LeBron James‘ Heat teammates have been just as reticent to speak on the record about the four-time MVP’s plans for free agency as James has, but they’ve privately dismissed the idea that he would sign elsewhere this summer, according to Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick. James has an early termination option on his contract that he can exercise to hit free agency this summer, but it would take a “dream scenario” for him to sign elsewhere even if he decides to opt out, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com put it earlier this week. The most likely scenarios involve James either opting in or becoming a free agent and re-signing with the Heat on a new long-term deal, Skolnick writes.
James has dropped few hints about his future even as the Cavs and surely others prepare to bid for the Rich Paul client. Chris Bosh, who like James can opt out this summer, answered affirmatively when asked in March whether he and James would return to the Heat for next season. Heat owner Micky Arison recently pegged the team’s chances of keeping James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade for next season at 100%, but he suggested in the same interview that it could be a challenge to do so.
Bringing back the trio of stars at maximum salaries for next season would require a combined amount close to the projected salary cap, leaving little flexibility to assemble the rest of the roster. Norris Cole is the only Heat player with fully guaranteed salary for next season, which would put pressure on team president Pat Riley and his staff to use Bird rights to re-sign most of the club’s existing talent if James, Wade and Bosh return. Doing so would almost certainly require the Heat to pay the luxury tax for a third straight season, which would trigger repeat-offender penalties.