LeBron James made the first move—now what? Cleveland? Los Angeles? Philly? A surprise? Stay tuned. Decision III is this summer's NBA blockbuster, and it's coming soon. James told the Cavaliers he's not exercising his $35.6 million contract option for next season and will become an unrestricted free agent, two people familiar with the decision told the AP Friday. Sources confirmed the news to USA Today and Cleveland.com. The decision to decline the option for 2018-19 was expected by James as it gives him more options, which includes him re-signing with the Cavs, who can offer him the most money: a five-year, $209 million contract. James can also sign a short-term deal with Cleveland, something he's done each year since returning in 2014. James had until 11:59pm to express his intentions to the Cavs.
The three-time champion is now the most coveted prize in an NBA free-agent class that includes All-Stars Paul George and Chris Paul. Teams can begin negotiations with free agents at 12:01am Sunday. The fact that James didn't pick up his option could be good news for Cavs fans, who fear James may leave them for the second time. If he'd opted in, it would have likely meant the Cavs had worked out a trade for him. But while the Cavs remain hopeful he'll stay, there are other teams in the mix for the 33-year-old, with the Los Angeles Lakers apparently at the top of the list; the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets are also believed to covet the four-time league MVP, who just played in his eighth straight NBA Finals and finished his 15th season. James will likely factor family—he has three children, and his oldest son is a rising hoops star—into the choice.
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