, his first in a regular role following the trade of point guard Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans last July.
Small forward Rudy Gay picked up his player option for next season and center DeMarcus Cousins was re-signed last summer. Including Thomas, the trio gave the Kings the only trio in the NBA last season with three players averaging at least 20 points.
—Forward Taj Gibson and guard Tony Snell, former first-round picks of the Chicago Bulls, are part of the team’s offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love.
According to reports, the Bulls would also include their pair of first-round picks in Thursday’s draft — 16th and 19th overall.
To sign Love to a long-term extension and complete the transaction, Chicago would need to use the amnesty provision in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement to terminate the contract of Carlos Boozer from the 2014-15 salary cap.
Love could stay in Minnesota until the All-Star break or beyond. The team holds his team option for 2014-15 and while Love said he wants to play for a contender, the Timberwolves are under no obligation to part with him at this juncture. It’s possible after talks broke down with the Golden State Warriors — who were willing to include shooting guard Klay Thompson — that the Timberwolves will hold onto Love and wait for a more desirable offer.
—The Cleveland Cavaliers, who own the first pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, are trying to decide who should be the first pick: Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggens.
The Cavs initially were focused on 7-foot center Joel Embiid but retreated after it was determined that foot surgery could sideline the former Kansas player for much or possibly all of his first professional season. Embiid also has injury issues with a stress fracture in his lower back that affected the end of his freshman season with the Jayhawks.
According to the ESPN report, the Cavs’ front-runner now appears to be Parker, the 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in his only college season at Duke. He is considered by many draft experts as one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft this year.
However, there are reports that Parker had a bad workout last Friday in Cleveland. He was heavy at 254 pounds and ESPN sources said he appeared disinterested and not in good shape.
On the flip side, the 6-8 Wiggins wowed the Cavs during a workout last Wednesday, shooting the ball well and flashing his athleticism.
—By trading the No. 7 overall pick and dumping Steve Nash and his $9.7 million expiring contract, the Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly one of the teams ramping up for a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
The All-Stars are opting out of their current contracts to hit free agency July 1. Contracts can be signed with other teams as of July 8.
ESPN reported the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks are making plans to take a shot at bringing in one or both marquee free agents.
The Lakers are trying to clear about $33 million, enough to bring in James and Anthony at $16.5 million annually to team them with Kobe Bryant. Many criticized Bryant for not taking less money when he signed a two-year, $48 million contract
Atlanta and Cleveland would need to maneuver their team-friendly contracts to accommodate multiple big-money signings, but Brian Windhorst of ESPN said the Cavaliers have one offseason model in which the team could keep point guard Kyrie Irving plus the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft and still have in excess of $30 million to spend in free agency.
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