When the free agency period began, it seemed as if the Miami Heat are going to get LeBron James to re-sign, once again, for a discount price. However, days go by, and the possibility of him landing somewhere else, with the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers all looking to convince him they’re the right team for him.
James isn’t looking for a pay cut to help out whoever he signs with. James isn’t in league with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or doesn’t seem to be. While he might have his preferences and inclinations to stay with the Miami Heat, he won’t do it if he doesn’t feel like they’re doing enough to improve the team around him. Loyalty is a nice word to throw around, but James does what’s best for him in terms of his salary, and putting himself in the best position to win.
The Cavs and the Rockets can’t give James a max contract, not right now. The Cavaliers need to trade someone – Varejao, Waiters, Jarrett Jack or Tristan Thompson in order to open up the room for James in the salary cap. The Houston Rockets are discussing a trade for Jeremy Lin, at the moment looking closer to the Philadelphia 76ers than anywhere else. There’s also been talk about signing either him or Anthony, while trading James Harden for the other one.
The Mavs have the ability to make a max signing even after giving Dirk Nowitzki a two-year extension worth $10 million a season. However, Mark Cuban has said a number of times he’s not planning on giving a max contract to anyone, as his team has more plans regarding changes this offseason. They’ve already pulled off a big trade that got them back Tyson Chandler for one season while sending Jose Calderon, among others, to the New York Knicks.
The Lakers and the Phoenix Suns present a different possibility. They have plenty of cap space – enough to sign two max players (Suns) or close to that (Lakers). The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant, have the seducing trait of giving James another big three situation, playing next to him and Bryant next season. The Lakers have become more aggressive in their pursuit of free agents in the last couple of days.
James holds all the cards. He’ll be meeting with teams in Cleveland. This time it’s not going to be some big pompous, prime-time TV show that announces his decision. It’ll be a leak to twitter, and from there, who knows how quickly and what direction it spreads to.