LeBron James came to Miami in 2010 believing he’d sign a second long-term contract with the Heat, and the team had been holding out hope that a new deal would be a formality by this point, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. It’s no certainty that James will stay with the Heat for next season, though most reports have given Miami strong odds of keeping him, and a source echoes that sentiment, telling Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that it’s highly likely the four-time MVP will stay put.
Still, the chances that he’ll opt out and hit free agency are better than those that he’ll opt in, Windhorst writes, and James is somewhat bitter about Heat owner Micky Arison’s decision to cut back on spending over the past year, the ESPN scribe reports. James is nonetheless cognizant of how leaving a championship-caliber team would affect his image, given the way he was pilloried for leaving Cleveland four years ago, Deveney hears.
Deveney suggests that opting out and re-signing with the Heat to a three-year deal with a player option for the final season would fit the bill for James. That would give him an opportunity to continue to vie for the title in Miami with a chance to leave in two years should the team fail to remain a contender, as Deveney explains. However, that’s less contractual flexibility than he’d have if he opted in, since he has a player option after next season on his deal, giving him a chance to make a year-by-year assessment of the Heat’s title hopes. Opting in would probably give James a slightly higher salary than he could make on a new contract, depending on where the NBA sets the maximum salary after the July Moratorium, but it wouldn’t give him the chance to meet with other teams.