LeBron James opting out of the final two years of his contract gave an initial glimmer of hope to teams around the league looking to try to lure the league’s best player into a new situation — one potentially primed to win not only now, but for years to come.
Miami has always been the favorite to retain LeBron’s services, but his choosing to become an unrestricted free agent — if only momentarily, and without providing any additional context — at least opened the door to the possibility that his leaving was a real option.
The news that Dwyane Wade joined him in opting out on Saturday put a damper on those hopes, and a seemingly minor tidbit included in one report might serve to squash them altogether.
In recent days, teams that have hoped to schedule pitch meetings with James once the free-agency period begins next week have been unable to do so, sources told ESPN.com.
That’s because he isn’t leaving Miami, and never intended to in the first place.
James opting out was expected from day one. Any superstar in their prime would have done the same, in order to secure a longer deal for more guaranteed dollars in total. That’s what Wade will end up with, and Chris Bosh will more than likely eventually follow suit.
Free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1, and that’s the earliest that teams can contact free agents to begin the negotiation process. They could tentatively set up meetings with a player’s representation before then, however, but LeBron has held off until now, probably because he doesn’t want to waste anybody’s time.