LeBron James is thinking more and more about the Cavs as he decides where to sign, sources tell Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Cleveland’s brass is confident that James is receptive to the pitch they made to agent Rich Paul last week, as the ESPN scribes detail. Still, the player atop our 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings harbors lingering ill feelings over Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s reaction to his 2010 departure, despite a degree of reconciliation between the two as time has passed, according to Windhorst and Stein.
The Cavs are centering their case for LeBron on their capability for growth and improvement not just this summer but in years to come, with as many as three first-round picks in 2015 and young, team-controlled talent, like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins, Windhorst and Stein write. Cleveland is planning to point to Brendan Haywood‘s contract as another of their weapons, as the ESPN duo explains. Haywood, who’s headed to Cleveland via trade, has a salary of more than $2.2MM for 2014/15, but the final season of his contract is a non-guaranteed salary of more than $10.5MM, a vestige of Haywood having been claimed off amnesty waivers in 2012. That bloated non-guaranteed salary makes Haywood’s deal a valuable expiring contract this coming season or, as Windhorst and Stein point out, a weapon for a sign-and-trade next summer.
The Cavs don’t possess the cap flexibility to give James a max contract as their books currently stand. Rather than waiving Anderson Varejao‘s partially guaranteed contract to create the necessary cap space, they prefer to deal Jarrett Jack, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday. They have a deal in place to trade Jack to the Nets provided the teams can find a third club willing to absorb Marcus Thornton, according to other reports.
Heat president Pat Riley will reportedly meet this week with James in an effort to keep him in Miami. The Heat have eyed significant free agents along the lines of Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng and even Carmelo Anthony, but they don’t think they need to add a star to convince James, Wade and Bosh to re-sign, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Instead, they’re merely looking for upgrades in the roles that Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier have played in the past few years, Deveney writes.