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LeBron's ever-changing contract

By admin Published: July 10, 2006

After thinking I could relax a little following LeBron James' announcement about his intention to re-sign on Saturday, late Sunday night I was back in a tizzy.  ESPN posted this story around 11:30 p.m., which prompted me to write this response only moments ahead of the last print deadline.


About an hour later, I saw Stephen A. Smith's report on ESPN which was essentially the same but slightly different.  In short, the story is that LeBron doesn't want the full five years the Cavs are offering but just three more following this season (four more total).


As of this moment (1:45 a.m. Monday) here is what you need to know and I believe:


--LeBron and the Cavs haven't agreed to anything yet.  In fact they haven't held final negotiations.  The Cavs offered a max extension and LeBron said he would re-sign.  After the announcement, LeBron's agent Leon Rose told me he would not talk about the contract terms, which raised a little flag in the back of my head but it was a very little flag.


--Smith probably has an excellent source here.  He is taking part in a seminar James' representative are putting on today and tomorrow in Cleveland and therefore is probably closely working with James' friends.  I believe that this is probably Rose and James' intention.


--An "opt out" is different from a player option.  I wrote that you can't "opt out" or "early terminate" a contract until after it's fourth year.  This is a very complex part of the collective bargaining agreement, but you can also have player options to extend deals.  The initial ESPN story said James would "opt out," which led me to discredit that in print.  On SportsCenter, Smith mentioned it would be a player option, which I believe would be feasible.


--The Cavs are going to give LeBron whatever he wants.  If he wants a three-year extension with an option that would make him a free agent in four years, he's going to get it.


--Just because James wants a shorter deal doesn't mean he wants out of Cleveland.  By becoming a free agent in 2010 after his seventh season, he would be able to sign a larger max deal because he could get 30 percent of the salary cap to start the deal.  With less than six years experience, this max deal will only start at 25 percent of the cap.


--In four years the Cavs' advantage will only be greater because the difference between signing with your own team and another team will for more dollars.  Of course, in this case he would be unrestricted.  Yet, teams would have to clear a huge amount of cap space to offer him a max deal.


--This was probably the plan all along.  LeBron's wait was perhaps just a ploy to make the Cavs realize he's not hopping up and down eager to re-up it so they'll be even more willing to bend from the full max years.


--I know it is the Northeast Ohio mentality to start panicking when hearing this.  But LeBron has committed to stay, worry more about how the Cavs will build over the next four years.


--However, this deal does make LeBron look a greedy, thinking that $18 million in what would be the fifth year of a max extension isn't enough.  But, hey, I guess you get what you can get.

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