LeBron James' agent, Rich Paul, has told the Miami Heat that the superstar will exercise his early-termination option and become a free agent this summer, as first reported by Chris Broussard of ESPN and confirmed by Sam Amick of USA Today.
This, of course, does not mean that James has any plans of leaving the Heat. It just means that it is an option. James is "determined to impose pressure on Miami" to improve his supporting cast, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. He was reportedly unhappy with how the franchise elected to amnesty Mike Miller last year and not add anyone of value to the team.
Let's not overreact here, though. It is James' right to become a free agent, and it gives both him and the team flexibility. It could even result in him taking a pay cut, depending on if Heat president Pat Riley can convince other free agents to come to South Beach. If James wants to, he can sign a new deal for the exact same salary he would've made had he opted in. He has all the leverage in the world, and it's only logical to use it.
Riley released a statement about the development on Tuesday afternoon:
"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."
Source on LeBron's thinking about where to play next season: "He doesn't know yet." Away we go, folks.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 24, 2014
Cue the endless speculation.