“I even talked to LeBron James over the phone, and he was like, ‘We want you in Cleveland.’ And I said, ‘No, I want to play against you.’ I want to be able to play against elite guys and be able to, in a couple of years down the line, be just where they are,” Simmons said (via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel).
Salary also played a role in turning down the opportunity to join the defending Eastern Conference champs. “It wasn’t enough money, anyway. I have a family. I expressed that to him, which he kind of already knew. He said, ‘I respect that and I’ll see you soon,’” he added.
Cleveland has been over the salary cap since its first offseason with James back in town and because of cap constraints, the franchise was limited in what it could offer free agents this past summer. The most the Cavs could have offered Simmons was the taxpayer’s mid-level exception — it’s worth roughly $5.2MM, and the club used about half of it to sign Cedi Osman. Any deal with Simmons would also have come with serious tax implications for the Cavs since the team is a repeat offender.
Simmons, who’s been a solid fantasy basketball option this season, inked a three-year, $20MM contract with the Magic in July. He’s played 25.3 minutes per game this season and he owns a 25.5% usage percentage, a figure that ranks second on the team.