In the summer of 2010, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert eviscerated LeBron James in the media for leaving the franchise to sign with the Miami Heat. Four years later, Cleveland is “all in” on a plan to lure James back to town.
The Cavaliers agreed in principle on Wednesday to a three-team trade that will send Jarrett Jack to the Brooklyn Nets and Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev to the Boston Celtics. If completed, the trade will allow Cleveland to clear over $20 million in salary cap space – money that can be used to offer James a max contract.
Sources familiar with the situation told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that the Cavaliers planned to make the trade regardless of whether or not James agreed to sign. However, the franchise hasn’t been publicly linked to the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony or any other top-tier free agent that would require enough space for a maximum salary.
Furthermore, the Cavaliers are attempting to sign free agents Ray Allen and Mike Miller – each of whom won an NBA championship with James in Miami – to further entice James to sign with Cleveland, ESPN reports.
Ultimately, most league executives believe that James will chose to re-sign with the Heat. However, Rich Paul, James’ agent, has encouraged the Cavaliers to aggressively pursue the superstar. At the very least, James has explored the possibility of leaving Miami; sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that James approached two free agents, one of whom was Miller, about playing with him if he decides to sign elsewhere.
Aside from James’ well-documented ties to the Cleveland area, the Cavaliers possess a roster full of young talent. Perennial All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will pair with 2014 first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins in the backcourt, while promising forward Tristan Thompson joins Anderson Varejao – a player whom James favored during his initial run in Cleveland – in the frontcourt.
Conversely, the cash-strapped Heat, who are facing the possible departure of Chris Bosh, can offer James a spot alongside a declining Dwyane Wade and a roster full of middling veterans, such as newly-acquired free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger.
Cleveland has placed itself in a prime position to lure James back to his hometown team. Like the Heat, the Rockets and James’ other suitors, all they can do now is wait.