LeBron James will reportedly speak with Heat this summer. Here’s what James had to say about his uncertain future

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on in the second half against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

LeBron James’ season is over, but an important offseason is just beginning for him.

The Warriors completed the 4-0 sweep of James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals on Friday to become back-to-back NBA champions. With the power to become a free agent this summer, James now has a few weeks to figure out the most logical path to take down the dynasty Golden State has become.

And according to multiple Las Vegas sports books and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, the Heat will be one of the teams in the mix for James. Smith said this week the 14-time All-Star will “have a conversation” with seven teams this offseason: the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Sixers, Lakers, Rockets and Heat.

“I have no idea at this point,” James said after Game 4 when asked if he feels like his career with the Cavaliers is over. “The one thing that I’ve always done is considered, obviously, my family. Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I’ve got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn’t around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I’ll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.”

Will this summer be the toughest for James as far as deciding the right path? “No, I feel like ’10 (when he joined the Heat) was the toughest,” he said.

In order to become a free agent, James has until 11:59 p.m. on June 29 to opt out of a $35.6 million player option in his current contract with the Cavaliers for next season. If he does that — as many expect him to do — he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

From there, James will take free-agent meetings before making a decision on where he will play next.

Where do the Heat fit into the picture?

From a salary cap perspective, Miami is at a clear disadvantage. The Heat currently lack the salary-cap space to sign James in free agency.

The Heat are already close to the luxury tax line with 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $119 million. That puts Miami way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line, and definitely not in position to sign a max player like James unless it can shed a lot of salary.

Mood:

A post shared by Justise Winslow (@iamjustise) on

What about acquiring James from Cleveland in a sign-and-trade deal? The Cavaliers have very little incentive to facilitate that type of move because it would probably keep them above the luxury tax line while losing the best player in the world. Meanwhile, other teams that are expected to be part of the LeBron sweepstakes actually have the cap space to make it happen, like the Lakers and Sixers.

The easiest path to a James-Heat reunion is through a sign-and-trade agreement with the Cavaliers or James opting into the final year of his current contract and then getting Cleveland to trade him to Miami. But as mentioned earlier, those are unlikely scenarios because the Cavaliers don’t have much incentive to facilitate James’ departure.

“I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that could see things that happen before they happened on the floor, and your teammate can do the same throughout the course of a season, throughout the course of a game, throughout the course of a playoffs, throughout the course of a Finals,” James said, revisiting his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010.

“So when you feel like you’re really good at your craft, I think it’s always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers, in my instance, and other great just, I think, studies of the game itself. That’s never changed. Even when I came here in ’14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.”

If James is looking for the team that gives him the best chance to compete with Golden State, the Heat seem to be at a disadvantage there, too. The Sixers — with the young duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid — the Rockets — with superstars James Harden and Chris Paul that just pushed the Warriors to a seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals — and the Celtics — with an impressive mix of young talent and proven stars to go with plenty of draft picks — look to be in better position to compete with the Warriors right now.

The history between the Heat and James keeps Miami in the picture for now. James won the first two championships of his career during his four seasons with the Heat before he left to return to Cleveland in the summer of 2014.

But will James seriously consider Miami when free agency begins at the start of July? Let the fun begin (and it already did early Saturday morning when Justise Winslow posted a photo on his Instagram account of James in a Heat jersey).

“I still have so much to give to the game,” James said. “Like I said, when you have a goal [winning a title in Cleveland] and you’re able to accomplish that goal, it actually — for me personally, it made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships, and I still want to be in championship mode. I think I’ve shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.”

[Eric Glass continues rise as Miami Heat’s summer-league coach]

[What will LeBron James be looking for this offseason? ‘A group of talent’ and ‘a group of minds’ to compete with Golden State]

[Does LeBron James wish the Cavaliers still had Dwyane Wade? ‘Oh, absolutely’]

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