In a move that will add major intrigue to the NBA offseason and could potentially shift the balance of power away from the Miami Heat, four-time MVP LeBron James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his six-year deal with Heat.
The move makes James a free agent, just as he was in 2010 when he made the controversial decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat.
League sources say James has not made the decision to leave the Heat but rather keep his options open to sign with another club or return to Miami on a reworked deal.
James opting out means little for the Celtics, who don’t have the cap space to offer James a maximum contract or the roster to currently compete for championships.
Expect the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Cavaliers to made bids for James, who remains the game’s premier player.
The Heat reached the NBA Finals in all four years that James was with the club, winning two titles. But Miami weaknesses were exposed in this month’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs, where the Heat lost four times by double-digit margins.
James’ cohorts, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, failed to deliver their expected performances, especially Wade, 32, who showed signs of aging.
In the postgame interview after the Heat were eliminated in Game 5 on June 15, James refused to commit to returning to Miami, saying rather that he would determine his fate following a family vacation. He had until June 30 to inform the team of his decision.
Heat president Pat Riley said last week that the club intends to reload and challenged James, Wade and Bosh to remain in Miami for the long term.