07-10-2006, 10:28 AM
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LeBron James NOT Going To Be Signing Max Deal With Cavaliers
Updated: July 10, 2006, 10:59 AM ET
LeBron may take less now, for much more later
ESPN.com news services
LeBron James showed himself to be a shrewd businessman as an 18-year-old when he signed gigantic endorsement contracts before even entering the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers star may have pulled off another smart deal.
Sources have told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that James has agreed to an extension worth approximately $60 million, with a player option after three seasons (rather than what was reported earlier as James being able to opt out of a four-year deal).
It had been widely reported that James would sign a five-year, $80 million maximum contract Wednesday. He could have very good reason to settle for less now.
With the NBA's collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of the 2011-12 season, James could be positioning himself for an even bigger payday as a free agent when the cap goes up. Under a new agreement, James and other big stars could be in line for deals in the neighborhood of six years and up to $150 million.
Unlike others from his draft class, James waited one week to agree to the Cavs' contract offer. Cleveland, which saw Carlos Boozer bolt for Utah after verbally agreeing to a deal, started to worry. It could be that James' representatives and the Cavaliers were fine-tuning this aspect of his deal.
No contract can be signed until Wednesday, after the league sets the salary cap for teams. That will establish the exact figure for a "max contract," a number that only the Cavaliers, as the team that drafted James, can offer him.
James is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and will earn $5.8 million this season. He would have been eligible for restricted free agency in 2007, but James has said all along that he wanted to return to Cleveland, which is close to his hometown of Akron.
"I am very excited and happy to be re-signing with the Cavaliers. Staying in Cleveland ... provides me with the unique opportunity to continue to play in front of my family, friends and fans," James said in a statement released by his publicist this week. "I look forward to working toward bringing a championship to our great fans and the city of Cleveland."
That a superstar would ask to be paid less than that max would be a groundbreaking maneuver. Then again, James has made a habit of redefining the league. Last year, he became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 30 points per game over the course of a season. His averages of 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game allowed him to join Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average at least 30 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in a single season.
Now, he could be in line for even more record-setting numbers, these ones on his paycheck. How this affects other superstars around the league remains to be seen. Miami's Dwyane Wade and Denver's Carmelo Anthony also agreed to max contracts this past week. According to Smith, James discussed the deal he was planning to sign with those players. LeBron could be leading the league again ... in business acumen.
It's an interesting move, both in a business sense and a basketball sense. $60 million, plus his NIKE contract has given LeBron more money then he could ever spend, so to say that he's purely trying to set himself up for a potential $150 million payday doesn't really sit right with me. I mean, I get that these guys are all looking to make more money withh every contrct, but I really think that if in four years (last remaining year on rookie contract + 3 year extension) the Cavs haven't made progress, LeBron is leaving himself with an escape path to leave and go elsewhere. If anything, IMO, it's 50/50, business and basketball savvy.
Who would have thought? The guy most deserving of a max deal (and yeah, the argument can be made that DWade is most deserving) isn't signing one.