In 2010, when LeBron James hit free agency, he held court in downtown Cleveland as teams filed in to meet with him and make their pitch. All of this culminated with The Decision, and well, you already know how that went.
When free agency starts at midnight on Tuesday, it will be a little different this time around. It’s been reported that LeBron does not plan to be present at any preliminary meetings with potential suitors at the moment, and will instead defer to agent Rich Paul to handle the conversations.
Whether this is a sign that he is likely to return to Miami remains to be seen. Although if you do want to connect the dots, the fact that all members of the Big Three have opted out of their contract is a good sign, because the Heat now have over $50 million under the salary cap to work with, the type of flexibility that will allow Pat Riley to re-sign the trio and upgrade the roster.
Of course, there are significant caveats here. It is believed LeBron may be seeking the max. In this scenario, the onus would be on Dwyane Wade and Chis Bosh to take a paycut in order to leave room for other signings. For Wade, who gave up approximately $40 million over 2 years by opting out, a pay cut makes sense if he’s able to secure a longer term in his new deal. It’s a little different for Bosh, who has not shown the same level of decline as Wade and would likely command close to the max on the open market. The Big Three did convene for a summit in Miami last week, so potential sacrifices were probably discussed.
It remains to be seen who will emerge as a threat to Miami’s chances. Yesterday, it was reported the Suns will make a push, and teams like the Rockets, Clippers, Lakers and even the Atlanta Hawks could potentially entice LeBron with their supporting cast and the ability to make a max offer.
But as it stands right now, the Heat are the front runner. But just remember, we said that about the Cavs in 2010 as well. Things can change very quickly once everyone officially hits the open market.
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