By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
1:27 PM EDT, June 24, 2014
Move over, Carmelo. NBA free agency just got a lot more interesting.
LeBron James has informed the Miami Heat he will opt out of the final two years of his contract, the team confirmed Tuesday. This places the NBA's best player into the open market on July 1 and makes 2014 look like 2010 all over again.
Four years ago is when high-profile free agents like James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and David Lee flooded the market. Now, with James opting out after the Heat's disappointing Finals loss to the Spurs, the market is flooded again.
The Bulls plan to pursue Carmelo Anthony and are widely considered the favorite to land him should he choose to leave the Knicks, which is in question. As for James, the four-time most valuable player openly has talked about how impressed he was with the Bulls' pitch from 2010.
However, the Associated Press reported that James' decision to opt out does not indicate a desire to leave the Heat. In fact, most league observers view James' move, in which he is walking away from two years and $42.7 million, a power move to help -- or force, depending on perspective -- Heat President Pat Riley into making roster improvements.
If James does embark on a free-agent tour, expect the Bulls obviously to get involved. Their pitch in 2010 resonated strongly with James, particularly a discussion with coach Tom Thibodeau. In fact, sources at the time indicated to the Tribune that the Bulls were confident they almost landed James, despite a widespread public perception that he, Wade and Bosh were destined for the Heat all along.
The Bulls are scheduled to have only $11 million to $12 million of salary-cap space when they proceed with the imminent amnesty of Carlos Boozer. They would have to get creative and sell off pieces for nothing to create more cap space.
Heat President Pat Riley, who spoke at a news conference last week about what it might take to keep the core of the team together, issued this statement on James' decision:
“I was informed this morning of his intentions. We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise. As I said at the press conference last week, players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options. The last four seasons have been historic and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra have led the Miami HEAT to one of the most unprecedented runs in the history of the NBA. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together. At the moment, we are preparing for the opportunities in the Draft and Free Agency as we continue with our goal of winning NBA Championships.”
James and the Heat have advanced to the NBA Finals all four seasons he has played in Miami, winning twice.
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