Sources tell Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio that LeBron James will likely opt out of his contract with the Heat next summer and choose between re-signing with the Heat and returning to the Cavaliers, where he began his career. That would appear to leave the Lakers, who are gearing up for a run at the four-time MVP, out of the picture. Of course, James won't be able to sign a new deal with any team until July 2014, so much can change between now and then.
James took less than the max to sign with the Heat in 2010, and he's set to make only slightly more than $19MM this year. That's a figure that's less than the 2013/14 salaries for Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire and the amnestied Gilbert Arenas, among others, as HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy points out via Twitter. James' deal includes raises to $20.59MM in 2014/15 and to $22.1 for 2015/16, but it would make financial sense for him to lock in a long-term arrangement next summer while he's still at or near his peak.
Amico hears that James' enjoyment of the recruiting process is one reason why he's likely to opt out next summer, which makes it curious that he'd narrow his choices to just two teams. I'd imagine he'd at least meet with the Lakers and others to hear what they have to say, though that's just my speculation.
HoopsWorld's Steve Kyler reported this week that James is not a lock to exercise his early-termination option next summer. The former No. 1 overall pick also has a player option he can decline in 2015, so James could take a year-by-year approach. With so much uncertainty, Amico argues the Cavs need not focus too much on the specter of a King James return, even if it appears they have a chance to get him.