LeBron’s early free agency Cavs snub
LEBRON James will reportedly not meet face-to-face with Cleveland officials as speculation continues to swirl about what his future holds after he opted into free agency on Saturday (AEST).
ESPN reported neither James nor his management team will sit down with Cavaliers powerbrokers when the free agency period officially opens later this weekend as he decides whether to remain with the franchise he led to an NBA Championship in 2016 or take his talents elsewhere next season.
However, the decision to snub the Cavs may be keeping in tune with reports he does not want to sit through elaborate pitches from franchises wishing to recruit him. It is also not yet known whether James will meet with the Cavaliers later down the line.
James just flew back to Los Angeles from a family vacation in the Caribbean - fuelling talk the LA Lakers are the frontrunners to secure his services.
Hours before NBA free agency opened with the three-time champion as its most coveted prize, James returned to Southern California, where he has two homes and a film production company. The Lakers are hoping they can persuade him to sign with them and return them to glory.
Los Angeles is among the teams in the mix to land James after his agent told the Cavs he will not exercise his $AUD48 million contract option for next season. Agent Rich Paul is expected to contact several teams with the Lakers and Cavs atop his list.
By declining his option, James positioned himself to be able to choose where he'll play next, and Cleveland remains a strong possibility, even though he declined his option for next season. But there are at least three other teams - and maybe an outsider or two - with legitimate shots at landing James, who made it clear following this year's NBA Finals that he's still driven to win championships.
While every team dreams of being ruled by King James, only a few have a legitimate chance of signing him.
Here are the cases for the leading contenders:
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Home, money. James came back four years ago to a hero's welcome, something that seemed unimaginable when he left in disgrace four years earlier for Miami. But he vowed to do everything he could to deliver a title to championship-starved Cleveland. He delivered in 2016, erasing past sins and raising himself to a worshipped level few athletes in any sport have experienced. His family is comfortable here and it's where he has complete control. The Cavs can also offer him the most lucrative package, a five-year, $282 million contract.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Salary-cap space, business interests, iconic franchise. With some savvy moves, the Lakers are poised to potentially add two superstars - James and Paul George and maybe Kawhi Leonard - to a team featuring up-and-coming talents like Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. James loves the Hollywood lights, and with two homes in the Los Angeles area as well as a film production company, he has already established some roots in the land of movie stars and slow-moving traffic. The appeal of playing for one of the league's most storied teams is another allure.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Rising team, staying in the Eastern Conference. In Sixers guard Ben Simmons, James sees a younger version of himself and he'd relish the chance to play alongside the 21-year-old while mentoring him. The Sixers also have centre Joel Embiid, 24, projected to become the game's next dominant big men. Philadelphia would instantly vault from conference contender to favourite with James, who could make a strong run at his ninth straight Finals in year one.
OTHER CONTENDERS: Houston: While the Rockets once seemed a good fit, James declining his option all but eliminated the chances of him joining up with close friend Chris Paul and league MVP James Harden. If James had opted in with the Cavs, they could have worked out a sign-and-trade with Houston.
San Antonio: James reveres Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, but living in Texas doesn't seem appealing to the star's family and the Spurs are still trying to figure out what to do with Leonard, who can become a free agent after next season.
- with AP