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Cavs clear space as James weighs options

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jul 09 2014 10:43:39 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 10 2014 10:04:32 AM CDT
LeBron James, Miami Heat 2013 opener

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Two trades by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday opened the door for the potential return of LeBron James to his home state.

As the four-time MVP was sitting down with Miami Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas, the Cavaliers dealt away three first-round picks in separate trades involving the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics.

The moves leave the Cavaliers with $21.7 million in cap space, enough to offer James a maximum salary slot. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, James' agent, Rich Paul, advised the Cavaliers to make the moves necessary to offer James a max deal.

Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday evening that no decision from James was imminent but that he was finished meeting with teams and would now spend time with his family as he weighs the decision.

Point guard Jarrett Jack and his $6.2 million salary was shipped to the Nets along with Sergey Karasev. The 20-year-old Karasev was the 19th overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Tyler Zeller and a lottery protected first-round pick went to the Celtics in exchange for a second-round pick as part of three-team deal that also included Marcus Thornton, who is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to earn $8.69 million next season.

The trades shed a total of $9.35 million in salary for the Cavaliers.

The Celtics, who remain in pursuit of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, now have $33 million in salary coming off the books before the 2015 offseason when Love is an unrestricted free agent.

Jack, 30, signed a three-year deal with the Cavaliers worth $18.5 million before the 2013-14 season. His 2014-15 salary was an obstruction for the team in finding the cap space to lure James to Cleveland.

Cleveland receives the draft rights to three players from the Nets: Ilkan Karaman, Christian Drejer and Edin Bavcic.

The trades will not be official until the moratorium on roster changes is lifted Thursday.

The Cavaliers met with restricted free agent Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz on July 2, and multiple outlets reported general manager David Griffin would offer a maximum contract. But everything changed when members of the front office sat down with Ohio-based agent Paul, who could become the central figure in turning James from villain to hero among the Cavs fan base that James scorned by leaving for Miami in 2010.

Griffin is reportedly keeping in contact with other free agents, including one of James' high school rivals, Trevor Ariza, but the franchise is fully focused on the biggest fish in the NBA pond.

The pitch from Cleveland is a far better roster than James experienced in his first tour with the Cavaliers. Two No. 1 picks -- Kyrie Irving and incoming rookie Andrew Wiggins -- plus another in Anthony Bennett, are fruits of a laborious four-year run without James by the Cleveland franchise. With Irving and possibly James at maximum-level contracts, Cleveland is still in fair shape to bring in free agents next season with little other salary committed. ESPN reported the team is also attempting to add veteran shooting guard Ray Allen, who would play at age 39 if it meant remaining as James' sidekick. However, with Allen contemplating retirement, the Cavaliers are also interested in former Heat shooting guard Mike Miller, who played in Memphis last season.

Yahoo reported that James reached out to the two veteran free agents about joining him if he did not re-sign in Miami.

James demanded improvement from Riley, the personnel boss who orchestrated the superteam alliance in South Beach, and opted out of his contract eight days before the deadline to inform the team of his intentions.

He is not actively recruiting players to Miami as he had in previous offseasons, which some around the Heat franchise are taking as a sign he could walk. James met with Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas, where he is spending time this week for his annual skills academy before jetting to Brazil for the World Cup final.

Chris Bosh, the first free agent among the Big Three to commit to the Heat in 2010, has a four-year, $88 million offer from the Houston Rockets and will leave Miami if James decides to go elsewhere, ESPN reported.

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