What LeBron James opting out really means
LeBron James (REUTERS/Mike Stone)
Do not make plans to watch The Decision Part 2, do not work yourself into a frenzy imagining what jersey LeBron James would look best in — the fact is, James opting out was always the expected outcome and it does not change much.
Sure, James informed the Heat a bit early that he would opt out of the final year of his contract when his agent did so on Tuesday (he had until June 30), but this was not a shocking call for Miami’s brass, led by Pat Riley to receive.
Simply put, opting out of the $20 million U.S. James was guaranteed for next season and the $22 million after that is both what is best for him, and for the Heat. It allows James to make more money or gives him more options if he wants to make a change and it enables Miami to be far more flexible in retooling in search of a third championship in four years next June, as long as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh follow suit in opting out (Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that a meeting to hash out the future between the Big Three had not yet taken place), but it remains highly unlikely that James finds a new address. The Heat will be able to ink him to a five-year, $127.7-million extension, while any other team would only be able to offer four years and $94.8 million. Money talks, even if you are as rich as James, not to mention it would be hard for anyone to leave the comforts of South Beach.
But Wade will have to play ball, and that is no certainty (Bosh likely will opt out and take less because he loves the city). Wade, the face of the Heat franchise since 2003-04, is due $20.1 and $21.6 million the next two seasons. He is no longer durable enough to justify being paid that much and would not receive offers anywhere near as lucrative on the open market.
Riley would have to convince Wade to take much less per year, with the tradeoff likely being two or three years being added on to the two that had remained at huge dollars. But if James still demands close to the max, would Wade take far less, like Bosh is expected to?
Riley has already publicly challenged James to stay put.
Only Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem have guaranteed contracts for next season, but if the Big Three compromised on salary and Miami managed to stay under the luxury tax, the team would be able to use the non-taxpayer midlevel exception of just over $5 million to split on a couple of quality players looking for a shot at a ring or one solid starter.
If each had opted in, the Heat would have been over the luxury tax, even if the roster was completed only with minimum salaried contracts.
The only way James can get a five-year contract is to stay put. Sign-and-trades are now limited to four-year deals. But if James thinks Miami’s window has closed and is willing to sign for four years instead of five, he can try to convince the Heat to sign-and-trade him to the L.A. Clippers, Chicago Bulls, or somewhere else.
Only James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have won at least four NBA MVP awards.
Should James re-sign with the Heat or test the market?