James’ opt-out is first step in getting him some more help


VIDEO: LeBron James dominates Game 2 of The Finals — the Heat’s lone win in the series

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James will be a free agent on July 1. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Tuesday morning that James’ agent, Rich Paul, has informed the Miami Heat that James will exercise his early termination option, releasing him from the final two years of the contract he signed in 2010.

This doesn’t mean that James is leaving Miami. It just means that he’ll be signing a new contract this summer.

Can Riley re-tool?

Maybe this is good (and mostly expected) news for the Heat. If they ultimately convince James to stay, they’ll have him on board longer than the year or two they would have had him if he didn’t exercise his option. (The six-year, sign-and-trade deal he signed in 2010 had an early termination option in 2014 and a player option in 2015.) If he re-signs, they have him for the remainder of his prime.

We haven’t heard word about Dwyane Wade‘s or Chris Bosh‘s intentions, but they have the same contract options as James. And if all three opt out, the Heat could have some flexibility.

But in order for team president Pat Riley to truly upgrade the big three’s supporting cast, at least one of them would have to take a pay cut. Even though all would be free agents, their max-salary cap holds would still put the Heat over the salary cap. Once you replace one or two cap holds with lesser salaries, there’s space to sign other free agents.

And if the Heat are looking to upgrade around the big three, there are plenty of free agents to choose from. Point guards Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe and Patty Mills could be at the top of their list. If Wade continues to take on a lesser role and Bosh continues to play on the perimeter, they need help on the wings and inside as well.

The door is open

But if Wade or Bosh don’t want to take pay cuts, if Riley can’t get more help, and if James doesn’t see a bright future with the Heat, this opens the door for other teams to convince him that he has a better opportunity to win championships elsewhere. The Heat have been to The Finals each of the four seasons that James has been in Miami, but Wade obviously isn’t the same player he was in 2010, and Miami got absolutely crushed by the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals earlier this month.

If James is looking for younger stars to complement him, he should talk to the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and Houston Rockets (James Harden, Dwight Howard). But both teams would need to clear some salaries off their books in order to have the necessary cap space to sign the four-time MVP to a maximum, four-year contract.

Other teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets, have the space, but not the co-stars. Kobe Bryant‘s $23.5 million salary alone (forgetting the additional $9.7 million the Lakers owe Steve Nash,) would prevent L.A. from signing both James and Carmelo Anthony to maximum deals.

Cleveland? It’s always a possibility, but that organization is not exactly organized at this point.

The leverage play

Ultimately, this move gives James the most leverage. It pushes Riley to go out and improve his roster. It pushes Bosh and Wade to accept pay cuts or lose their golden ticket to The Finals. And it pushes other teams to show their cards. If James sees the right pieces around him (in Miami or elsewhere), he could be willing to take less-than-max money as well.

James is the best player in the world. He knows it, but also knows that, in order to win more championships and be considered among the best players who ever lived, he needs more help than he had this season. And opting out of his contract was the first step in getting it.

14 Comments

  1. taci says:

    Karl Malone, Gary Payton ,Shaquille O’Nea, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Bryon Russell 2003–04 Los Angeles Lakers

  2. don fran says:

    for me this is the best scenario there is . retain lebron then let go bosh and wade these two player are way out of their prime, evidently we saw that this finals even though their not harboring any injuries but still they fell short of what we expected them to do. I guess the best thing heat will do is to get rid of wade and bosh or trade them and get Carmelo to team up with lebron. Lebron and Carmelo are in their prime so just imagine this two power forwards wreck havoc in court. I have a feeling this two will team up even not in miami will see about that this coming weeks

  3. Carlo says:

    Some people think that spending a few $ for a game ticket gives them equal rights than franchise owners.

    Maybe you did not realize but… this is BUSINESS.

    Owners buy franchises to MAKE money, not to waste it. The fact that some of them are unable to do this is only due to them being… well, unable.

    All teams have to take into account salary cap and luxury tax. If you break out, you can do it for a limited time but then, sooner or later, you have to get back to profit. Proktorov is spending an awful amount of money ’cause he OWNS an awful amount of money AND he’s a true basketball diehard fan but be sure he won’t go this way too many years. He’s a businessman and wants results.

    Re. LBJ, I think he’ll stay in Miami, provided DW and CB follow a pay-cut route to upgrade the roster. Problem is: Wade is faning and knows he’ll never see that amount of money anymore. Bosh had a bad year and probably fears he won’t get that money elsewhere. So, both of them could stay put not to loose those 20M$ and hoping in a lucky 2014/15.
    If that’s the way, I don’t see a bright future for the Heat.

  4. Adam says:

    So Wade and Bosh not enough anymore? How many more superstars do you need Lebron? Not one, not two, not three, but even more? Whatta joke this guy is

    • Barry Fay says:

      I couldn´t agree more. Lebron did “take over” in game 2 but what about the rest of the games? He basically sat back and watched the championship fade away. That, by the way, is the difference between him and Kobe Bryant – Kobe basically carried the Lakers to their later championships almost all by himself without ANY OTHER SUPERSTARS to fall back on.

  5. Lee says:

    Playing the last 3 consecutive games against the Spurs clearly showed there was no big three in Miami, only James competed. The other 2 were, kindly put, just ordinary, and that wasn’t by far enough. So what if they retool? Won’t be enough if the other so called big 2 just melts away again. So the grand plan isn’t going to work and if James really wants more rings, he’d go elsewhere

  6. Chris says:

    After the last 2 finals, you’d think he’d want o be a Spur.

  7. COACHSVG says:

    I believe getting trading Mike Miller is one of the reasons the Heat did so poorly in the 2014 NBA finals. He was one of their x-factors off the bench in 2013 and provided an offensive and defensive lift when they needed it. But I guessed the roster they had in 2014 looked better on paper but I really felt like they missed Miller’s ability to make shots and rebound the ball down the stretch.

  8. lakers says:

    he will resign with Miami…if not cavs clippers….

  9. kobeballhog says:

    I agree that owner is the cheapest stingiest in the NBA, imagine the heat going to finals every season all the extra games extra income the heat is getting yet their owner won’t spend more to upgrade their lineup, what a scrooge

  10. Gman says:

    What about the Raptors? God forbid he goes to Toronto.

  11. bballjunkie1 says:

    Now lets see what Riley does, Lebron has already taken less money to be there, will be interesting as Miami threw in a pick as sweetner to unload Joel Anthony. If heat can’t pull it off its wide open, I think he stays on east coast, New York, unfinished business in Cleveland?????????

  12. Lebron is either gonna stay or go to Phili to follow his favorite player dr. j if he can get d wade there as well and tells chris bosh to go to raptors then we would be set

  13. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    the ball is in Pat Riley’s court now… opting out showed Pat Riley that LeBron is seriously considering leaving if Micky Arison continues to be cheap and not want to spend (aka getting rid of Mike Miller just to save luxury tax money).

    Can you imagine if Micky Arison was willing to spend whatever it took to win a championship, just like the billionaire Russian Brooklyn Nets owner who spends whatever it takes and doesn’t care about luxury taxes…. Micky has to stop being so cheap and open up that chequebook, other wise they can say goodbye to Bron.