LeBron James and best friend Chris Paul are likely to plan free agency together next summer, the way the four-time MVP planned the 2010 free agency with buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, according to a league source.
LeBron James to opt out next summer
James, yet to officially re-sign with Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, is expected to sign a two-year contract with an opt out clause after one year, the kind of contracts he has been inking since returning to Cleveland in 2014.
Paul will enter free agency next year with hopes of teaming up James, who told Bleacher Report in February that he wanted to play alongside the Los Angeles Clippers point guard, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony before the end of his storied career.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together. … At least one, maybe one or two seasons — me, Melo, D-Wade, CP — we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that,” James was quoted as saying in February.
Wade, who signed a two-year deal with hometown franchise Chicago Bulls this offseason, also is eligible to enter free agency next season but is likely to stay put in the Windy City.
Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, would have to wait until the 2018-19 offseason to opt out of his contract with New York Knicks. Anthony could waive his no-trade clause but his massive contract is viewed as a liability by several general managers and would avoid including it in their books.
Cavs, Clippers or Lakers?
In 2010, James, Wade and Bosh entered free agency together and took paycuts to make the salary cap work. James and Paul would likely plan something similar but their preferred destination is up for discussion. There are three teams in the hunt: James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers and the storied Los Angeles Lakers.
In recent months, there have been several reports that James intends to take his talents to Hollywood due to his blossoming movie career and his brand new mansion. Also, James has reportedly admitted his children to a school in Los Angeles.
Typically, the Lakers would be preferred over the Clippers due to the illustrious history of the Purple & Gold. However, times have changed and Steve Ballmer’s ownership has made the Clippers an attractive destination.
The Cavs can’t be ruled out as a likely destination, either. But Kyrie Irving’s presence would make it difficult for Paul and James to enjoy enough touches. It’s never easy to have three ball-handling playmakers on the same roster. However, that possibility cannot be ruled out since Irving could easily slip into the two-guard spot and let Paul become the floor general.
The Steve Ballmer factor
Recently, Clippers coach Doc Rivers told The Vertical podcast that Ballmer was open to the idea of spending large sums of money to bring the franchise its elusive championship. “I do think we have an attractive place. We have a new owner. It would be interesting if Steve Ballmer wasn’t the owner, I don’t know how confident I would be (about retaining Chris Paul and Blake Griffin next year).
Rivers also revealed that Paul and Blake Griffin, free agents next year, have intimated him about wanting to end their careers with the Clippers. If James and Paul take pay cuts, it’s entirely possible that Rivers and Ballmer convince Griffin to stay put.
Could you imagine a Super Team comprising of LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? The Golden State Warriors need competition in the West and the Clippers could be the team to provide them that.