On Tuesday, LeBron James announced what nearly everyone expected—he’s opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat and will become a free agent. Immediate speculation had him returning to Cleveland, going to Chicago or Los Angeles or simply in every NBA uniform possible.
However, according to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Manix, those close to James say it’s time to pump the brakes on all the talk of him leaving South Beach.
Manix points out the salary cap reality of the Miami Heat, and that opting out by James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh actually relieves some of the pressure on the salary cap for the Heat. It all leads to a team with a lot of money to play with and not one with just $3 million left to field a team after paying the star trio.
However, it’s this part of Manix’s report that is particularly telling in regards to the Miami Heat’s chances of keeping James in South Beach:
Thus, James opts out. But it hardly indicates a desire to leave South Beach. In fact, according to a source familiar with James’ thinking, returning to Miami remains the strongest option. James has tremendous respect for Pat Riley. He has developed a strong relationship with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. He enjoys playing with Bosh and Wade, and still believes that core can win. It just needs a little help.
So while people speculate about James returning to Cleveland, or monitoring his wife’s Instagram account, it all could end exactly where it started—taking his talents back to South Beach.