Philippine Daily Inquirer


- On Friday, James formally —AP

CLEVELAND— Before any decision, LeBron James had a discussion with the Cavaliers.

James was in contact with the team when NBA free agency opened on Sunday, a person familiar with the contact told The Associated Press. Shortly after the 12:01 EDT a.m. start, Cavs general manager Koby Altman spoke on the phone to both James and his agent Rich Paul, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussion.

James is an unrestrict­ed free agent and the Cavs are hoping to re-sign the threetime champion, who is weighing whether to change teams for the third time in eight years. James, who was in Los Angeles, is also being pursued by the Lakers, who have enough salary-cap space to sign him and another star player.

While there was a feverish flurry of activity involving bignamed players in the opening hour of what has been billed as the Summer of LeBron, James did not announce where he’ll play next season and it’s not known if other moves, such as Paul George staying in Oklahoma City and Chris Paul staying in Houston, have affected his thinking.

James’ discussion with the Cavaliers was first reported by ESPN.

‘Bird rights’

James isn’t expected to drag his choice out over several days. He knows what he wants and he’s very familiar with the Cavaliers after leading them to four straight NBA Finals since returning as a free agent in 2014 following four seasons in Miami. Because they own his “Bird rights” the Cavs can offer James more money than any other team—a five-year, $207 million deal.

But the 33-year-old has interests beyond basketball and the massive Los Angeles mar- ket would give him a bigger stage and platform.

The Lakers have a young, talented but inexperien­ced roster and they were hoping to land both James and possibly George. But the All-Star forward opted to stick with the Thunder and will sign a fouryear deal when teams are per- mitted to finalize contracts on July 6.

George’s choice could sway James to sign a short-term deal with Cleveland, but the Lakers are determined to get their hands on the four-time MVP.

Prize catch

became a free agent when he informed the Cavs he would not exercise his $35.6 million contract option for next season, making him an unrestrict­ed free agent and the prize catch in the 2018 class.

Now that some of the early dust has settled, the battle for him appears to be down to two teams: Cleveland vs Los Angeles. Home vs Hollywood. Wine-and-gold vs Purpleand-gold.

But while the Cavs and Lakers appear to be the front-runners for James, the Philadelph­ia 76ers aren’t ready to give up the fight. Well, at least young and outspoken center Joel Embiid isn’t.

Embiid posted a message on Twitter that seemed to be directed at No. 23.

“The Lakers are FOREVER gonna be Kobe’s and Magic’s team,” Embiid wrote, referring to Kobe Bryant and Johnson. “Process that.”

 ?? —AP ?? LeBron James opts out of $35.6 million contract.
—AP LeBron James opts out of $35.6 million contract.

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