LeBron James has power, and he is going to wield it.
There is no thought he is going to leave the Cavaliers, but he has opted out of his contract and is a free agent right now — and he’s not talking to the Cavaliers about an extension. He’s not talking to anyone.
That includes free agents the Cavaliers are trying to recruit, such as David West. LeBron can be a fantastic draw and a closer as a recruiter because players know with him there will be wins, there will be shots at rings. But LeBron isn’t picking up the phone to recruit.
Not until his boy Tristan Thompson — who shares an agent, not so coincidentally — is inked to his new deal, and those talks are currently stalled.
And LeBron is going to get what he wants. He’s going to stand on the side and channel Teddy KGB — “pay dat man his money” — and get his way. Tristan Thompson is going to get paid, probably more than he would otherwise (although with the salary cap spiking any deal for Thompson will not look that bad in a couple years).
All because LeBron has leverage. The Cavaliers front office and ownership cannot afford to have LeBron lose faith in them, to plant the seed that they are not up to the task of constructing a champion around LeBron. He came back once, and the odds are incredibly slim that he would leave again, but even that little risk is too big for the Cavaliers to stomach. Miami’s brass didn’t think LeBron would leave after four straight trips to the Finals. But LeBron saw a tough path to winning more rings with that core, he didn’t have power, and then there was the pull of home and an agent who had greased those skids. Cleveland cannot overplay its hand with the idea he would never leave again.
Last year it was July 11 before LeBron chose Cleveland, it could be that far into free agency before he re-signs there after opting out. LeBron is in no hurry. He will re-sign, but again on a short deal that allows him to opt out next summer and start to cash in on the new television money about to flood the NBA. LeBron is in his prime and isn’t about to take a Tim Duncan discount — quite the opposite, he wants every dollar he can get. You shouldn’t blame someone for trying to maximize their income (Dan Gilbert is a far richer man, his franchise value is through the roof, with LeBron under contract, he’s not hurting and can handle the league luxury tax he will pay).
We know how this movie is going to end. Tristan Thompson will get paid, LeBron will get paid, and next October, when the season tips off, hopes will rightfully be high in Cleveland. This little episode will all be forgotten.
Except maybe by LeBron.