Where LeBron James lands in free agency remains up in the air. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers have apparently made it known early on they want their superstar forward to stay with them going forward.
According to The Associated Press’ Tom Withers and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Cavaliers spoke with James when NBA free agency opened at 12:01 ET Sunday. According to the reports, Cavs general manager Koby Altman spoke on the phone to both James and his agent Rich Paul.
James is an unrestricted free agent and the Cavs are hoping to re-sign the three-time champion, who is weighing whether to change teams for the third time in eight years. James is also being pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers, who have enough salary-cap space to sign him and another star player.
There was a flurry of big-name signings in the first hours of free agency, but James remained noncommittal. The 33-year-old is not expected to drag out a decision that could reshape the league’s landscape.
Per McMenamin, it is unclear how the discussion will affect what James decides to do next:
It is unclear at this point if an in-person meeting between James and the Cavs has been scheduled down the line. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported this week that James would not be seeking elaborate pitch meetings during the free-agency process.
James’ camp and the Cavaliers’ front office have maintained a dialogue since the season ended, sources said. Paul informed the Cavs on Friday morning that the four-time MVP would not opt in to the final year of his contract; he was scheduled to make $35.6 million in 2018-19.
Paul, who represents several other players entering into free agency — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nerlens Noel among them — will conduct all his business over the phone when free agency begins, sources told ESPN.
James was on a plane that flew into Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles on Saturday, a source told ESPN. James flew from the Caribbean island of Anguilla and landed in Van Nuys just after 11 a.m. PT. His reason for being there is unknown: The Lakers are considered a strong candidate to sign James, but he also has an offseason home in L.A.
As it stands now, the Cavs believe they are still in the mix to retain James and can offer significantly more money — $207 million over five years, compared to $152 million over four years — than the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, with the 76ers being the other team seen as a strong likely suitor.
A source familiar with the Cavs’ thinking said re-signing James is Cleveland’s “Plan A, B and C” when it comes to free agency.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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