Well it did not take long for “The King” to respond. Miami Heat forward, and best player on earth, LeBron James has officially announced he has “opted out” of his contract.
The news came down yesterday as James’ agent Rich Paul informed the Heat that his clients will exercise his right to terminated his contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, according to ESPN.com. LeBron had until June 30th on this decision, and it did not take too long for it to come down after Pat Riley’s comments last week.
Anxiety levels are now high in South Beach as LeBron’s talents could now be skipping town.
Do not fret yet though you 48 Miami Heat fans. This opt-out was to be expected and Miami is still the favored destination for James next season. It is all part of a plan by the James camp to keep leverage in his corner and force the organization’s hand.
James knows that this Heat team as we know it is done, and Dwyane Wade still holds all the cards in this situation. Because Wade is not the player he once was, the Heat cannot put together a championship team with him making over $20 million a year. So LeBron is thinking this: if I opt-out of my contract (over $20 million was coming to him as well) and decide to take less money, this forces the hands of Wade and Chris Bosh to do the same.
If Bosh and especially Wade obliges, than LeBron will do the same (take less money) which will allow Riley to build that roster back up again with flexibility under the salary cap. Carmelo Anthony even becomes a big consideration in this plan for the Heat. If Wade decides at this point that the money is more important (because no other team will offer a broken down player that type of money), then LeBron James will be heading elsewhere.
But where? This is the part that will excite the 29 other NBA cities in North America.
This team is a darling story of the LeBron rumored possible destinations. “The King” would be returning home to a solid supporting cast to possibly finish out a brilliant career and bring Cleveland the championship they have been yearning for.
They have star point-guard Kyrie Irving, and most importantly hold the rights to the #1 pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft. Major rumors surround this pick including trading it to the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony (sign and trade), according to Cleveland.com. If you ask a serious Knicks fan if this is possible they would say “no chance,” but the interesting thing to consider is that Cleveland would surely stop at nothing to get their guy back where he belongs.
What pushed LeBron away from Cleveland in the first place was this: he suddenly felt scared and desperate; thinking he was going to spend the rest of his career with a struggling franchise. Now that he has two-titles, is that enough to bring him back and finish what he started?
We all know that Melo has also opted out of his contract with the Knicks, and he and LeBron would not mind playing together. Could Cleveland be that perfect fit? That #1 pick gives them major flexibility. The one major hurdle with the Cavs re-acquiring LeBron is Dan Gilbert. Many reports have surfaced that James and Gilbert have a non-repairable relationship. Is it true or not?
Los Angeles Clippers:
The Clippers are a long-shot to land LeBron because of their current salary cap situation. They have no room under the cap and have already stated that Blake Griffin is off limits. To make it happen they would have to move DeAndre Jordan and have James take a much lesser contract than expected.
What makes this situation intriguing though is anybody who’s close to James claims that the Clippers are is ideal choice.
Being in Los Angeles appeals to him and his wife. Hollywood would instantly become his city and the Clippers would instantly become “the now” team of “la-la-land.” Clippers point-guard Chris Paul is good friends with him (who isn’t though), and he loves and adores Doc Rivers (current Clippers coach). A three-some of James, Paul and Griffin would be dominant to say the least.
New York Knicks:
If the Clippers are a long-shot for James’ services, than the Knicks are an impossibility, but being New York it must be considered.
The realistic situation of James coming to the “Big Apple” would be if he did not opt-out. The reason is because the Knicks have zero flexibility with the cap and will not be able to acquire his services until after next season.
One idea floating around out there is that Carmelo and LeBron both sign one-year deals with their current teams, and then tag-team it in New York for the 2015-16 season. Phil Jackson running things now in New York makes the idea plausible, but are both of those guys willing to wait an entire year of their NBA career on bad teams until then?
If Pat Riley was the main reason that convinced him to join Miami in 2010, could Phil Jackson do the same right now? Legends have a funny way of connecting with other legends.
The big issue the Bulls face is their history. Would James ever consider following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan?
The possibility and wherewithal for this franchise making a bid is very possible though. If they were to use their amnesty on forward Carlos Boozer and trade Taj Gibson, then under the salary cap they would be.
Another major issue is the health and dependency of guard Derrick Rose. If Rose was a guarantee to stay healthy, then that one-two punch of LeBron and himself would be dynamic. Having gone through the health issues of Dwyane Wade the past few seasons though, is LeBron willing to take that risk?
General Manager Daryl Morey would have to make some magic happen to clear some space, but the intriguing possibility of playing with Dwight Howard and James Harden is a popular thought.
One thing James did not have in Miami was rip-protection and a low-post presence. The Heat played small and because of it James paid the price by having to play bigger. This takes time and years off a career, and James is looking out for one thing, his legacy. Dwight Howard would be that big-man that he could rely on night in and night out.
Regardless of what happens with James in the summer of 2014, it surely will not play out like 2010. Although some have already dubbed it “The Decision, Part 2,” James has learned from those mistakes. My money is still on Wade doing the right thing and taking less money, realizing he is now a shell of his former self, so expect James back in Miami.
How great would it be though to see him back in his #23 jersey in Cleveland? LeBron’s career could be then be a storied-one with an epic ending. Yes it’s a new day in the world of sports, but I do not think James wants to be remembered as the guy who “jumped-ship” at every opportunity he received the chance.