MIAMI – LeBron James delivered his message loud and clear, without actually saying a word.
He is willing to leave Miami, if that’s what it will take to win more championships. And what happens next will likely be up to not just Heat management, but also to players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Through his agent, James informed the Heat he has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract, a move that means he becomes a free agent Tuesday. He will be able to sign with any team, including Miami, and Heat President Pat Riley said he “fully expected” the 29-year-old James to take advantage of his early termination option.
“We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together,” Riley said.
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The Heat has been preparing for this for some time. James, Wade and Bosh all got six-year contracts when they teamed up in Miami in July 2010, the last time free agency was accompanied by the sort of frenzy that is expected to envelop the league over the next few weeks. But each of those deals came with options to leave either this summer or in 2015, in part to allow both the players and the team to have financial flexibility.
James — who averaged 27.1 points in the 2013-14 season — was owed $42.7 million for the next two seasons, though that seems irrelevant in the sense he will be getting plenty of money from the Heat or someone else for years to come. If he stays with Miami, he could sign a deal that would give the team room to maneuver within the structures of the salary cap and luxury-tax threshold.
So could Wade and Bosh, if they choose to opt out as well — and if both do, Miami would potentially have plenty of cash to spend on roster upgrades.
Wade and Bosh have previously said they want to remain in Miami.
“No news here yet,” Wade said Tuesday.
James stayed silent as well, with agent Rich Paul being the one who informed the Heat of the four-time league most valuable player’s plan. But last week, while still dealing with the sting of losing the NBA Finals to San Antonio, James expressed how enticing the idea of flexibility is to him.
“Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that’s what we all would like,” James said last week. “That’s in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present. I have a position to be able to do that. …
“There’s a lot of times that you’re not in control of your future as a professional.”
James said last week he, Wade and Bosh owed it to one another to have a conversation before deciding where to play going forward. It is unclear if those discussions have taken place.
James has been with the Heat four seasons, been to the NBA Finals in each of those years, winning two championships and winning more games than any other team over that span. He seems to have largely recovered from the hit his image took when he left Cleveland for Miami in 2010.
“Players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options,” Riley said.
• With the NBA draft on Thursday and power forward Kevin Love there to be had for the right offer, Minnesota Timberwolves President Flip Saunders was asked if things are starting to get interesting.
“They’ve been interesting for four weeks,” Saunders replied.
Saunders said his phone hasn’t stopped ringing with offers for three-time All-Star Love, 25, and other players on a young roster that went 40-42 last season.
Saunders declined to discuss specific offers, but teams such as Cleveland, Boston and Chicago could offer packages involving draft picks while Golden State is known to be involved with a package of established players.
“We’re fielding stuff every day,” Saunders said. “When I came down here just now, I had three calls about our players. There is not going to be a cooling-down period.”