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LeBron wants to stay, but Cavaliers will have to pay

Updated: 2015-06-30 07:23
By Associated Press (China Daily)

James opts for free agency in move to maximize value ahead of salary cap boost

For the third time in six seasons, LeBron James is an unrestricted free agent.

The difference this time is he has no plans to move again.

 LeBron wants to stay, but Cavaliers will have to pay

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is guarded by Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors during Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Oakland on June 14. James has indicated he will not exercise a $21.6 million option on his contract, making him a free agent as of July 1. Ben Margot / AP

The Cleveland star will not exercise a $21.6 million option on his contract for next season, a person with knowledge of the decision said on Sunday.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because neither the Cavaliers nor James were publicly discussing the process.

James' decision has been widely expected for months.

The approach allows him to sign a new maximum contract - likely another two-year deal with a player option for 2017-18 - that will pay him more than he would have made under his previous contract. His max number for next season, which is tied to how high the salary cap rises, is expected to be more than $22 million.

The last time James became a free agent from Cleveland in 2010, he famously left his home state team to play for the Miami Heat.

James won two championships and played in four NBA Finals in his four years in Miami before making his celebrated decision to return home last summer.

This time around, James plans to stay put while Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin set about improving the roster in hopes of surrounding James with the talent he needs to end Cleveland's 51-year championship drought.

The Cavaliers have plenty of decisions to make and negotiations to conduct for free agents Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert. By comparison, the process with James will be fairly straightforward. He has made it clear through actions and words he is not going anywhere.

"We've heard from him every day pretty much relative to our roster," Griffin said last week. "It's been great. He's been very much engaged with us on a lot of different levels, so it's been positive."

James led the shorthanded Cavaliers back to the Finals this month and put on a breath taking performance to make Golden State sweat it out for six games before league MVP Steph Curry and company captured the Warriors' first title since 1975.

With Love and Kyrie Irving out with injuries, James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists and almost 46 minutes in the series.

If James signs another two-year contract with an option on the second year, it would allow him to reap the financial windfall that is expected when the NBA's new television contract kicks in next summer and sends the salary cap skyrocketing.

Teams can start negotiating with players on July 1 and sign them to contracts beginning a week later. James' deal will likely be tabled while the Cavaliers address Thompson, Love and Shumpert, who is a restricted free agent.

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