Is it now impossible for LeBron James to join the Miami Heat?

Tanya Simon
June 30, 2018

James had the choice of opting into a $35.6 million player option via the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, but instead chose to walk away from both the money and most likely the organization.

James had until 11:59 express his intentions to the Cavs and his agent Rich Paul informed the team Friday morning, said the people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the sides are not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday. That probably won't be a major factor in LeBron's decision, as he has opted for short-term deals in recent years anyway to have more control over his future.

James could still return to Cleveland by signing a new contract with the Cavaliers, but he can also now negotiate a deal with any team he chooses. The four-time MVP is the star of a free-agent class that includes Paul George, Chris Paul and DeMarcus Cousins, among others.

Turning down an option to stay with a team doesn't sound like positive news, but this hardly means the Cavs have been crossed off James' list. The Rockets' salary - if they sign James and signed Paul, also a free agent this summer, to expectedly large contracts would shoot far more than $6 million past the luxury-tax line. Leonard, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs but is from Los Angeles, reportedly demanded a trade to the Lakers earlier this month. Nevertheless, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said Thursday that James "reached out to Kevin Durant via text, from what I'm told, about coming to Los Angeles". He averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assist in 82 games last season. He lifted them to a seven-game series win in the 2016 NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors, and he has been involved in the community around the city.

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It was James' eighth consecutive Finals appearance, a remarkable feat not matched since Hall of Famer Bill Russell and a handful of Celtics did it in the 1960s.

For all the latest on James' free agency, follow our LeBron James 2018 free agency rumor tracker.

According to Smith, Durant did not see much reason to leave the Warriors, with whom he has won two straight National Basketball Association titles and Finals MVP awards, but Joe Vardon of subsequently threw cold water on the report.

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