LeBron James declines option, becomes prize free agent, sources say

Tanya Simon
July 1, 2018

James told the Cavaliers that he is not exercising his $35.6 million contract option for next season and will become an unrestricted free agent, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press today. The Lakers are hoping they can persuade him to sign with them. Rumors and reports have suggested James' top choices are the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, with teams on the periphery including the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets. Whether is be Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston or anywhere else he desires to be, his ultimate goal will be to hang a banner in the rafters and adding another ring to his finger.

James had already indicated that he wouldn't be taking part in any elaborate pitch meetings from teams, primarily because of the time-consuming nature of that effort. The Cavaliers are the only team that can offer James such a deal, and should he decide to leave, he would be leaving $53 million on the table. I believe the Lakers have the inside track for getting LeBron.

ESPN reported earlier this month that the team had interest in keeping Love, regardless of what happens with James. The Lakers have a lot more avenues to chase (the Warriors) down.

While the common belief is that James will sign a long-term deal, he could do the same thing he's been doing since rejoining the Cavs.

"We'll give you legitimate pieces, but we're not sending the entire team out there and our whole future out there", Windhorst said of the Lakers' thinking.

At this point, the San Antonio Spurs are widely expected to trade star Kawhi Leonard. Once James makes his decision, other free agent dominos will continue to fall.

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Even at 34-years-old, James is the best player in the world and is playing even better than he has in recent years.

Virtually any team that James signs with will become an instant title contender, whether that means going to L.A., returning to Cleveland or anything in between.

There is still a chance that James could end up staying in Cleveland.

In a testament to the closeness of James' inner circle, it is unclear what he'll do in free agency.

Expect to hear plenty more about James throughout the next few days.

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