James officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.
National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James decided Friday against staying with the Cleveland Cavaliers and chose instead to become an unrestricted free agent, setting up a scramble among several teams expected to vie for his services.
There was never a chance James would pick up the player option simply to remain in Cleveland for one more season.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams who reportedly think they could land James in free agency, dreaming of a situation in which they unite him with a young core of talented players. Although James and Gilbert appeared to mend fences for business reasons when James rejoined the Cavaliers in 2014, the fallout of James' initial decision to leave in 2010 seemed less like a rift and more like an irreparable, yawning chasm. The Rockets pushed the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference finals last month.
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The Cavaliers can offer the ability to continue playing in his home city and for a team that has made it to four straight NBA Finals since James returned, including winning the 2016 NBA title. James' agent, Rich Paul, informing the Cavs on Friday that he will not exercise his option and become a free agent was expected.
The Rockets were the best team in the regular season and the prospect of LeBron, James Harden and Chris Paul on the same time is mouth-watering. You remember, the report that had James texting the Warriors' Kevin Durant suggesting they play together on the Lakers?
Now, his suitors are stuck simply signing him to a new deal via free agency. The team would be top heavy, but with some shrewd maneuvering the Lakers could have their non-taxpayer mid-level exception available, a almost $9 million chip to bring in another solid free agent.
Eight years ago, James left and outraged many Cavs fans for the manner in which he departed.